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The future of cybersecurity

At a glance

  • All things cyber are shaping the future of work as more companies rely on technology to store and manage data, in turn creating a need for cyber professionals to oversee and protect company infrastructure and people’s personal information.
  • Cybercrime is on the rise, with data breaches costing impacted companies an average of $4.24 million.
  • Cybersecurity threats range from malware, like worms, and ransomware to technological trends that open the door to potential cybercrime (think cloud migration and increased automation).
  • University of Phoenix prepares tomorrow’s cybersecurity professionals with a variety of technology degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity.

What does the future of cybersecurity look like?

Cybercrime is on the rise. According to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of reported breaches in the first nine months of 2021 exceeded the number for all of 2020.

The implications go beyond the headache of inconvenience to impact companies’ bottom lines: The average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million in 2021— up 10% from 2020.

As a result, cyber professionals are more vital now than ever before, especially as more companies shift to remote work and cloud-based systems, and more people rely on mobile devices, which may contain identity and financial data.

Anyone who pursues a technology degree needs to learn cybersecurity basics. That can consist of a variety of educational paths, from the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, which offers broad foundational knowledge, to the more focused Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity degree program.

What are the future challenges for cybersecurity professionals? New trends in the cyber world, such as remote connections, blockchain technology and virtual private networks (VPNs), pose new security problems, but they also provide unique solutions for protecting data and improving IT risk management.

Here is a look at the future of cybersecurity.

Evolving malware

Malicious software (malware) refers to intrusive programs that infiltrate, damage and destroy computer systems.

Malware is a blanket term for a wide range of software, including viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, ransomware and adware. New malware trends include programs that allow the hacker to fully control a computer or device.

Other future cybersecurity problems related to malware include attacks that target specific companies or users. Experts also expect an increase in the use of so-called worms that can infect the computers of cyber professionals trying to fix the problem.

Despite these trends, most malware still comes from transferring infected files, opening malicious email links or using unsecured apps, such as those connected with online games.

Exposure of portable hardware

Portable hardware, such as mobile phones, tablets, USB drives and laptop computers, presents new data security challenges to companies. With the emerging trends in telecommuting and remote work, employees take confidential company information with them almost everywhere they go. These portable devices often operate outside of the more secure office environment and may be more vulnerable to cyber threats, especially if the user downloads non-work apps.

Today's cybersecurity professionals need to teach employees proper security procedures for using their devices and managing company data. Tools such as password protection, two-factor authentication and extra encryption can help secure portable hardware devices.

Additionally, you can take advantage of the ability to connect to mobile devices from a computer or other device. From there, you can use remote-wipe programs or automatic lockdown features that make stolen or compromised devices unusable.

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Remote access concerns

Remote access allows off-site workers and staff to access an organization's central systems without being in the office. While remote access increases flexibility and enhances work-life balance, it also increases cybersecurity risks and makes protecting company data more complex.

Some common problems related to remote access are:

  • Using personal devices with weak security or unsecured apps to access a secured work system.
  • Accessing sensitive company data through unsafe Wi-Fi networks.
  • Sharing unencrypted files on the secured network.
  • Not practicing physical security, such as hiding your password, when in a public setting. 

Companies can limit these issues by setting up firewalls and running intrusion detection software, which alerts security personnel to unusual activity. Companies also need to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices.

Skills and resource gaps

According to data collected by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, the need for cybersecurity employees is rising, but there are not enough skilled professionals to meet the demand. As more companies move toward remote or hybrid work arrangements and rely on data-driven decision-making practices, the skill and resource gap could continue to grow.

Organizations can manage this skill gap by outsourcing cybersecurity or incentivizing IT employees to undertake further education. For example, someone with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology can pursue postgraduate education to gain more specialized security skills. Options include a Master of Science in Cybersecurity and a Master of Information Systems degree. By encouraging or facilitating advanced education, companies can meet their growing cybersecurity needs from within.

State-sponsored attacks

State-sponsored attacks refer to cyberattacks sanctioned by a country's government. These organized attacks are often geared toward achieving an objective aligned with the country's political, commercial or military interests. For instance, a country may sponsor a cyberattack on a company involved in manufacturing for the military.

