Working as a Computer Security Professional
By Eric Hammer
Working as a computer security professional can be both challenging
and rewarding. The reality is that as long as our world continues
to rely on computers, there will be a need for computer security
professionals, people who know how to make sure that your information
cannot be hacked by others who might want it for various reasons.
In fact, McAfee Associates, a company that specializes in
computer security says that they have to update their virus definitions
on an almost daily basis because of the fact that there are so
many new attempts to breach virus protections every single day.
The Israeli government, a constant target for cyber terrorists
reports that they are attacked in some way almost one every 10
minutes and that they are constantly working to create new defenses
to make sure that their critical web sites and infrastructure
Another interesting fact about working in computer and Internet
security is that often times the people hired to protect sensitive
networks were themselves hackers. In fact, some companies actually
pay former hackers to try to crack their systems surreptitiously
just so that they can learn about potential vulnerabilities.
The catch of course is that even though this is a good way to
get a well paid job as a computer security professional, its
an even better way for 99.9% of the rest of the worlds
hackers to land in jail and do some serious hard time.
How Much Can You Make?
According to Salary.com, the average annual salary, as of
2010 for a computer security professional (technically referred
to as a "chief information security officer") ranges
from around $108,000 per year to as much as $224,000 per year.
However, this is for someone who is in a senior position and
who has worked their way up through the ranks to become responsible
for the computer security department at a major corporation or
More typical is the range for IS (Information Systems
another term for computers) security professionals, which ranges
from $74,000 per year to as much as $128,000 per year. Starting
salaries may be lower still.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
While you can certainly take a salaried job after earning
your degree, there are other ways to make money in this business.
For example, you may work as a security consultant for various
companies, coming in either to help them set up and secure an
in house network or helping them to solve specific security problems
that they may have encountered.
You may also work with companies that dont wish to work
on security but instead want to work with you to secure their
systems against certain visitors. Hulu for example does not allow
visitors from outside the United States to view their content
and they employ a method known as geoblocking, which blocks country
specific IP addresses. In this case, you are not securing against
threats but instead against those who are not authorized to use
the content in question.
You may also work with companies such as Apple, Microsoft
and Adobe on coming up with new ways of securing content such
as digital music, television and book downloads, using something
called digital rights management.
In all cases however, it is important to keep your finger
on the pulse of the computer security world as it is a field
that changes quite rapidly. What you learn in school about being
a computer security professional and dealing with specific threats
will likely be obsolete by the time you graduate, though the
skills you learn in school hopefully will not be.
Qualifications / Requirements
Typically, you will need a masters degree in computer
science to get into this field. A PhD is not usually required
unless you want to work in the research side of the field, though
it may be helpful for some types of computer security jobs.
Start by reading up about computer security and the kinds
of threats that exist today. Visit the web sites for places like
McAfee Associates and Symantec, companies that work regularly
in the security field and read their warnings about the latest
threats. Then, look for a good school. You will need to earn
at least a bachelors degree and probably a masters
degree to work in this field, unless you happen to have alternate
experience that could be valuable to a company looking to hire
you (such as a misspent youth hacking into web sites, though
again, in 99.9% of cases, this is a sure way to end up doing
hard time and not a way to land a job).
- Symantec Security Blogs Another blog from the home of
Norton Internet Security Suite.
- McAfee Labs A blog from the original creators of an
antivirus program for personal computers.
- Information Security Magazine A magazine dedicated to
the world of computer security professionals.