Depending on the source, there are anywhere from three to six branches of cybersecurity. Initially, there was just cybersecurity without specialties.
As the world of cybercrime went from hackers in a basement to organized groups of cybercriminals, our needs as a nation have changed.
As a result, the need for cybersecurity field specialists are increasing in areas such as intrusion detection, ransomware, and network security.
Ending 2019, there were over 300,000 positions in the United States that were unfilled.
Future projections show by 2021 there will be 3.5 million unfilled security jobs worldwide.
– Data retrieved from the International Monetary Fund
Today, the cyber and network security field has the following branches:
- Application security
- Network defense
- Intrusion detection
- Digital forensics and incident response
- Endpoint protection
- Governance, risk, and compliance
Each specialty focuses on a different aspect of cybercrime. Whether it is helping to stop a cyberattack or developing policies, the world of cybersecurity is growing at a phenomenal rate.
Why Is Cybersecurity Important?
Cybersecurity is important because there’s more to jobs in the cyber field than just protecting sensitive personal data, although those cyberattacks are the most publicized.
For example, the financial sector is an industry we often hear about. Because the financial sector has reporting regulations for cyber incidents, most breaches are highly public.
On the flip side, not all industries have reporting regulations, so, many crimes go unreported. Without mandatory reporting, it is difficult to determine the number and frequency of attacks.
The International Monetary Fund estimates the average annual loss from cybercrimes is at $97 billion worldwide. Their model calculated a worst-case scenario of around $250 billion. However, those losses are not just the result of data breaches and loss of sensitive personal data. Estimates also include attacks on a country’s infrastructure.
These attacks are of more concern because they can cripple a nation’s essential systems.
As the world becomes more connected, the potential for catastrophic cyberattacks increases. That’s why finding more cybersecurity professionals is so crucial.
What Do the Branches of Cybersecurity Do?
Each branch or subfield of cybersecurity has a specific focus because cybercriminals specialize in different areas. Some hackers focus on a specific family of ransomware, while others troll the internet looking for unsecured endpoints.
Hacker groups may also launch coordinated attacks on multiple targets.
To help protect against such sophisticated attacks, cybersecurity professionals have to specialize.
- Application security. Individuals in application security test applications looking for vulnerabilities. When weaknesses are found in an application’s security, they fix them before the software is released.
- Network defense. Specialist work to protect, monitor, analyze, detect, and respond to unauthorized actions on a network.
- Intrusion detection. Using intrusion detection programs, specialists monitor the network for suspicious activity, such as multiple sign-in attempts.
- Digital forensics and incident response. Individuals analyze compromised systems to determine how the incident happened and assist in responding to the attack. They collect data to help with the prosecution of criminals.
- Endpoint protection. The internet of things (IoT) has significantly increased the number of endpoints in a network. Specialists in this area ensure that these devices are not at risk.
- Governance, risk, and compliance. Individuals in this branch of cybersecurity develop standards, assess risk, and monitor compliance with regulatory requirements.
Cybersecurity job titles are not always a clear indicator of the involvement of specific branches of cybersecurity. When looking for a possible position, be sure to ask if the job title is not clear.
Would Cybersecurity Make a Good Career?
The simple answer is, yes, cybersecurity would make a good career for anyone interested in the field. Cybersecurity professionals are in demand, with a job outlook of zero unemployment through 2028.
No other technology-related occupation is as promising.
Just look at these top-paying cybersecurity jobs, according to Mondo.com:
- Information Security Manager. These professionals are responsible for current enterprise-wide security and mitigating future attacks. They average between $125,000 and $215,000 per year.
- Cybersecurity Analyst. Analysts help create, plan, and execute security measures. They are equipped to identify potential vulnerabilities to keep networks secure. Their annual salary is between $90,000 and $160,000.
- Penetration Tester. This position also goes by ‘Ethical Hacker.’ Their job is to think like a hacker and use that skill to attempt to compromise a system. They make between $80,000 to $130,000 per year.
These are just a few of the possible positions within the branches of cybersecurity. Other jobs include mobile security, risk management auditor, system security specialist, or malware analyst.
What Skills Are Needed for a Career in Cybersecurity?
Each branch of cybersecurity has its set of skills. Network security engineers need information on the components that make up an enterprise-wide network.
Application security engineers need programming skills to fix vulnerabilities in code.
No matter the branch, foundation-based courses in areas such as network, encryption, and security are essential.
Beyond the foundational courses, professionals will need to look at the skills required for different branches of cybersecurity.
Although some cybersecurity professionals do have a four-year degree, it is not a requirement. Plus, its most often in areas such as information systems or computer science and not in cybersecurity itself.
Most skills are gained through experience in the field. Because cybercriminals never rest, neither can cybersecurity professionals.
They must continue to keep up with the latest innovations in cybercrime to develop methods to defend against attacks.
Where Do I Begin?
There’s no defined path to become a cybersecurity professional. However, there are skill requirements for each branch that may be learned online or through other programs.
Since the skill set can vary significantly among the specialties, creating a roadmap is an excellent place to start.
By identifying the needed skills, individuals looking to start a cyber career can see what courses or experiences are required.
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