The Beginner’s Guide to Cybersecurity

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of safeguarding systems, computers and data from digital attacks. These attacks often involve attempts to breach, modify, or damage the target’s computer system, resulting in interruption or downtime for services, theft of confidential or proprietary data and exposure of personal information.

The field of cybersecurity is ever growing and changing. In the past, cybersecurity primarily focused on preventing access from the outside, by forming a perimeter of defense measures such as firewalls or antivirus software to prevent cyber crimes. These crimes date back to the 1970s when early computerized phone systems were targeted in order to steal long-distance telephone time.

Today’s data travels in all directions at lightning speed, meaning that cybersecurity measures must be much more varied and sophisticated, according to SecureWorks. Over the past several years, the occurrence of cyber crime has increased to include cyber espionage, ransomware and phishing schemes. The cybersecurity industry has expanded as a result, with spending expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2021, as reported by Cybersecurity Ventures.

According to Forbes, as businesses draw more and more value from data, they carry more risk. Data and personal information is highly valuable to hackers. In fact, experts say that data such as health information is more valuable to hackers than a credit card. Hackers can use this information to commit identity theft, steal funds, or sell anonymously to third parties.

With the digital economy growing at an unprecedented rate, the need for cybersecurity is growing to record highs. By 2022, the global cybersecurity workforce shortage is projected to reach upwards of 1.8 million unfilled positions, according to Global Information Security Workforce Study. Additionally, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that 82 percent of employers report a shortage of candidates with cybersecurity skills.

The Jobs in Cybersecurity

With cybersecurity becoming increasingly important to companies, cybersecurity experts are incredibly valuable in the professional world. Take a look at some of today’s in-demand cybersecurity jobs:

Top Jobs in Cybersecurity

What Skills Do I Need For Cybersecurity?

In the field of cybersecurity, there are a number of skills and qualities that can help set qualified professionals apart from the competition. Below we have outlined several hard and soft skills that can help you become an in-demand and proficient cybersecurity professional.

Hard Skills:

  • Network Security: With data breaches becoming an almost daily occurrence, the importance of hiring cybersecurity professionals with up-to-date network security skills is a high priority for companies of any size in all sectors.
  • Digital Forensics: Users often delete data from devices that they would prefer others not to see — but sometimes, organizations find themselves in need of cybersecurity professionals who can recover this information.
  • Troubleshooting: A strong foundation in hardware and software troubleshooting is essential to good cybersecurity. Companies rely on cybersecurity professionals who can troubleshoot and solve system problems or breaches.
  • Ethical Hacking: The goal of ethical hacking is to improve security systems and to eliminate or mitigate potential attacks. Cybersecurity professionals should be skilled at duplicating the actions of hackers in order to discover vulnerabilities.

Soft Skills:

  • Teamwork: Cybersecurity professionals should value the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Today’s companies not only hire based on skill set, but they also look for people who are great at working across dynamic groups.
  • Curiosity: A strong desire to obtain more knowledge and information is a key trait. Curiosity drives the best cybersecurity professionals forward, allowing them to expand their skills while sharing their newfound knowledge with others.
  • Communication: Cybersecurity employees are often tasked with explaining threats and prevention measures to non-technical minded stakeholders in the organization. As such, they must be able to clearly communicate their findings.
  • Adaptability: One key component of long-term success for cybersecurity professionals is the ability to adapt to the latest in industry best practices while staying on top of current threats and preventive measures.

Emerging Threats in Cybersecurity

Today’s cyber attackers are constantly discovering new exploits and strategies to compromise and damage systems. In order to maintain a high degree of cybersecurity, you should understand the cyber threats that businesses today are facing. Here are some of the top cybersecurity threats to be aware of in 2020.

Top Cybersecurity Threats

1. Cloud Vulnerability

A Cloud Threat Report by Oracle and KPMG (PDF, 13.6 MB) revealed that cloud vulnerability is one of the most threatening cybersecurity challenges faced by businesses today. These attacks typically seek to extract data, however they are growing more sophisticated every year. Cloud vulnerabilities often result in DoS attacks, in fact, a recent Cloud Security Threat report by Symantec revealed that DoS attacks are one of the most commonly investigated cloud incidents today.

2. Denial-of-Service Attack (DoS)

DoS attacks are used to prevent users of an online service from accessing that service’s data, apps and other elements. Unlike attacks intended to allow the attacker to gain access, DoS breaches offer little benefit. Many attackers are motivated by the thrill of exploiting a system. These attacks can cost businesses up to $40,000 per hour, while only costing $40 for cyber attackers to engineer.

3. Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering is the art of exploiting human psychology. Today’s cyber attackers are combining social engineering and technology to aid in data breaching. According to the InfoSec Institute, phishing is the most commonly used social engineering attack. These attacks leverage social engineering to trick victims into giving up sensitive information such as passwords or credit card information.

4. Ransomware

Ransomware poses a significant and growing threat to companies, representing one of the most impactful trends in cyberattacks today, according to Microsoft’s Threat Protection Intelligence Team. These threats involve hackers holding data hostage in exchange for money or other demands. The potential cost of ransomware in the United States in 2019 was over $7.5 billion, according to a report from the cybersecurity firm Emisof.

5. Internal Threats

An internal threat is a cybersecurity risk that originates within the targeted company. These attacks occur when an employee intends to interrupt operations or exploit confidential and/or critical business data. The role that insiders play in the cyber vulnerability of businesses is significant and growing. According to a report by Verizon, 34 percent of data breaches in 2019 involved insiders.

Personal Cybersecurity Tips/Best Practices

Cybersecurity Best Practices

Sources for Cybersecurity News

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the field of cybersecurity, it is important to stay informed on the latest information. The sources below offer additional insights into the current state of cybersecurity including trends, news and research.

  1. Forbes Cybersecurity offers daily cybersecurity-focused pieces from staff writers and contributors.
  2. WIRED SECURITY publishes content on cyberwarfare, dark web and global cybersecurity news.
  3. The New York Times Computer Security News shares breaking cybersecurity news/stories.
  4. U.S. News Cybersecurity covers the latest news items on cybersecurity and cybercrime.
  5. CNBC Tech | Cybersecurity shares relevant news on cybersecurity and privacy issues.
  6. Technopedia offers a comprehensive glossary of cybersecurity terms and concepts.


Just as the field of cybersecurity continues to grow and change, introducing new threats and vulnerabilities, cyber professionals must also equip themselves with the latest skills to protect the confidentiality, availability and integrity of data and software.

Wondering how to get into cybersecurity? Visit University of Minnesota Cybersecurity Boot Camp or contact our admissions team at (612) 424-8605 to discover how you can gain the fundamentals to work in the field.

Over the course of 24 intensive weeks, you will take a multidisciplinary approach in attaining proficiency in IT, networking and modern information security. You will also walk out with an impressive professional portfolio and the confidence you need to succeed as a cybersecurity professional.

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