State-sponsored attacks are becoming more common, with a 100% increase in nation-state cyberattacks in 2017 to 2020. Cybersecurity professionals need to be aware of these possible attacks, especially if they work for a company or organization with military, infrastructure or healthcare ties.

Increase of automation

Companies are switching to automated operations because it is cost-effective and efficient. However, automation requires computers and embedded hardware systems that are vulnerable to cyber threats.

The more systems a company has, the more targets are available to hackers.

At the same time, advances in automation can help make cybersecurity practices more efficient.

Organizations can use data correlation to collect a substantial amount of threat data and develop automation techniques. This will help them instantly identify suspicious activity before it has a chance to damage or compromise the system.

Companies can also use robotic process automation to handle basic operations, such as monitoring and scanning systems and performing other tasks that would prove time-consuming for a human.

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Password developments

Despite the many advances in computer protection, passwords remain the key security feature for almost all computers, electronic devices, websites and software. Phishing scams and keystroke-tracking malware seek to steal passwords.

New tools such as password managers can help generate complex passwords and regularly change them to avoid security compromises. Even without such tools, companies can teach employees to create complex passwords with letters, numbers and symbols and change them regularly.

Use of VPNs

Both companies and individuals can use virtual private networks (VPNs) to mask their locations and keep hackers from infiltrating their networks. VPN networks may boost cybersecurity in several ways.

  • A VPN automatically encrypts all traffic from your device and your company's network, thereby enabling secure remote access of company information. This feature can be especially useful when accessing remote systems via Wi-Fi.
  • A VPN can mask its users' location, IP address and other details. This keeps users anonymous and limits the possibility of targeted cyberattacks.
  • A VPN can help keep cloud-based assets secure by obscuring the paths used to access cloud systems.

With VPNs in place, companies can lower the risk of cyberattacks and individuals can mitigate issues related to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Blockchain technology

blockchain refers to a decentralized ledger containing data for all transactions performed across a given network. The data are connected in a decentralized chain. Multiple parties verify every change to the collection, so it is impossible for a single entity, such as a hacker, to change the data.

People are most familiar with public blockchains, such as those associated with cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. However, you can also deploy private and permissioned blockchains. They still use the same multiple-verification chain, but only parties with special permission to access the closed system can participate.

Cloud migration

Cloud migration involves moving tools, such as applications, databases and software, to cloud systems, which employees then access remotely. Companies do not need to maintain their own servers. Many organizations choose to migrate to the cloud to minimize costs and maximize accessibility. Cloud-based systems also offer security enhancements, such as round-the-clock threat management.

Moreover, finance and healthcare companies can ensure regulatory compliance and protect sensitive customer and patient data by requiring a connection to a central cloud-based system.

Cloud migration can lead to security challenges, however. Poorly configured networks, compromised or unsecured connections, and unauthorized access make a cloud system vulnerable to hacking.

With increasing challenges to cybersecurity come increasing opportunities to rethink, innovate and protect. And the first step toward improved cybersecurity is almost always education.

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FAQs

Is cybersecurity a growing industry?

Yes! Jobs in this sector are projected to grow by 33% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Is cybersecurity a good career?

Cybersecurity can be a good career for individuals who:

  • Enjoy working with computers, monitoring networks, identifying vulnerabilities and developing proactive and reactive solutions to cyber threats
  • Are able to effectively teach others best practices in the realm of cybersecurity
  • Seek out continuous learning opportunities to stay abreast of trends and IT developments

What skills are needed for cybersecurity?

In addition to a strong foundational knowledge of information technology, computer science and/or cybersecurity, successful cyber professionals should have:

  • Analytical skills: Important for identifying potential risks
  • Communication skills: Critical for explaining threats and solutions to audiences of varying technical backgrounds
  • Creative skills: Key to being able to innovate when it comes to identifying potential problems and solutions
  • Problem-solving skills: Critical for effectively and quickly finding solutions when the stakes are high