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No matter the industry, one of the most valuable assets a company possesses is data. Whether it’s customers’ bank account numbers, credit card details, or PII (personally identifiable information), such as name, social security number, or email address, hackers, both foreign and domestic, serve as a constant threat to data security. Cybersecurity professionals defend data, computers, mobile devices, servers, networks, and electronic systems from the constant risk of malicious attacks. 

Cybersecurity threats

According to Dr. Elizabeth Hawthorne, Program Director and Lecturer in Cybersecurity at Rider University, the biggest cybersecurity threats today are various forms of ransomware, including denial of service. “Cyber criminals lock up computing systems and individual computers until a ransom is paid for the code to unlock it. It’s cyber-extortion.”

Other forms of ransomware include Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) where websites are taken offline unless a ransom is paid, and data breaches where confidential data is disclosed until a ransom is paid. All forms of ransomware can cause devastating consequences to a business and are often carried out using a Trojan horse disguised as a legitimate file that is unsuspectingly downloaded most often as an email attachment. Sometimes even opening or previewing an email can trigger ransomware to infect a computer network.

Skills needed to protect data  

You may have a passion for all things data-oriented, but do you have what it takes to excel in cybersecurity? Those who seek to work in cybersecurity require problem-solving skills, technical aptitude, attention to detail, good communication skills, fundamental computer forensics skills, a strong knowledge of security across various platforms, an understanding of hacking, and a desire to learn. 

“The field of cybersecurity is interdisciplinary and multifaceted,” Dr. Hawthorne said. “It requires different skills for different job functions.” 

Rider’s B.S. in Cybersecurity program offers students two different academic tracks:

  • The technical track was designed for students who are passionate about problem-solving and creating large-scale strategies. This track features coursework related to designing, building, and implementing network and computer security. 
  • The policy track is geared toward analytical thinkers interested in risk-management and the laws that surround the protection of an organization’s information networks and systems. This track focuses on policy, cybersecurity law and the legal and ethical implications involved in cybersecurity investigations.  

Career Opportunities in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity experts are in high demand, with job opportunities in the field projected to grow 28 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“According to the annual cybersecurity jobs report by Cybersecurity Ventures, there is a 3.5 million global workforce shortage projected into 2021,” Dr. Hawthorne said. “Because of this urgent talent crunch and the global pandemic, the job outlook for cybersecurity is excellent!”

Just about all industries have a high demand for cybersecurity professionals. The government, financial, and healthcare industries have the greatest demand because of the high risk.

“A degree in cybersecurity will broaden your cybersecurity career options, such as being prepared for higher level management, analysts, and cryptology positions,” said Dr. Hawthorne. 

Rider offers an array of degree options for those looking to pursue a career in cybersecurity. In addition to its on-campus undergraduate major, Rider also offers a 100% online Bachelor’s of Science degree in Cybersecurity for busy adults. For those looking to complete a graduate degree, Rider offers accelerated degree programs so students can earn a M.S. in Cybersecurity in just one additional year.

Rider’s Career Development and Success staff supports its students in developing a professional network, including hosting a variety of on-campus and virtual job fairs, resume development, and advertising internships. 

“In collaboration with our faculty, we work with students to find meaningful opportunities that will launch our students on the path to a fulfilling career,” said Dr. Hawthorne.

Women in cybersecurity

Although increasing in recent numbers, women are critically underrepresented in the field of cybersecurity. According to the nonprofit organization, Women in Cybersecurity, women comprise only 13 percent of the cybersecurity field. 

If you’re a woman looking to pursue a degree in cybersecurity, Dr. Hawthorne offers this advice: “Follow your cyber dream, attend the annual Women in Cybersecurity conference, and find a female mentor.”

RELATED: Cybersecurity Majors Are in High Demand

For more information about cybersecurity programs, check out Peterson’s college search tool