Information Security Threats: Creating Challenges & Opportunities

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  • Information security professionals continue to face a growing number of threats. For every well-publicized security breach we hear about, there are dozens of others quietly occurring around the world. Reasons for increasing threat levels are many:

    • Cybercrime is lucrative. Organized crime rings work 24/7 to infiltrate systems, steal data, and sell it on the black market.
    • Internal security measures are often overlooked as organizations focus on external breaches. Exposure of the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden may be an extreme example, but it serves as a warning to us all.
    • Denial of service attacks by “hacktivists” are used to combat perceived injustices. The well-known group Anonymous has acted on several occasions to protest governments, corporations, and other organizations.
    • Governments around the world have found value in tracking the activity of their enemies, as well as their citizens. Privacy and security are two different sides of the same coin.

    Looking Ahead to Tomorrow

    Global consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC) has published a roadmap for organizations seeking to understand and thwart future threats. Looking ahead to 2020, PWC sees seven trends that information security leaders will need to address:

    1. Continued evolution of wireless networks, bring your own device (BYOD) policies, and disruptive technologies that change the status quo.
    2. The sheer amount of data being exchanged around the world. PWC references estimates from the National Science Foundation, which forecasts almost 5 billion users online by 2020 (versus 1.7 billion in 2010).
    3. An always-on, always-connected society driven by social sharing platforms and device-to-device communications.
    4. The ongoing rise of electronic and mobile commerce, including “virtual wallet” applications that consolidate individual financial data and transactions.
    5. A greater call for privacy and standardization in information security.
    6. An increase in the number of closed networks and private “internets,” as well as the escalating amount of paid content.
    7. New identity and trust models that go beyond user names, passwords, secret questions, and “captcha” type technologies.

    Securing Top Talent

    One of the greatest information security challenges facing organizations comes in the lack of qualified professionals needed to fill the number of vacant positions. To help combat this shortage, IBM is partnering with universities to identify potential solutions for growing the global cybersecurity workforce.

    IBM’s initial findings show that the majority of students view information security as something “personal” that is relevant to their everyday lives. Smart phones, social media, e-commerce and cloud computing have brought cybersecurity into common vernacular. Academia has recognized the importance of preparing students for opportunities in this field.

    Governments, financial businesses, defense companies, healthcare providers, and other organizations with sensitive data are especially interested in the talents of information security graduates. Building an expert cybersecurity cadre is considered a national priority in some countries. For example, South Korea’s science ministry plans to train 5,000 people to become information security experts by 2017.

    Every new technology and device creates additional subject matter for IT security students to explore. There are more domains to attack, and the attacks are more sophisticated. Breaches are harder to detect and cybercriminals are increasingly stealthy and difficult to track down. Universities must continually evolve their curriculum to focus on real-world scenarios and the skills that are in greatest demand by employers.

    The good news for individuals interested in working in IT security is that more degree programs have emerged to fill the void. In the United States, a number of programs are certified as National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance. There is truly no question as to how important this career path has become, and will continue to be well into the future.

    Author Byline: Laura Mingo writes about topics of interest to higher education students. In particular, she covers IT careers and new technology as well as the latest trends driving the IT industry. Her aim is to empower university students in pursuit of a BU Masters in CIS. Co-written by Anita Ginsburg.

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