Cybersecurity in the Telecom Industry: Challenges and Career Opportunities

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Delve deeper into the cybersecurity risks within the telecom industry, including specific job roles that help address ever-evolving cyber threats.

[Featured Image] An ethical hacker attends a job interview because she wants to get a job in cyber security in the telecom industry.

A data breach triggered by a cyberattack can result in substantial financial losses, service interruptions, and reputational harm for telecommunications firms.

Cybersecurity entails the adequate use of tools, measures, and strategies to prevent or lessen the impact of cyberattacks. A cybersecurity program's key objectives are ensuring the confidentiality of sensitive information, upholding data integrity, and guaranteeing the availability of critical resources.

Read on to learn more about the cyber risks affecting the telecom industry and gain insights into starting a career in cybersecurity.

Why is cybersecurity important in telecom?

With a 51 percent rise in average weekly cyberattacks in 2021, the communications industry stood out as the third most vulnerable sector to cyber threats, following education and military industries [1].

Telecom operators store various data, from social security numbers to credit card details. This wealth of sensitive data makes large-scale telecom firms appealing targets for bad actors.

Following a successful data breach, hackers often resort to extortion. Armed with compromised information, hackers can sell the data on the dark web or exploit their newfound leverage to demand ransom. The threat looms large for organizations—either pay a substantial sum to prevent the public disclosure or misuse of sensitive data or face the potential fallout of reputational damage and legal consequences.

These risks, among others, such as supporting interconnected networks and using legacy technology, underscore the growing need for reinforcing robust cybersecurity measures within the telecom sector.

Top challenges of cybersecurity in the telecom industry

The following list, though not exhaustive, offers a glimpse into the threats faced by telecom companies:

1. Supply chain vulnerabilities

Telecom operators often turn to third-party vendors for the infrastructure to support their core services. However, any vulnerabilities within these external entities can have a cascading effect on the entire supply chain. A supply chain vulnerability is particularly concerning, as a skilled attacker can exploit a single weak link to compromise a telecom firm’s overall security.

2. DDoS

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is instigated by a multitude of malware-infected host machines controlled by an attacker. The attack renders a victim’s site inaccessible to those seeking access. In telecommunications, where operational continuity is critical, DDoS attacks can lead to a standstill in services, impacting millions of users who rely on uninterrupted connectivity.

3. Phishing

As an initial attack vector, phishing emails are gateways to ransomware attacks. Unsuspecting personnel in telecom companies become the focal point of phishing emails designed to lure victims into clicking links or downloading attachments laced with malicious software.

Attackers orchestrating a phishing attack often seek to extract personally identifiable information (PII) or login credentials to commit identity fraud. 

4. Insider threat

When authorized users such as employees, business stakeholders, or independent contractors abuse their legitimate access deliberately or unintentionally, it gives rise to an insider threat. Insiders in the telecom sector can potentially compromise subscriber data, duplicate SIM cards, and more. An insider threat can also result from cybercriminals hijacking employee accounts.

Types of cybersecurity jobs in telecom

Should you wish to pursue a career in cybersecurity in the telecom industry, some notable job roles worth considering exist. The job outlook for cybersecurity positions is high, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 32 percent job growth between 2022 and 2032 for information security analysis professionals [2]. Here are some cybersecurity jobs and their salaries as of June 2024 that you could look into if you're interested in working in the telecom industry.

1. Ethical hacker 

Average annual US salary (Glassdoor): $146,131 [3]

Requirements: To become an ethical hacker, you may need a bachelor's degree in computer science or information security and relevant work exposure. Some employers may specifically seek professionals with master’s degrees.

As an ethical hacker (or white-hat hacker), you can fairly and legally infiltrate computers and networks to assess an organization's security measures thoroughly. Additionally, you may communicate your findings to company stakeholders upon concluding the vulnerability assessment of a firm's systems. You may work independently as a freelancer, join an agency, or become part of an internal organization as an ethical hacker.

2. Penetration tester

Average annual US salary (Glassdoor): $108,232 [4]

Requirements: As a penetration tester, you may need a bachelor's degree in computer science, cybersecurity, information technology, or information assurance, along with relevant professional certifications.

