This week in Las Vegas, some of the most talented cybersecurity minds have gathered to take part in two of the year's biggest hacker conferences, Blackhat and Defcon.
The highlights of these conferences are often what can best be described as cyber magic tricks, where technicians show off their skills by proving how they can break into various devices, such as computers inside cars, voting machines and medical instruments.
These demonstrations may lead you to imagine that cybersecurity professionals need technical abilities. But there are many career paths in the increasingly high-demand and lucrative field, and some may require only small tweaks in skills and experience.
Corporations in the U.S. and globally are seeing a major shortage in qualified applicants for cybersecurity jobs, meaning more people with transferable skills will need to be trained into them. Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates there are around 350,000 cybersecurity jobs currently unfilled in the U.S. Cybersecurity analytics and research company Cybersecurity Ventures released data that indicate 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs are likely to go unfilled globally by 2021, making this an excellent career path.
These jobs can pay exceptionally well, too. Top cybersecurity jobs, like chief information security officer — typically the highest-ranking cybersecurity employee in a company — often fetch salaries above $300,000 in top metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco, according to cybersecurity recruiting firm SilverBull. Salaries for cybersecurity staff range from $90,000 to more than $200,000 for more experienced employees, including jobs such as information risk managers and security engineers, according to career information company Glassdoor.
"I think we have perpetuated this myth that cybersecurity is based on this hacker stuff, sitting in a basement and only working on technical things," said Vyas Sekar, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon's Cylab.
"In fact, it's those with an analytical mindset that can do very well in the cybersecurity field. The sort of basic computer science that is necessary can be taught later. It's maybe more useful to think of cybersecurity as solving a bunch of interesting puzzles."