After a malware attack that brought much of the work at his office to a standstill for two days, Koushik Mitra enrolled for a course in cyber security.
“The drive on the cloud got infected and our work was affected for two days. That’s when I started thinking about a career in cyber security,” says Mitra, who has 13 years of experience in the software industry.
He has got the timing right. There continues to be a huge demand for cyber security professionals in India and elsewhere. And, according to many studies, there is a shortage of talent in this area of specialisation.
Between January 2017 and March 2018, job postings by Indian employers for cyber security roles increased by 150%, according to a research by job site Indeed.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, by 2021, fighting cyber crime will cost businesses globally, more than $6 trillion annually and there will be 3.5 million unfilled security jobs.
With many high-profile data breaches and sophisticated threats getting reported, companies are encouraging employees to upskill through training programmes and certifications.
Simplilearn, Manipal Prolearn, Coursera and Great Learning are some training providers offering courses in cyber security on their platforms.
“After data science, cyber security is the most sought-after course by companies,” says Harish Subramanian, new product development, Great Learning. The six-month online programme prepares professionals for the role of a security architect.
SP Jain School of High Technology in Mumbai offers a six-month course in cyber security and data security specialist programme, where two months is spent interning with companies.
HCL Technologies has opened a CyberSecurity Fusion Centre in Texas, where it announced a university-to-industry collaboration to train and hire college students.
However, many specialists in the sector say the skills needed for cyber security jobs aren’t easy to learn in the classroom.
“These attacks are changing in nature, and it’s happening not just by external influence but also from within the company. You cannot always train someone, a lot of what you need to know and do you pick up on the job. Those engaged in cyber security should understand how hackers work, keep a watch over potential attack areas and be able to spot vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure and code. They also have to keep pace with emerging trends like IoT, AI/ ML, cloud and blockchain,” says Hemal Shah, senior vice president, Dell Digital and Regional CIO, Asia Pacific, Dell Technologies.
For those starting out in this field, an understanding of operating systems and database management, networking and programming concepts are helpful. Salaries range from ₹22 to ₹32 lakh, says a Simplilearn study.
Jatin (name changed), who works as a cyber security consultant, says certification helps to some extent, but one has to keep on upskilling. A minimum of two to three years of exposure to networking will be of immense help.
New strategies on protecting networks
A spate of cyber attacks in recent times and shortage of talent are two factors pushing organisations to rethink their strategies on cyber security.
As part of the training for its developers, Dell Technologies gets them to work closely with its cyber security department.
“We have a dedicated cyber security team, but that’s not enough as the organisation keeps growing. So, we have our cyber teams create champions across our development teams,” says Hemal Shah, senior vice president, Dell Digital and Regional CIO, Asia Pacific, Dell Technologies.
Every employee has to take up cyber-security training offered every year, and an examination is also conducted to evaluate their knowledge in this area.
Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions recently sent out a mailer inviting all employees to join the cyber-security community, where ways to detect phishing mails are taught and and information on new threats is shared.
Mastercard has been upgrading the skills and knowledge of employees, with the help of external experts.
“We partner with academic institutions that are at the forefront of cyber security thinking. For instance, we actively work with the Cyber Readiness Institute for a programme where Fortune 500 companies distribute educational materials to smaller companies as part of an effort to strengthen supply-chain security,” says Priti Singh, vice president, Human Resources, South Asia, Mastercard.
In the United States, Mastercard, along with other global technology companies, joined hands with 11 federal government agencies as part of a Cybersecurity Talent initiative to fill thousands of open cyber security jobs. Graduating college students can apply for a two-year placement in a security role at the FBI, CIA or another agency.
At the end of the two years, candidates will be eligible for a position at one of the companies, which will repay up to U.S.$ 75,000 of the student loan debt.