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Cyber-Attacks on The Rise: Security Experts in High Demand

News & Politics, SPC Programs & Events

By Shane Moran

Most of us are aware of the vulnerability of our personal information. Our financial livelihood is in a binary limbo. Cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly detrimental and more common then ever before. Cyber-attacks are data breaches of the companies we depend on and our governments systems. The cyber-attack aims to steal, alter, or destroy computer infrastructure. Monetary gain, digital terrorism, or military advantage are the objectives. Whether the work of an individual or an entire organization, increasingly sophisticated software is used to steal or destroy sensitive information.

The department store Target became the target of cyber criminals in 2013 just before Christmas. The theft of 110 million customers credit card information was the result. The popular auction site Ebay had its database compromised last year. 233 million customers usernames, passwords, phone numbers, and physical addresses were pirated. Sony Pictures Entertainment reported a cyber attack that would later reveal disparities in what they pay their employees, as well as internal critiques of its own films. In early February, the health insurance company Anthem (Blue Cross/ Blue Shield) reported a major database breach. The personal information of over 80 million people was compromised. “These attackers gained unauthorized access to Anthem’s IT system and have obtained personal information from our current and former members such as their names, birthdays, medical IDs/social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data,” Anthem president and CEO Joseph Swedish said in a statement posted on the company’s website. These cyber-attacks come with eyebrow raising costs. People become victims of identity theft. The companies themselves have to identify where the problem came from, pay professionals to fix it, and attempt to protect their customers with credit monitoring services. Target reported a $243 million cost for its data breach. Home Depot claimed $43 million in expenses due to its hack, and Sony Corp. $15 million.

With the ever increasing cyber threat, the demand for Information security personnel far outweighs the number of qualified candidates. “Currently, the demand for Cyber Security Professionals is outstripping its supply,” said Dr. Sharon Setterlind, Dean of the College of Computer & Information Technology at St. Petersburg College. The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the median salary for an information security analysts with a bachelor’s degree was $86,170 per year or $41.43 per hour as of 2012. Demand for information security analysts will increase 37% by 2022 “much faster than the average for all occupations” according to the bureau. Employment need in this field is expected to increase overall as cyber-attacks have become more frequent and more sophisticated. The federal government is increasing hiring. Healthcare companies now mandated to switch to Electronic Medical Records due to the the Affordable Healthcare Act will have an increased risk moving forward. In November, a special Parliamentary Select Committee in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords estimated a global shortage of  “no less than two million cyber-security professionals” by the year 2017.

The Saint Petersburg College of Computer and Information Technology offers an 18-credit-hour Information Technology Security Certificate. “Students will evaluate security techniques that assist in the prevention of hackers and cyber-attacks … and develop an organizational network and security program, using risk management strategies to address the increased growth of information technology, and security concerns from regional to international environments,” said Dr. Setterlind. The IT Security Certificate transfers to the 63-credit-hour I.T. Security A.S. Degree, which is transferable to SPC’s Bachelors degree in Technology development and management.

Header photo by PNNL (Flickr Creative Commons License).

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