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Cyber security offers new career options

Simon Wright explains why this growing area offers opportunities for the right candidates

February 2017

Thirty years ago, stories of cyber attacks would have been reserved for the likes of a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster. Now we regularly hear of news of cyber attacks on small and large businesses across the globe. The National Audit Office estimates that cyber crime in the UK costs the economy over £27bn a year and this is set to increase dramatically if companies do not start taking cyber threats seriously.
As a result, cyber security professionals are in higher demand than ever. However, due to a shortage of skilled candidates in the field 1.5 million opportunities will go unfilled. Experts predict that by 2019 the demand for cyber security professionals globally will see the creation of six million jobs.
If you are considering a change of career in the cyber security space, help is at hand – here are some pointers…
Making the move into cyber security – what skills or qualifications do you need? A degree in cyber security is not necessarily the best choice, nor is the traditional computer science route. The fundamentals of elevated computer science, enhanced by mathematics and followed up by industry standard certifications such as CISSP, CISA or CISM, will better prepare you for a career evaluating everything from statistics to fixed mechanisms. Degrees with a business focus may also offer an edge later on, as they will encourage an individual’s understanding of an organisation’s inner workings and enable a more effective appraisal of that business’ security needs.
Cyber security professionals will need a good grasp of hardware, software and data from a technical and business standpoint. Experience and proficiency in project management is also valuable. As new software or hardware is released, projects will be rolled out throughout the company in order to facilitate the use of the new mechanisms.
Many individuals opt to pursue the popular penetration (pen) tester position as a pre-curser to the more senior cyber security and information security roles. This position isn’t just about discovering weak spots in an organisation’s systems; it’s about understanding why those weak spots exist and being able to recommend best ways to protect the organisation from becoming compromised.
Cyber security demands continuous self-education as the nature of technology means its landscape is forever changing, which means those working on the all-important first line of defence must be flexible and forward-thinking. As businesses grow more and are more reliant on technology, new threats arise.
If you are an IT consultant or IT auditor hoping to move into cyber security a beneficial step would be to get involved with cyber security or technology risk projects within your current company in order to gain some first-hand exposure to what they do and how they do it.

What are employers looking for?
Employers are looking for a passion for technology and a keen understanding of the fundamentals of configuring systems and coding. A balance of technical strength and soft skills is also needed by employers, so you can take on network issues and database management, just as competently as communicating with non-IT colleagues.
Crucially, the right candidate for the job will need to demonstrate a good understanding of business procedures and processes, particularly for senior and management roles.
• Simon Wright is operations director of CareersinCyberSecurity.co.uk and CareersinAudit.com

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