As a penetration tester, you can conduct threat analyses for an organization, adhering to a specified scope. Besides creating detailed reports that outline new-found security flaws, you may also provide security recommendations to firms, aiding them in enhancing their network defense strategies.

3. Cybersecurity analyst

Average annual US salary (Glassdoor): $104,908 [5]

Requirements: To become a cybersecurity analyst, you may need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or an equivalent discipline. Certain employers may prefer a master’s degree in cybersecurity or information security. Plus, you might need relevant cybersecurity certifications.

As a cybersecurity analyst, you might be responsible for evaluating potential vulnerabilities, documenting attempted attacks, and quickly resolving security issues, among other tasks. Your primary focus would be prevention, and you may provide additional services, such as reporting, based on an organization's needs.

4. Information security researcher

Average annual US salary (Glassdoor): $125,788 [6]

Requirements: As an information security researcher, you may need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field of study and potentially some internship or work experience.

As an information security researcher, you can work towards addressing vulnerabilities by combining threat intelligence with analytical solutions. Additionally, you may track specific malware strains to help firms anticipate or prepare for upcoming threats.

5. Digital forensics examiner

Average annual US salary (Glassdoor): $84,619 [7]

Requirements: You may need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or cybersecurity to become a digital forensics examiner. Private firms might prioritize demonstrable skills and relevant certifications when considering candidates without degrees.

As a digital forensic investigator, you can examine desktops, smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices for signs of criminal activity. You could also contribute to identifying hackers' methods to access sensitive information or hamper system operations. Furthermore, you may assist in recovering deleted data from hard drives and other storage media using specialized software.

6. Network security administrator

Average annual US salary (Glassdoor): $100,181 [8]

Requirements: As a network security administrator, you may need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a closely related field of study and potential internship or work experience.

As a network security administrator, you might actively monitor firms’ networks for suspicious activities. Additionally, you may set up and configure network applications, provide security system training to employees, and formulate service policies for the implemented network systems.

How to launch your cybersecurity career

While no fixed path for beginning a career in cybersecurity in the telecom industry exists, you can consider the following steps as key milestones:

1. Education

Given the complex nature of the job, many cybersecurity employers prefer candidates with a degree. If your school doesn't offer a cybersecurity program, a computer science or information systems major provides a solid alternative.

If you are currently employed or seek a more time-efficient option with an existing bachelor's degree, enrolling in a bootcamp is a viable choice. Bootcamps facilitate accelerated learning through interactive videos and practical projects, enabling you to acquire in-demand job skills.

2. Work experience

After obtaining your degree, start with an entry-level cybersecurity job to gain relevant experience. If you're switching careers, internships, volunteering, and participating in cybersecurity competitions are excellent avenues for upskilling.

3. Certification

Certifications showcase your commitment to staying abreast of the latest developments in cybersecurity. Here are a few industry-recognized certifications you can aim for based on your career path:

1. CompTIA Security+

Administered by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the CompTIA Security+ certification validates the fundamental skills required to perform essential security tasks and embark on a career in IT security.

2. GIAC Penetration Tester Certification 

The GIAC Penetration Tester Certification (GPEN) affirms your ability to conduct industry-standard penetration tests. The certification also equips you with the necessary skills to research threat environments and execute exploits.


The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential by ISC2 is apt for experienced security practitioners, managers, and executives looking to testify their expertise in diverse security practices and principles.

Learn more with Coursera.

The telecommunications sector is fraught with complexities, from supply chain vulnerabilities to DDoS attacks. Amidst these challenges, the need for skilled cybersecurity professionals becomes increasingly evident as they serve as the frontline defense against malicious actors seeking to exploit weaknesses and compromise sensitive customer data.

To equip yourself with the essential skills and pursue a career in cybersecurity, consider enrolling in the Foundations of Cybersecurity course on Coursera. Offered by Google, this course includes interactive videos and activities to help you prepare for entry-level cybersecurity jobs. You might need approximately 21 hours to finish this course.

Article sources


CheckPoint. “Check Point Research: Cyber Attacks Increased 50% Year over Year,” Accessed on June 24, 2024.

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