From decreasing fibre internet costs to Samsung Pay rolling out on mobile phones around the country, there are more technological and IT opportunities facing South African businesses than ever before. While this dynamic landscape undoubtedly benefits companies looking for ways to create customer value or competitive advantage, it also empowers cyber criminals, providing them with a plethora of ways to target businesses, their employees and their customers with cyber-attacks.
This is more than mere paranoia: according the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), South Africa loses R2,2 billion to cyber-attacks annually, and we have the third-highest number of cybercrime victims in the world. Another study by IBM titled Costs of Data Breaches Increase Expenses for Businesses found that 21 090 business records were breached or stolen in South Africa in 2018, at an average cost of R1 792 per breach, totalling nearly R38m. This is close to the average cost of a data breach, R36,5m, with the primary cause for such a breach being a criminal attack, accounting for nearly half of all breaches. The main costs associated with a data breach include technical investigations, legal activities, lost business and reputational damage.
The numbers alone, while staggering, often fail to paint an accurate picture. Earlier this year, in May, close to a million South African drivers had some of their personal information compromised – including their ID numbers – after the website ViewFines (used for viewing traffic fines) had their database breached. A year before that, a security flaw in Ster-Kinekor’s booking website resulted in the leak of nearly 1,6 million customers’ email addresses. On an individual basis, spear phishing attacks – targeting people with fraudulent emails or messages – persists as the most prevalent type of cyber-attack.
Cyber criminals show no indication of slowing down their attacks, and businesses are looking to cybersecurity solutions to protect their data, boost customer trust and build brand awareness. Below are 5 reasons that make 2018 the perfect year to forge a new career path in cybersecurity.
The increasing frequency of cybercrime, combined with businesses spending more time and energy on their cybersecurity, means that more openings exist in the field of cybersecurity than ever before. Additionally, there is a lack of qualified candidates (stemming from a general skills shortage), meaning that individuals with cybersecurity certifications and experience in multiple environments are highly sought after, putting you in good position to negotiate your remuneration.
Studying cybersecurity is a significantly shorter undertaking than many conventional careers, with courses ranging from several weeks to months versus 3 years for an undergraduate degree, and this time is reduced if you have some background in IT. The brief duration makes cybersecurity a relatively easy career path to spontaneously transition too, and UCT, CPUT and the Cyber Security Institute of South Africa are just 3 of the educational institutions offering courses at different skills levels and price ranges.
In 2016, Continuity, Insurance and Risk magazine reported that “cyber incidents” are “the most important long-term risk for companies in the next 10 years”. The prevalence of cybercrime, along with its tendency to continuously adapt and change to advances in cybersecurity protection measures – such as the increase in the incidence of mobile ransomware attacks in the first quarter of 2017 – means that cybersecurity professionals are going to be in high-demand for the foreseeable future, and investing in this career path now guarantees a future full of options.
As technology changes and evolves, so does the nature of cyber threats, meaning that cybersecurity professionals must be on their toes, staying up to date with new kinds of cyber threats and how to combat them. When every new threat can potentially bring with it a new type of security measure, cybersecurity professionals can rarely afford to be bored, and the work they do is often directly responsible for the privacy and peace of mind of many people.
Do you find that you get bored of the same routine fairly quickly? If so, cybersecurity may just be the career path for you. Due to the nature of cybercrime, any industry that deals with consumer data can be affected, and companies that deal with high volumes of it – like insurance companies, retail traders and health care providers – are the most likely to seek out cybersecurity solutions. If you work as a freelancer, you may even work in several of these industries simultaneously!
It is clear that a career in cybersecurity is perfect for anyone looking for a change in direction that comes with exciting future prospects and a relatively brief education and training period. Getting involved sooner rather than later ensures that you can capitalise on the ever-increasing demand for cybersecurity before other people catch on, making you a highly valuable candidate in multiple industries.