Spotlight on Cyber: Pathways to an In-demand Career
The last thing any company leader wants to hear is that someone has hacked into their network and obtained access to data that was once believed to be confidential and secure. But it happens every day. Realization that “this could happen to us” is motivating more and more businesses to seek and invest in the expertise of cybersecurity professionals who can prepare organizations and their systems for potential cyber intrusions.
“Ethical hackers” is the term used for cyber professionals who are paid to test network, software, and hardware systems, and report back with an analysis of just how easy or difficult it is to gain entry to systems that are considered secure. Ultimately, their job is to help companies identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in order to put the right tools and systems in place to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access.
Athar Rafiq, manager of computer and cyber lab services at Howard Community College, explains that any company that collects and maintains secure data can benefit from the services provided by these ethical hackers, with accounting firms, health care organizations, and software manufacturers being among the most common users. Smaller companies, he says, are often the most vulnerable. “Some companies will invest in new equipment and forget to reset the default password, which can be accessed by anyone who logs onto Google, types in the name of the equipment and then does a quick search for generic password information,” said Rafiq. “These are the types of technical settings that are often easily overlooked, and can also easily result in a significant and costly security breach.”
Students who are enrolled in HCC’s cybersecurity program are acquiring the skills and training they need to market themselves to prospective employers in pursuit of these in-demand and ever-evolving career opportunities. As one of 14 Maryland community colleges that have partnered to receive federal grant funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) competitive grant program, HCC students have the opportunity to accelerate through a two-year degree that is aligned with National Security Agency guidelines for security and information assurance programs, one year certificate programs, and courses leading to industry certifications. This Cyber Technology Pathways Across Maryland (CPAM) program also allows HCC to provide participants with upfront assessments, career planning, mentorship, and job search support.
HCC offers a variety of affordable and convenient pathways for students to prepare for our region’s critical cybersecurity workforce: from degree and certificate programs to industry certifications to courses to update technical skills. Learn more about HCC’s IT programs in cybersecurity, networking, cyber forensics, web development, and more, at howardcc.edu/IT.