Recent events have put cybersecurity and Information Assurance at the forefront of public consciousness and conversation like never before. Here's a quick look at the five biggest cybersecurity stories of the past 12 months and their ongoing implication for Information Assurance students and professionals.
#1 — WikiLeaks
For all the international tumult and uproar that has resulted from the highly publicized release and publication of sensitive United States diplomatic cables, it can't be forgotten that the whole mess allegedly began with the frighteningly simple actions of one U.S. Army soldier. According to Wired magazine, Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning claimed responsibility for the unauthorized download and copying of the cables during an online chat session with a noted computer hacker1.
In the published chat sessions, Manning says it was trivial to copy the files to a simple recordable compact disc and walk out with otherwise classified information which was then forwarded to WikiLeaks. Manning allegedly described the IT security of his Army station in eastern Baghdad as sad, weak and inattentive.
Information Assurance professionals must view cybersecurity holistically, making preparations for both the most complicated cyber attacks and the most simple. Also, assumptions of security cannot be made even in environments that are expected to be trustworthy.
#2 — Cybersecurity goes presidential
Previous administrations have made cybersecurity – especially at the federal level – a priority, but the business of Information Assurance rose to new levels of public awareness when president Obama appointed the nation's first "cyberczar," Howard Schmidt2. Officially the Cybersecurity Coordinator for the Obama administration, Schmidt is no stranger to presidential service in the area of cybersecurity. He was a cybersecurity advisor to president George W. Bush and has worked extensively in federal Information Assurance since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
While his work with president Obama is not new, the fact that an official Cybersecurity Coordinator position has been created in the executive branch of the U.S. government shows that the importance of Information Assurance has reached a new, more publicly visible level.
#3 — Tight IT budgets
While Information Assurance is receiving greater attention at the highest levels of government, local and state officials are struggling with dwindling IT budgets and the impending retirement of many of their most qualified Information Assurance professionals.
The lingering recession is choking municipal and state governments of revenue needed to upgrade cybersecurity systems and recruit and keep talented employees, and this is putting public information at risk, according to a survey of state Chief Information Officers (CIOs) by the National Association of State CIOs3. Nearly two-thirds of state CIOs in the survey anticipate having to reduce IT staff further in the near future, and state-imposed hiring freezes were identified as the greatest barriers to the deployment of adequate IT systems.
When economic conditions improve, emerging Information Assurance professionals should not ignore opportunities in local and state government, as those agencies will need to quickly address a pent-up demand for cybersecurity services.
#4 — Cloud computing
The concept of "cloud computing," or storage of frequently used data off-site and access to it via the Internet, has gained broad public awareness and acceptance during the last year. Microsoft Corporation even launched an entire advertising campaign aimed at consumers and businesses espousing the benefits of cloud computing, virtual server access and off-site data storage4. This trend presents a unique challenge to Information Assurance professionals, as they must weigh the cost and productivity advantages of cloud computing against greater potential exposure to data loss and the sacrifice of local IT control.
#5 — Government talent search
Local and state governments may be struggling to hire and keep good Information Assurance professionals, but the federal government has been on a recruiting spree for the past year. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made a public call to solicit applications for IT roles with the agency. While DHS hasn't published any specific hiring goals, it's estimated more than 30,000 cybersecurity experts are needed to fulfill the department's mission to secure and protect America's critical IT infrastructure.
DHS, in partnership with the Department of Defense, is also sponsoring the U.S. Cyber Challenge in 20115. The cybersecurity skills competition is designed specifically to engage students and identify 10,000 who have the potential to pursue successful Information Assurance careers.
Organizations of all types need to ensure that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data are protected at all times. Regis University's online and on-campus Master of Science in Information Assurance degree program will ensure that you have the tools and skills to do so — even as technology continues to change and advance. Find out more about our master's degree in information assurance or call an Admissions Advisor directly at 877-820-0581.