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.