What Is Cybersecurity and What Career Opportunities Does It Offer?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Find out what cybersecurity is, why it's important, types of cybersecurity, and how you can start a career in this field.

[Featured Image]:  IT Security Analyst working on a cybersecurity plan for the organization.

For many of us, technology is a significant part of our lives, and we likely use it daily. You may also have information stored on your devices that you want to be kept safe such as credit card information, addresses, phone numbers, passwords, and personal data. Cybersecurity is a branch of technology that aims to protect that information and prevent malicious characters on the internet from accessing it or damaging your devices. Cybersecurity is an industry that is rapidly growing due to the high demand and volume of customers and businesses who want to protect their technological assets. 

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity protects data, devices, and networks from attackers, criminals, and anyone harming a system. Cybersecurity professionals use their technological skills to assess systems, patch weaknesses, and build secure systems for their clients. Any software that contains sensitive information, such as credit card info, medical records, financial information, and personal data, must be equipped to handle cyber attacks and threats so that this sensitive data isn’t stolen or corrupted. Having inadequate security measures in place could expose your devices and data to threats.

Why is cybersecurity important?

Cybersecurity is critical to the value and quality of a system. If attackers gain access to a weak system with sensitive data, they can steal and sell your info, which leads to unauthorized purchases and activity. If this is your client's information, they aren’t likely to use your system. One vulnerability could be enough to destroy a company if it impacts the company entirely. Vulnerabilities are flaws or weaknesses in software, firmware, or hardware that can allow an attacker to perform malicious acts using a system.

These weaknesses can occur from programming inefficiencies or misuse of hardware. There should be layers of security as a safety net to safeguard information and systems should one of the other security measures fail. That way, not one singular vulnerability can make the entire system unreliable. 

Read more: Cybersecurity Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Common cybersecurity threats 

Often, those who attack information systems are motivated by the potential for monetary gain. However, some bad actors attempt to steal or destroy data for political reasons, as an insider threat to the company they work for, to boost the interests of their country, or simply for notoriety. The way they go about it varies, including these five common strategies:

Password attacks: Password cracking is one of the most widespread methods for fraudulently gaining access to systems. Attackers will use a tactic to figure out passwords to access personal information or sensitive data. Password crackers use brute force attacks, guessing every possible password until there's a match. They use dictionary attacks where a program tries many common passwords to find a match, among other more complicated algorithms.

Phishing: Phishing attacks are also widespread, and this practice involves sending mass emails disguised as being from legitimate sources to a list of users. These emails contain malicious links that, when clicked, can install malware and allow illegitimate access to personal information. These attacks can also take place on websites and social media.

DOS attacks: DOS stands for denial-of-service attack. This is when software or a group of machines attempt to overload a system so it cannot operate properly and serve its purpose. 

Man-in-the-middle attacks: A man-in-the-middle attack occurs when an attacker exploits security vulnerabilities in a network to insert themselves into a two-machine interaction and monitor the packets being sent back and forth. In this way, they can intercept valuable information.

Malware: Malware consists of software crafted to exploit a system or commit malicious acts on a user or institution. Malware can come in the form of viruses, trojans, worms, ransomware, and spyware. Almost all of these types of software deploy themselves and use system vulnerabilities to infect other machines and capture specific data or simply disrupt or damage a device. 

Is cybersecurity an in-demand career?

Demand for cybersecurity is at an all-time high, and this growth is projected to increase over the next few years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the need for cybersecurity specialists to grow by 35 percent between 2021 and 2031 [1]. That is much faster than the 5 percent growth projected for all occupations.

The demand is due mainly to the growing frequency of cyberattacks and the continual development of sophisticated software. The BLS projects an average of 19,500 job openings per year in cybersecurity.

Types of cybersecurity

Just as various types of cyber threats exist, so do ways to protect against them. The following are common cybersecurity measures enlisted by governments, businesses, and cybersecurity professionals.

App security

Application security is creating features for apps that prevent attacks and account for any exploitable vulnerabilities in the software. Application security is crucial to the reliability and functionality of the software.

Cloud security

Cloud security is a segment of IT that deals with handling risks and problems with a cloud-based network and finding and implementing solutions, mostly wirelessly. Cloud security specialists assist the needs of the cloud in terms of memory, security, and any possible vulnerabilities that need patching.

Critical infrastructure cybersecurity

Critical infrastructure security is technological security generally utilized by the public to protect assets, systems, and networks belonging to a community, city, or country. This sector of cybersecurity focuses on the defense of municipal and government-owned infrastructure.

Information security

Information security is about securing information and preventing fraudulent access and interception of personal details. Information security primarily focuses on the protection of sensitive data and information. Information security specialists will determine where the valuable data is stored and develop safeguards to protect that info from being modified or accessed. Information security deals with confidentiality, integrity, and availability, which determine the quality of a system that manages or holds information.

Network security

Network security is technology that defends the reliability and security of a company’s infrastructure. Network security is the concept of defending the network's privacy and quality and ensuring systems are secure in such a fashion that outside actors do not impact the network.

First Steps in a career in cybersecurity

You can start your journey in cybersecurity on Coursera, which offers hundreds of courses on a range of cybersecurity concepts from top institutions and universities. Introduction to Cyber Security offered by New York University can help you gain an overview of the field to see if it is your career choice, begin to build your foundation, or simply learn more about this exciting topic. 

Placeholder

specialization

Introduction to Cyber Security

Cyber Security. An introduction to modern information and system protection technology and methods.

4.7

(2,569 ratings)

43,112 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 4 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Cryptography, Cybersecurity, Risk Assessment, Cyber Defense, Cyber Attacks, Information Security (INFOSEC), Denial-Of-Service Attack (DOS), Public-Key Cryptography

If you already have a bachelor's degree and want to enter or enhance your position in the field, earn your master's degree online with the Master of Science in Cyber Security program offered by the University of London on Coursera.

Placeholder

Master of Science in Cyber Security

University of London

Article sources

  1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Information Security Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-6." Accessed December 7, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Big savings for your big goals! Save $200 on Coursera Plus.

  • For a limited time, save like never before on a new Coursera Plus annual subscription (original price: $399 | after discount: $199 for one year).
  • Get unlimited access to 7,000+ courses from world-class universities and companies—for less than $20/month!
  • Gain the skills you need to succeed, anytime you need them—whether you’re starting your first job, switching to a new career, or advancing in your current role.