Ross McKercher, a cyber security specialist with Sophos, extremely enjoys his job. “I love the way it’s a fast moving industry. Every day the security news is full of new areas we have to look at…Everyone has had a security problem. People can relate to it – I really like that,” McKercher shares.
It was McKercher’s interest in IT that began as a teenager and his determination to figure out the intricacies of how computer systems work that paved the way to this profession. “The route that I took was I really developed a deep understanding of how a system works and that’s fundamental for understanding how to attack it and therefore how to defend it,” he explains. “I always had the strong desire. If I couldn’t get something to work, I wouldn’t stop. I’d just go deeper and deeper and deeper until it worked. That way, I really started to understand protocols and how systems speak to each other”.
In a November 2011 Time Magazine article entitled “Nine Jobs of the Future”, Kayla Webley reported that there was a need for 10,000 or more cyber security specialists to meet the needs of American governmental agencies and companies but that there were only about 1,000 specially trained or experienced for this role. It is not surprising hence that there are more colleges and universities offering relevant educational programs, such as cyber security, computer forensics, computer crime, information security and homeland security technology degrees.
Howard Schmidt, the recently retired Cyber Security Coordinator for the White House, had a multi-faceted career in defense, public service, law enforcement and corporate security that spanned more than 40 years. Some of his accomplishments include setting up the first governmental computer forensics lab (at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations ), running the Computer Exploitation Team for the FBI, serving as Cyberspace Security adviser under the Bush administration, serving as a police officer for the Chandler Police Department and acting as Microsoft’s Chief Security Officer. When Schimdt went to university – there probably wasn’t much in the line of cyber security degree programs then – he completed a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Masters in Organizational Management. His persistence, continuous learning, eclectic experiences and the completion of CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) certifications all contributed to him gaining, arguably, the most important cyber security position in the nation.
In short, becoming a cyber security specialist takes more than an affinity for the technological world. It takes unrelenting determination.