Cyber Security A Growing Field

Monday, August 30, 2010; 9:49 AM

As the Internet becomes an ever increasing tool in both the corporate and government arenas, the need for cyber security increases as well, and with it, the need for skilled cyber security professionals.

Indeed, so important is cyber security that the National Cyber Security Alliance has established October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

"We are all increasingly vulnerable," says Gary Cluff, Manager of Corporate Recruiting for MITRE Corporation, adding that the government especially is very concerned about cyber threats. To address that effort, government contractors are looking for talent┬┐"ethical hackers, if you will," says Cluff.

According to the Department of Labor, demand for computer security specialists will grow as businesses and government invest more heavily in cyber security, in order to protect vital computer networks and electronic infrastructures from attack. "The information security field is expected to generate many new system administrator jobs over the next decade as firms across all industries place a high priority on safeguarding their data and systems," according to the DOL's Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2008-09.

"We need people who can keep cyber enemies from infiltrating the many operating systems that are now out there," says Cluff. "This is as great a threat as nuclear warfare when it comes to ensuring our national security."

Those interested in joining the ranks of cyber security professionals have several options through which to receive training. The Federal Cyber Corps Program, for example, managed by the Department of Justice, is open to students currently completing their junior year of undergraduate school or first-year of graduate school. In addition to a stipend of approximately $1,000 per month, the Program pays for each student's tuition for two years, room and board, and travel to conferences. After one year of training, students complete a summer internship in a federal agency, learning first-hand about computer security issues and putting into practice what they've learned in class. By the end of the second year students earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in computer science in addition to multiple federal-level computer security certificates as endorsed by the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS).

The University of Fairfax also offers both certification and graduate degree programs in information security for adult professionals.

Because of the ever-changing cyber world, employees with ever-developing skill sets are needed, creating a challenge for employers, says Cluff.

Though there is some uncertainty about what the new fiscal year will bring in terms of the budget available for cyber security professionals, the need is definitely there, says Cluff. "It's just an issue of how much, how many, and how soon."

Raytheon Looks to the Future

Raytheon Company's Vice President of Information Security Solutions Steve Hawkins echoes Cluff's sentiments regarding the increasing need for cyber security professionals┬┐or, as Raytheon likes to call them, "cyber warriors." In the past several years, says Hawkins, Raytheon has added 500 of these security professionals to its staff, with an additional 200 being hired this year.

"There's a significant need for people who can understand both computer operating systems and those systems' interactions with computer hardware," Hawkins says. "You have to get into both to be able to detect vulnerabilities."

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