The headlines are filled almost weekly with new stories about cyber crime, as data breaches strike more frequently and closer to home for every American consumer, business, organization and governmental entity.
In the last year alone, data breaches and compromised-information crises hit major retailers, financial service providers, insurance carriers and social media sites:
• According to Business Insider, since January 2017 at least 15 major retailers were hacked, including Macy’s, Adidas, Kmart, Delta Air Lines, Best Buy, Saks Fifth Avenue, Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app, Panera Bread, Forever 21, Sonic, Whole Foods and GameStop.
The article cited a report from cyber security firm Shape Security noting that almost 90 percent of the login attempts made on online retailers’ websites were by hackers using stolen data.
• The personal information of 87 million Facebook users around the world was shared, without users’ knowledge, with Cambridge Analytica in one of the social network’s largest data scandals.
• Equifax Inc., one of the country’s largest consumer credit reporting agencies, experienced a massive data breach last year in which hackers compromised the personal and financial data of more than 147 million consumers.
Earlier this spring, Reuters reported that Equifax expects costs related to the data breach to surge by $275 million this year, in what could turn out to be the most costly hacks in corporate history.
• Last summer, Anthem Inc., the largest U.S. health insurance company, agreed to a $115 million settlement over a hacking incident that compromised about 79 million people’s personal information.
As data breaches increase across the U.S. and around the world, the demand for cyber security professionals is higher than ever. In late 2013, Cisco reported that a million cyber security positions globally were going unfilled. Cybersecurity Ventures now expects that number to rise to 3.5 million by 2021. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
To help fill the gap, colleges and universities must create programs that are responsive to the broad range of people who might be interested in becoming cyber security professionals. Elmhurst College offers an undergraduate certificate program in cyber security that meets the needs of not only professionals already working in the IT industry, but also of working adults from other professions who are interested in joining this fast-growing field. Students gain immediately applicable knowledge, and will find themselves in demand for opportunities and advancement across all sectors, both public and private.
The Elmhurst program offers students the ability to develop the skills they will need to recognize security breaches, investigate cybercrime, prepare prevention and recovery plans, and build security infrastructures. To maximize flexibility and convenience, the program is offered completely online. Our students can participate in live class discussions or watch the recording later, or do both. Because the program is offered in an accelerated format, students can earn their certificate in less than a year.
Professionals with a certificate in cyber security can find valued positions working for computer companies, consulting firms, or business and financial companies. Some of those occupations include: computer and information systems manager, information security analyst, database administrator, network and computer systems administrator, computer network architect, telecommunications engineering specialist, and computer network support specialist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for information security analysts was $95,510 in May 2017.
Demand for information security analysts and other professionals with expertise in cyber security is expected to be very high for some time to come, as nearly every sector of the domestic and global economy will continue to look to them to create innovative, effective ways to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or harming computer networks.
Dean Jensen, Ed.D., MBA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at Elmhurst College. He worked in industry as a vice president for technology at Synergistic Networks, Inc., where he managed the concurrent activities of multiple project teams dedicated to client-focused web applications, and oversaw the company’s internet data center. For more information about Elmhurst College’s cyber security program, visit Elmhurst.edu/adult. If you have questions, you can call (630) 617-3400 or email email@example.com.