Careers in Cyber Security: Train to become an Information Systems Security Specialist

With hackers breaking into computers at some of the largest retailers in the world, it’s no wonder companies are pulling out all the stops to avoid becoming the latest target of cyber crime. Which is why a growing number of schools such as UC Irvine Extension are building comprehensive cyber security education programs.

There are so many attacks these days,” said Ian Harris, an associate professor at UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences who also teaches an information systems security course at UCI Extension and serves as an advisor to the program. “It’s obvious to everybody that we have a serious problem and we need more experts who are properly trained to respond.”

UCI is ahead of the game. The Information Systems Security certificate program offered by UCI Extension teaches the principles of designing, engineering and managing secure information systems. Disaster recovery planning, cryptography, legal issues, regulations and investigations are among the topics covered.

Courses include Introduction to Information Systems Security, Security Architecture & Design, Database Security and Ethical Hacking. A course titled Introduction to Computer Forensics offers practical experience in analyzing data to uncover misuse and teaches how to extract digital evidence from computers. Another course, Host and OS Security, examines the security aspects of Windows Vista, MAC and Apple OS technology. Harris teaches Reverse Engineering, a hands-on course covering a key strategy for stopping malware attacks.

The program prepares students to take the Certified Information Systems Security Professional exam administered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium. Roughly 94,000 people in 149 countries hold CISSP accreditation.

The program is designed not only to benefit security professionals who require the certification, but also those who want to expand their cyber security skills or start a new career.

Graduates should have few problems finding work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the number of computer network security analysts will skyrocket 37% from 2012 to 2022. “Demand for information security analysts is expected to be very high as these analysts will be needed to come up with innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating havoc on computer networks,” states the Bureau in its analysis.

The average annual salary for a computer network security analyst nationwide was $91,210 in 2013. In California, the average was $102,460, or just under $50 per hour.

Those who work in the industry must sometimes feel as though they’re playing a game of Whack-A-Mole. Thanks to cyber criminals, identity theft in 2014 topped the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints for the 15th consecutive year, with more than 332,000 complaints, according to the Federal Trade Commission's 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, an online database of millions of consumer complaints compiled for law enforcement.

The stakes could get even higher. A controlled test hack by Wired Magazine recently showed that hackers could take control of a moving Jeep through the vehicle’s wireless communications system.

“There is a significant need for people who are trained in the field of advanced computer and network security,” Harris said. “And there will continue to be a significant need for many years to come.”

--David Ogul, Tribune Content Solutions

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