With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world shifted to online platforms and remote systems. People began using the internet in record volume for everything from retail purchases and school to consulting with physicians and conducting day-to-day business.
As a result, the digital “attack footprint” — the term cybersecurity experts use to describe vulnerabilities — expanded, and hackers seized the opportunity. The FBI received more than 791,790 complaints of suspected internet crime — an increase of more than 300,000 complaints from 2019 — with monetary losses reported at $4.2 billion across the economy, not including the cost of lost productivity.
What Are Enterprises Doing to Protect Themselves from Cyberattack?
Demand for cybersecurity experts increased nearly three times faster than for all other IT positions, according to Burning Glass Technologies. IBM noted that the high demand for and low supply of cybersecurity professionals means these professionals can earn starting salaries as high as $93,540 (an average of 16% more than all IT jobs).
IT professionals are finding that an online Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management, such as the one offered by Murray State University, gain competitive advantage in this lucrative field by enabling them to develop expertise to secure data and systems and prevent and detect attacks.
While most industries faced increased cybersecurity threats with the onset of the pandemic, a few are at heightened risk:
1. Retail Sector:
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, U.S. digital retail sales — including internet and tap-to-pay credit cards and smart devices — increased to nearly $1 trillion in the 2020 year, a 44% increase from 2019, according to Intelligent CISO.
Every transaction, whether at point-of-sale or on the internet, is a potential security breach in which hackers could harvest consumers’ identities, accounts and other information, then use that information through a process known as phishing to install malware or ransomware on enterprise systems.
2. Financial Services:
Forbes notes that in 2020, over a quarter of U.S. banks were cyberattacked, and the banking industry experienced 300 times more breaches than all other industries that year. Not only does this raise concerns for individuals’ financial security, but the risk of breaches on federal financial funds is a great concern, too: “A cyberattack … on the U.S. Treasury … could bring down the country,” the publication warns.
3. Healthcare Industry:
The healthcare industry houses vast amounts of electronic personal information for patients, which puts the field at risk for attack. Additionally, the industry’s expanded scope of attack created vulnerabilities during the pandemic that enabled hackers to create undetected backdoors to medical device software before it arrived on the market.
“One of the things that cybersecurity professionals rely upon is knowing what normal looks like. And suddenly there was no way to know because what was normal was gone,” Ellen Butwin Mann, EY America’s cybersecurity leader, told Health IT Security.
4. Education Sector:
Colleges and universities comprise of fragmented and disparate educational departments and administrative operations, making “implementation of cyber security systems … often piecemeal, which leaves the organization as a whole in a more vulnerable position,” writes Dan Drapeau, head of technology for Blue Fountain Media.
5. Industrial Sector:
“Like the healthcare industry, the manufacturing sector has found itself increasingly in the crosshairs of cybercriminals over the last twelve months as they’ve turned their attention to always-on industries that can quickly line their pockets,” said Ronen Yehoshua, CEO of the breach-prevention vendor Morphisec.
What Educational Opportunities Prepare Graduates for Cybersecurity Careers?
Graduates of an advanced degree program, such as Murray State University online Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management program, are prepared to meet the challenges of securing data networks in various industries.
Students develop high-demand expertise in critical areas, including incident response, malicious software, public-key encryption and message authentication — all of which are important to anticipating and fighting online threats.