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Why Continuous Education for Cybersecurity Professionals is a Must

Feb. 23, 2021
Joan Ruth

Cybersecurity is one of the most important fields of work in our world today. It’s an ever-changing discipline that requires ongoing education and adaptability, even for cybersecurity experts.

As a result, the traditional viewpoint of how expertise is defined needs to modernize. The days of industry experts maintaining their expertise by achieving a certain level of proficiency and then leading companies, directing employees, managing projects and the like are gone. You need an unquenchable thirst for continuous development which is especially true in cybersecurity.


Here are six reasons why the best cybersecurity professionals are always learning:


Keeping up with trends

The simplest reason experts in cybersecurity need to undergo continuous education is that the subject itself is always evolving. There are ongoing ‘Trends in Cybersecurity’ that we see with each passing year — whether it’s new technologies and capabilities, or how we prevent/respond to emerging threats. Whatever the specifics are, cybersecurity is shifting and advancing constantly. This necessitates continuous, open-minded self-education by those who would deem themselves experts in the field.


Managing new threats or crises

Experts embrace continuous education for the purpose of managing new threats and crises. For example, a Georgia State University professor’s write-up on darknet schemes describes how the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door for new cyber threats. Specifically, dark web markets have emerged to sell products people are seeking to manage the pandemic, often with the goal of profiting off of sham goods and/or obtaining customers’ information. This is more of a scam than any sort of new version of cyber threat, but it speaks to how events in the world give rise to new bouts of cybercrime. We need experts in cybersecurity to remain vigilant and open to new methods and strategies in order to prepare for such eventualities and then raise alarm for those at risk.


Keeping Up With Hardware Changes

Just as major events like COVID-19 can open the door to new threats, so too can changes and advancement in network-related hardware. We tend to hear "cybersecurity" and think only of digital crime. But some of the greatest new vulnerabilities we're facing have to do with hardware. The primary example is in the growth of the Internet of Things, and our increasing dependence on tiny electronic sensors and remote, connected devices. These devices rely on their own internal circuitry — minimized computer hardware, essentially. And as an Altium piece on enhancing design efficiency for printed circuit boards conveys, there are advanced software and design methods that go into making this miniature hardware as sophisticated and capable as possible. The result is that we now have countless tiny, connected devices enhancing cyber capabilities of all kinds. However, this results in additional vulnerability. Corruption of these devices or their internal hardware can yield new threats, which is why continuous cybersecurity education also needs to extend beyond purely digital concerns.


Prioritizing skills development

There continues to be a significant shortage of professionals with the right mix of cybersecurity skills. According to the IT Skills and Salary Report, cybersecurity is the most challenging area to find qualified talent. There needs to be more investment in digital security and it starts with investing in people. As CSO’s article on cybersecurity professionals put it, many in this field aren’t keeping up with training despite the fact that they “agree that continuous training is important.” The article explains that cybersecurity professionals recognize the need for continuous education, but workloads don’t permit time. Data from the salary report backs this claim as the number one workplace challenge is workload. Organizations that prioritize ongoing education, even for the sake of doing so, is significant. It will change attitudes in the industry and make preparation and prevention greater points of emphasis.


Taking An Interdisciplinary Approach

Apart from producing more cybersecurity professionals, another key way to address demand is through approaching the field as an interdisciplinary expertise. As the digital migration of education affords both teachers and students with a certain flexibility, tech-inclined online schools have been integrating cybersecurity and related competencies in modern online degree programs. Today’s online business degrees are expanding to include a range of topics such as the protection of a business. For instance, some institutions are enabling students to customize their degree and focus on cybersecurity. These degrees can now be a stepping stone into cybersecurity, which underscores how the worlds of business and cybersecurity directly intersect. In addition, those taking their cybersecurity bachelor’s degree can later elect to take their master’s degrees in business, data analytics, and accounting. In short, cybersecurity is an inherently interdisciplinary expertise. And by approaching it from this perspective, enterprises can better develop and integrate key cybersecurity practices across different fields and departments. If the above reasons don’t resonate, this should.


It's really expensive if you’re out-skilled by hackers

According to IBM, the global average total cost of a data breach was $3.86 million in 2020. The United States has the highest country average, at $8.64 million. The “breach lifecycle” which is the time to identify and contact a data breach is 280 days.

Cybersecurity isn’t machines attacking machines, it’s people attacking people. Organizations should focus on developing their workforce to have the right knowledge, skills and abilities so they know what to be on the lookout for, how to prevent and how to react.

Every IT pro should at least have awareness of the principles found in CompTIA’s Security+ certification so he or she has a better understanding of cybersecurity, even if they don’t directly work in the field. Another example is EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification which continues to grow in popularity. A CEH is a skilled professional who understands and knows how to look for the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and uses the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker.

In this digital age, cybersecurity is an ever-changing, overarching, and rapidly developing arena. Based on these points, organizations that prioritize continuous cybersecurity education as one of their most important priorities are better positioned to protect themselves from nefarious individuals or groups.


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Article written by Joan Ruth
Exclusively for Global Knowledge