Cyber security careers are hot as cyber espionage increases

Cyber security is one career you can count on to grow in the years ahead because cyber criminals are forever finding new ways to make life miserable for business and governments through high stakes cyber espionage.

A Network World article this month called cyber security “the hottest IT skill” as cyber criminals and foreign cyber spies try to steal confidential information from both business and government websites or databases. Dice.com, the career website with tech jobs postings in the U.S. and Canada, had its biggest increase in April for cyber security specialists. Postings rose 74 percent over the year before. The Network World article said U.S. companies are also hiring thousands of experts in security-related jobs like network security, information security and application security.

In Canada, cybercrime is “skyrocketing” with the number of malicious websites hosted in Canada increasing 239 percent in one year, according to website security company, Websense. We now rank second in the world behind the U.S. for hosted phishing sites with 170 percent more phishing sites than last year. A CBC.ca story on the Websense report said, the growing number of malicious sites hosted in Canada is “allowing criminals to carry out cyber attacks on Canadian and international users.”

Hackers and cyber criminals have been around for as long as we’ve had the Internet. But today, almost every important thing business and governments do is online and part of the digital world. Not only are they hiring experts to protect their data, governments are targeting each other’s online activities in a new kind of cyber warfare.

Iran has been pointing at the U.S. and its allies for recent cyber attacks within the country whether it’s true or not. In April, Iran was hit with a “spy virus” designed to harm government systems, according to a Bloomberg News story. In 2010, Iran’s nuclear computer systems and centrifuges for enriching uranium were knocked offline by a computer worm called Stuxnet. It’s suspected the attack was launched from a USB flash drive by an Iranian double agent working for Israel.

Right now in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security has been issuing alerts about phishing attacks on gas pipeline infrastructure which may also affect Canadian pipelines. Even the FBI is involved in the investigation. The attack targets pipeline employees and tries to trick them into opening a malicious link that could then steal information or even take control or shutdown the pipeline network.

Instead of attacking each other with bombs, cyber espionage gives governments and politically motivated individuals a new weapon that can be very hard to track back to its source. Just imagine the chaos that would result in any country like Canada or the U.S., if cyber attacks shut down our fuel supply or turned off electricity grids!

With so much of our everyday lives now dependent on networks and data, the new digital world order is blurring the lines across cyber crime, cyber espionage and cyber warfare. Political and military conflicts can now take place in cyberspace, according to Canadian security research Ron Deibert’s comments in a recent National Post story

Deibert is director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab which is one of the world’s top cyber investigation organizations. The lab combines the disciplines of political science, sociology, computer science, engineering and graphic design as part of its advanced research into the ways digital media, global security and human rights are intersecting in this new digital world order. It also monitors and analyses political power in cyberspace – a power that’s becoming more common when regimes cut off Internet access or cell phone service during revolts to keep citizens from telling the world what’s happening. And even when there aren’t uprising, countries limit and try to control access like China is accused of doing.

With the Internet, networks and huge databases of information such valuable assets for any organization, security experts who protect them are needed across all industries – business, finance, utilities, manufacturing, retail, health care and of course all levels of government. Take your pick of a security career and your specialty since job titles vary as widely as there are types of networks, websites, data transmission and storage. You can be an architect who builds secure systems or an analyst who assesses risk and ensures all holes are plugged up and protected.

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