Recent network security incidents by hackers have affected organisations globally, one such example being the world-sweeping WannaCry ‘extortion virus’, which attacked networks in at least 150 countries in May.

Under the cloud of this global WannaCry ransomware attack, the worldwide “security geek” hacking contest, Geekpwn, took place in Hong Kong. A female Chinese hacker by the name of tyy successfully broke into four bicycle-sharing apps. What does this mean? Hackers can use your account to hire the bicycles anywhere they want. The most important thing is that your personal information and identity details are fully exposed. Luckily, tyy is an ethical hacker. After the contest, the exposed security vulnerabilities were submitted to the bicycle-sharing companies so they could upgrade and improve their security.

A report by the US Strategic and National Research Center points out that organisations across the world have lost more than $400bn annually due to cyberattacks. Cisco has pointed out that, in 2016, there was a global demand of at least one million jobs for network security professionals. This is projected to rise to 6 million by 2019. On the battlefield of cybersecurity, talent is the core of network security. As such, academic institutions have set up related professional degree courses where students learn the essential skills through studies and upholding good professional ethics to tackle ‘unethical hackers’.

One such institution is Abertay University, located in Scotland. Hailed by The Financial Times as the "cradle of global video game talent training" Abertay University was also the first university in the world to launch an ethical hacking degree. It is not only awarded as the first Centre of Excellence for computer games, but it’s also the only University in Scotland being recognised by official bodies in both computer game technology and computer technology.

Abertay University's BSc (Hons) Ethical Hacking and MSc Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity  programmes take an aggressive approach to security - students learn how to break the system and provide security precautions, not just learning to encrypt. The study of information security is through case learning. Students gain valuable experience in analysis, testing, attack and eventual protection of real systems in the process of investigation. They also learn about the latest security flaws and how to overcome them.

The graduates from Abertay University’s Ethical Hacking degree course are very much sought after and many are offered jobs before their graduation. Companies employing Abertay Ethical Hacking graduates include Goldman Sachs, GCHQ, NCC Group, Firstbase Technology, Nettitude, Portcullis, MWR, NCR, Prudential and many other prominent UK and global companies. Some of these graduates joined the ‘red team’ – the penetration testers, and some preferred to join the ‘blue team’ – doing defensive work in areas such as network management and software development.

With the growing network security concerns, the world is becoming increasingly aware of the demand for ethical hackers. Computer and network experts systematically attempt to penetrate a computer system or network to detect and repair security vulnerabilities. Those qualified to perform such tasks are in short supply so possessing the professional skills will surely win you a very secure career.

To find out more about career prospects in ethical hacking, cyber security and other areas of Computer Science, attend the British Council’s event Study & Careers in Computer Science on 31 August. Register here.

This article was kindly provided by Abertay University.

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