Cyber security career has massive potential
OWASP's AppSec EU conference coming to Belfast in May
In 2016 there was rarely a day that went by when there wasn't a story in the news about a cyber security breach or a hack on a high profile organisation.
Whether it was the allegations of state-sponsored Russian hackers influencing the US presidential elections by targeting the Democratic Party, or the teenager convicted of hacking mobile phone company Talk Talk - cyber security was rarely far from the headlines. Yahoo's data breaches alone could potentially affect one in seven of the world's population and projections are that it is likely to get worse in 2017.
While the prevalence of cyber threats is worrying to many people, the ubiquity of stories on information security also provides a perfect illustration of why cyber security should be the number one area of interest for anyone looking to forge a career in the tech sector in the next few years.
The global demand for instant access to everything, the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things, even more data shared online and ongoing government tension between privacy and security all mean that cyber is an area that will grow exponentially in the year ahead.
There is currently 100% employment in the cyber security sector here in Northern Ireland. Job roles such as security engineers, penetration testers and security architects are in high demand and people with the right qualifications and experience can write their own ticket with global employers and indigenous companies alike.
A strong cyber cluster is developing here, driven by QUB's highly regarded Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT), the UK's Innovation and Knowledge Centre for secure information technologies. Last year Northern Ireland topped the rankings for US foreign direct investment in cyber, with companies like Rapid 7, Proofpoint, Alert Logic and Whitehat all setting up operations here. Their expertise adds to a growing cadre of local companies that are also making waves, such as Titan IC Systems, Repknight, Cyberlytic, B-Secur and SaltDNA.
These companies have supported the development of an enviable talent pool in cyber - but we can't rest on our laurels. There is huge demand for talent in the sector globally and if we want to stay competitive, cyber security must continue to be a priority sector promoted by the government. In fact, the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond launched the National Cyber Security Strategy in November 2015, committing £1.9bn to the UK's cyber security field over the next five years.
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A Cisco report from a year ago (January 2, 2016) estimated the global figure at one million cybersecurity job openings and Symantec, the security software vendor, has predicted that will rise to six million globally by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million.
The cyber security field is broad and expanding, and as well as attracting new graduates, it also offers a lot of career options for IT professionals considering a move from building code to defending it.
The demand for jobs within the cyber security industry is varied. Many companies are in need of security engineers and coders to build secure web sites and products, as well as ethical hackers and testers who ensure those systems cannot be breached. Skilled security researchers are also in high demand. In industries such as finance, the need for security administrators and IT auditors is always growing.
The Open Web Application Security Project - or OWASP - is a worldwide organisation made up of volunteers from the industry who are experiencing this rapid change sector on a daily basis.
Part of OWASP's mission is to create freely-available articles, methodologies, tools and technologies in web application security that can be used to the benefit of all.
OWASP's AppSec EU conference is coming to Belfast in May. This will be one of the biggest European cyber security conferences in 2017. It is a major coup to bring this event to the city and reflects Belfast's status as a rising star as a worldwide cyber security centre.
Over five days we will have a superb opportunity to show more than 800 delegates from across Europe what Belfast has to offer and also to get fresh insight into the key trends in the sector.
There are still opportunities to get involved or attend the conference.
You can find more information at 2017.appsec.eu. Given just how topical cyber is today, it will be well worth your while.