In this day and age of the Internet and all things connected, the topics of data safety and online security have never been as important and pertinent as they are today. However, not a lot of people are aware of or even acknowledge the importance of online security. The silver lining is those who want to change that can do so.
You can teach yourself cybersecurity, thanks to the plethora of learning material available online for free. Most experts in the domain, in fact, are self-taught or have acquired skills in a non-academic way. And the best part is they are willing to share their experience and knowledge online.
If this sounds interesting, keep reading to learn more about cybersecurity, the absolute need to get acquainted with the topic, how to get started with learning cybersecurity, etc.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is essentially the protection of electronic information, computer systems, networks, etc. The larger objective is to safeguard various Internet-based infrastructure and confidential data from cyberattacks. A cyberattack is a scary term, and no individual or business would like to be a victim of it since it could lead to compromised personal information, sabotaged business processes, money extortion, etc.
The Significance of Cybersecurity
With the huge (and increasing) digital protection requirement, cybersecurity as a career has great potential. The job prospects, in fact, are more promising than jobs in pretty much any other industry. As per a 2019 study by the ISC, the demand for online security professionals will increase by more than 60% by the end of 2020, to keep up with the increasing demands of modern-day businesses.
Moreover, as per BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) data, the 2018-2028 job outlook for the cybersecurity industry is much better than average. While 5% is the average rate of growth for all occupations, information security analysts—for instance—would see over a 30% growth rate.
Even if you are not looking for a change of career and are quite content with what you’re currently doing, learning cybersecurity would (at minimum) help you amp up your personal safety online. With an increasing number of people coming online, almost all aspects of human lives are getting tracked electronically.
This consists of your health records, power consumption information, financial data, the clothes you wear, the time you reach home from school or work, the places you travel to, and during what period of the year, etc. With all these pieces of information, AI (artificial intelligence) machines are able to gain a complete understanding of you—even better than what you know of yourself, perhaps.
For businesses, cyberattacks are quite common and also costly. Over the past many years, cybersecurity has turned into a business risk management function from originally being an IT (information technology) discipline.
As per this Gartner report, companies worldwide would likely spend more than $1.7 billion on cybersecurity technologies and infrastructure in 2020. That’s a 10.7% jump from what was spent on cybersecurity the year prior.
There’s a huge number of unprotected and unmanaged IoT (Internet of Things) equipment being used across businesses globally. Due to existing IoT devices lacking necessary built-in security features, they are constantly being targeted by cybercriminals. In fact, IoT attacks have been on the increase—with the first half of 2018 witnessing a 300% increase from previous periods.
Therefore, several companies are prioritizing on-campus cybersecurity training and placing increased emphasis on hiring people with cybersecurity knowledge or credentials.
Thanks to cybersecurity concerns, politics, social cohesion, and diplomacy are increasingly at the mercy of state-level cybercriminals. Incidents involving nations stealing intellectual property and government secrets from each other, influencing elections of other countries and the wider political discourse, etc. are continually on the rise.
To cut a long story short, cybersecurity concerns all—right from governments and multinational firms to small businesses, working professionals, and stay-at-home individuals.
How to Learn Cybersecurity by Yourself
Before you start self-learning cybersecurity, define your goals or what you’re trying to accomplish via the learning. There are tons of individual paths to choose from in cybersecurity. Having a clear objective would make the learning process easier and a lot more streamlined.
Identify Your Strengths and Interests
The very first step in your self-learning journey should be identifying your strong points. Consider your educational background and your work experience. Though you have a non-technical background, past technical knowledge and exposure would give you a clear head start.
Also, honestly assess your own interests and skills. Find out whether you are naturally inclined to or have an aptitude for app development, networking, etc. If you’re currently into science but not liking it, you would most likely not fancy cybersecurity too. If, however, topics such as security engineering, penetration testing, and incident response excite you, you clearly have the required aptitude for cybersecurity.
Build the Right Foundation
Cybersecurity is a tech field. It’s, therefore, recommended to learn programming basics before diving into cybersecurity. You don’t have to be an expert in any particular coding language as such. The ability to understand and read a programming language would suffice.
It’s also critical to think like a cybercriminal to succeed as a cybersecurity engineer. Without a proper understanding of system vulnerabilities, predicting and preventing cyberattacks will not come naturally to you. Based on your preferred area of focus, you should consider building your knowledge in the following security skills:
- Network defense tactics
- Networking and security foundations
- Logging procedures and monitoring them
- Access management and cryptography practices
- Web app security techniques
Here is a video that lists out the five skills you should learn to get into cybersecurity:
Learning these various general security skills is a good start, but the thing that will help you grow and thrive is your deep understanding of various systems and being perennially curious about them. In other words, continually ask questions about the different, not-very-obvious aspects of new processes or technologies. Also, learn more about the goals of processes and find out their weaknesses.
For example, if you are trying to brainstorm a payroll system’s vulnerabilities, you must consider employee salaries, data sources, system failure possibilities, etc. as starting points for your learning.
As you keep researching and digging for data, other aspects of the system will unfold, laying the foundation for further learning. Needless to say, this curiosity and willingness to learn go in line with the constantly changing field that cybersecurity is.
Access Free Study Materials
There is no dearth of cybersecurity learning material online—be it courses, books, articles, etc. The best part is that almost all are freely available. You just need to look for them in the right places. If you would like to peruse different cybersecurity books, No Starch Press is a great platform. Github is another great resource for cybersecurity educational materials.
Get Active in the Community
Be in touch with your peers in the industry, or stay abreast of the latest events. Build connections so that you could reach out for assistance or advice when required. Twitter has an excellent cybersecurity community, with multiple people giving great advice on finding learning resources in specific areas, cybersecurity jobs, etc.
Other groups worth connecting with include the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), etc. These groups have both online and offline presence, with regional chapters likely to be situated close to you. For instance, OWASP Chicago is dedicated to Chicagoans.
The experience you gain from participating in these groups could pave the way for your job in cybersecurity.
Machines could be employed at scale to impact almost all parts of human lives and society at large. This amplifies the need for combatting security risks. But it’s not that simple to implement security measures, as technology is always changing. And the realm of cybersecurity is no different. Fresh digital threats are constantly emerging. Learning cybersecurity is a small yet important step in the right direction.
- Learn to Code With Me: Ultimate Guide to Starting a Cybersecurity Career in 2020
- We Live Security: Getting into cybersecurity: Self-taught vs. university-educated?
- OWASP: OWASP Chicago
- Freshbooks: How a Payroll System Works
- Tech Target: cryptography
- Wiki: Access Management
- BitLyft: What is Computer Network Defense (CND)?
- Force Point: What is Incident Response?
- Imperva: Penetration Testing
- Tutorials Point: Basics of Computer Science – Networking
- Wiki Progress: Social Cohesion
- Gartner: Gartner Forecasts Enterprise Security and Risk Management Spending in MENA to Grow 11% in 2020
- What Is Six Sigma: Business Risk Management (BRM)
- BLS: Information Security Analysts
- ISC2: Strategies for Building and Growing Strong Cybersecurity Teams
- Check Point: What is a Cyber Attack?