What is the future of cybersecurity?

February 28, 2023 · 6 min read · By ASU Online
Learn about the future of cybersecurity, job growth in the field, potential careers and how an online master's in cybersecurity can prepare you.

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the protection of computer systems, networks, and electronic data from unauthorized access, theft, damage or attack. It involves a multi-pronged approach that combines technical solutions, such as encryption and firewalls, with policies and procedures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.

The goal of cybersecurity is to prevent cybercrime, such as hacking and identity theft, as well as protect against natural disasters and other threats that can cause harm to an organization's digital assets. It’s a critical component of modern business and is necessary for protecting sensitive information and ensuring the stability of global communication and commerce.


The importance of cybersecurity

So much of our personal and financial lives — as well as our lives as consumers — are housed in computers and accessed online. This creates an enormous incentive for computer-based theft of money and personal data. As a result, there’s been a very predictable increase in investment in securing these networks and maintaining personal information safety. According to a 2020 report from the Ponemon Institute, about two-thirds of companies have experienced some level of cyberattacks, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated and targeted. Almost half of the companies felt their internal processes were insufficient to protect the data of their customers and employees.

Many of these attacks took the form of phishing, in which the attacker attempts to trick an employee into unknowingly giving away sensitive information. This highlights the need for both cybersecurity measures and cybersecurity personnel to be diverse and reach deeply into not just the technology but the culture of an organization. Cybersecurity specialists protect a company's workers from attackers as well as their own bad habits.


The future of cybersecurity

The future of cybersecurity will be diverse as different technologies and conceptual approaches compete to best shore up the weaknesses in contemporary networks.

Some analysts expect the current emphasis on cloud platforms for business collaboration will fall by the wayside as more advanced peer-to-peer networks, including blockchain, take over the space. Others think the emphasis will condense around the current trends, with physical hardware like USB sticks requiring particular security attention.

It's also possible attacks will become so sophisticated that companies will have no choice but to automate certain search and response actions. This would mean that cybersecurity could gain a new level of emphasis on things such as artificial intelligence and advanced encryption.


Cybersecurity job growth

The field of cybersecurity has been growing exponentially over the past decade, and it's projected to grow even faster over the coming one.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for information security analysts will increase by 35% from 2021-2031. In 2021, the median salary for a cybersecurity worker was $102,600 per year.

Cybersecurity also tends to feature competitive benefits — in particular, the ability to work almost entirely from home. To ensure security, someone will need to maintain physical access to the organization's computers, but the rest of the security team can often embrace a hybrid work model.

The pay for computer security specialists tends to scale not only with seniority but with the size and complexity of the network being protected as well as the value of the data it contains. Protecting a small- to medium-sized network operated by an investment bank might command a higher salary than protecting a large network operated by a national clothing brand, for example.

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Cybersecurity career paths

Cybersecurity involves a number of different roles, but they’re all at least broadly focused on the same goal: preventing, defeating and responding to cyber threats.

  • IT security specialist or IT security consultant

The term IT security specialist (or cybersecurity specialist) encompasses the majority of modern cybersecurity work. Some companies use more specific titles, such as security analyst or network security specialist. Researching, designing, implementing, fixing, maintaining and replacing computer security systems fall to these busy professionals.

Becoming an IT security consultant almost always requires an existing resume in the field, if not a graduate degree as well, but the rewards can be worth the investment. Consultants tend to command large fees because they’re generally only called in to respond to extreme needs. They also have more freedom to choose their engagements and plan their schedules. It's a long-term goal to enter the consultancy space, but for many, it's the end goal of their nascent career.

According to the BLS, information security analysts will see job growth of 35% in the current decade. In 2021, the median salary for an IT security specialist was $102,600 per year.

  • Forensic computer analyst

A forensic computer analyst is most commonly associated with law enforcement, but the title refers to any analysis of a computer system to determine information about a previous attack or event. As the detectives of the cybersecurity industry, forensic computer analysts need to have a strong knowledge of programming and network engineering because their job is to comb through masses of network data and find points of entry.

  • Information security manager

Workers can become information security managers via either IT/cybersecurity or via management. These highly paid professionals merge skills in project and team management with a technical understanding of what a cybersecurity team does. Those without a cybersecurity degree or background must rush to get caught up on the subject matter, but if they do, they can often make effective managers.

According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers will see job growth of 16% from 2021-2031. In 2021, the median annual salary for an information security manager was $159,010.


What you need to get into cybersecurity

Given what will likely be the wide-ranging nature of cybersecurity in the future, a solid educational grounding will be crucial for entering this growing field. Since cybersecurity specialists ensure such valuable networks and information, employers tend to be strict about requiring official accreditation in applicants. Some IT-related fields, such as software engineering, often prioritize strong work experience and good samples, but in cybersecurity, hiring managers will want to see a reputable institution vouch that an applicant has the required skills.

You can pursue certifications and less official forms of education, but these open up only a limited array of jobs. In many cases, their main value is in satisfying the admissions requirements for a more powerful college degree program. Certifications can be helpful to supplement an existing degree or a history of IT-relevant job experience, but they're usually not sufficient on their own to make a strong candidate.

Professionals with graduate degrees in cybersecurity tend to hold a great level of importance in most IT-related fields. This is partially because of the intricate and valuable systems they protect, but it's also because the more knowledgeable a cybersecurity specialist is, the more secure their networks can be and the more complex those networks can become while maintaining security.


Earn your online master’s in cybersecurity from Arizona State University

To prepare for a future career in cybersecurity, the right education is essential. ASU Online offers two online graduate degree programs in cybersecurity:

  • The Master of Computer Science with a concentration in cybersecurity helps you develop the knowledge and skills necessary for safeguarding the computer systems of today and tomorrow. The program is designed for graduate students looking to pursue a thorough education in the area of cybersecurity through the lens of computer systems and algorithms.
  • The Master of Arts in global security with a concentration in cybersecurity looks at the computer security challenges faced by the international diplomatic, intelligence and military communities and how to counter them. This program focuses on a holistic approach to international cybersecurity. As such, the program is focused on the policy and strategy level so you don’t need a background in computer science or engineering to apply.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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