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Top Cybersecurity Challenges and Critical Need for More Professionals

The U.S. economy loses between $57 billion and $109 billion annually to malicious cyber activity, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Just as alarming are results from a recent “Cyber Risk Index” (CRI) stating 80 percent of U.S. businesses expect a critical breach in 2019. Commissioned by Trend Micro and conducted by The Ponemon Institute, the CRI survey measures business risk based on the difference between organizations’ current security posture and their likelihood of attack. The goal of the survey is to support Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and their teams to improve cyber threat assessment, detection, response and recovery.

When asked to rank their highest risk of loss if a breach occurs, survey respondents listed research and development information, trade secrets, customer accounts, and other confidential information as top areas for concern. The CRI survey concludes that the primary causes of risks are complex organizations with teams functioning in silos and a lack of security connectivity, lack of scalability and agility, and too few qualified people to manage security systems.

Based on survey results, Trend Micro provided recommendations for organizations to better prepare for cyberattacks, including investing in new talent and existing personnel.

The Real Need for Cybersecurity Professionals

Sixty-five percent of organizations report a demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals according to the ICS2 2018 Cybersecurity Workforce Study. In Texas, 20,000 cyber-related jobs are expected to be needed soon, according to CyberSeek.

Keith Robertson, a virtual CISO, says the shortage in qualified cybersecurity professionals “is putting a real strain on current employees, causing premature career burnout and forcing employers to staff positions with underqualified personnel. Far too often, I’ve worked with companies that have staffed critical security functions with employees who are in over their heads. There simply aren’t enough professionals, at all levels.”

Another critical challenge is the need for cybersecurity professionals to continue learning, exploring the latest technologies and updating or receiving new certifications. Regular training and education are essential because of advancing technologies and the fact that hackers are relentlessly evolving their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

Cybersecurity Education and Certifications

With tremendous job opportunities and career growth, professionals already in IT or those looking for new career paths may want to consider the field of cybersecurity. According to Ziprecruiter, the national average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is just under $117,000.

Professionals who are already in these IT roles are well-aligned to grow into cybersecurity careers:

  • Systems administrator
  • Database administrator
  • Web administrator
  • Web developer
  • Network administrator
  • IT technician
  • Security administrator
  • Network engineer
  • Computer software engineer

Even professionals who are not currently in an IT position can look forward to a bright career in cybersecurity., a career sight focused on technology job opportunities, suggests these top skills to succeed in cybersecurity:

  • Enthusiasm for technical challenges and eagerness to examine issues from all sides
  • Detail-oriented, ability to work methodically and get the job done
  • Highly adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances and priorities
  • Adept at analytics and strong diagnostic skills
  • Zeal for innovation and collaboration
  • Thirst for staying current on Internet vulnerabilities, contemporary standards, practices, procedures and methods

CyberSeek provides a career path with 10 core cybersecurity roles and five cybersecurity feeder roles, or career areas that may serve as stepping stones into cybersecurity. Of the core cybersecurity roles, the largest current demand is for Cybersecurity Engineers with more than 37,000 openings nationwide. Four of the 10 core cybersecurity roles have average advertised salaries over $100,000: Cybersecurity Architects, Cybersecurity Managers, Cybersecurity Engineers, and Cybersecurity Consultants. Cybersecurity Architects have the highest average salary at $133,000.

Fortunately for professionals looking to expand their career horizons and enhance job security, there are numerous training, certification and educational paths.

At SMU, we just introduced a new online master’s degree in cybersecurity. Presented by SMU Professional and Online (SMU PRO) and the Lyle School of Engineering, classes in the interactive 20-month program will be taught by faculty members from the Lyle School’s Computer Science department, in the same school which houses the Darwin Deason Institute for Cybersecurity.

SMU also offers certificate programs that will keep you up-to-date on the latest advancements and accelerate your career.

To discuss which courses could move your career forward, call program advisor Melvin Alvaregna at 214-768-1186 or email to learn more.