Data is everywhere — on social media Web sites, in corporate databases, in hospital records. This data is stored and transmitted over a maze of local and global computer networks, and much of that data is sensitive (such as Social Security numbers and credit card numbers) and/or valuable (such as company trade secrets and patent information). Human nature being what it is, there are “bad guys” who want to get at that data. Every day we hear of new cases of identity theft and data breaches.
A 2010 report from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said that 346 million personal records have been exposed since 2005. In 2010, the Ponemon Institute calculated the cost of each lost personal record at $204 in the United States, and the average organizational cost of a data breach at $6.75 million in the United States.
Given these statistics, it’s no wonder that information security (often abbreviated as “infosec”) careers are some of the fastest growing and most highly compensated computer careers available today.
Information security specialists ensure that data is protected from unauthorized access while it is stored and transmitted. Information security professionals need to have advanced technical knowledge of encryption, network infrastructure, authentication protocols, firewalls and virus protection tools, and intrusion detection systems. They may also need experience and knowledge of psychiatry (how do criminals/hackers think?), mathematics and statistics (what is the probability of an attack?), and other non-computer skills.
Typically, people working in the information security field have at least a bachelor’s degree. Also, many employers require certification, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). According to the PayScale Index, the annual salary for someone in the information security field can range from $59,000 to more than $100,000, depending on his or her skill level and specific duties.
A good resource for industry news and technical information relevant to information security is www.searchsecurity.com