Cybersecurity Calling!


For me, it’s always been important to do something with my career that really matters. People have asked me what led me into cybersecurity, and the answer is that simple. Back in the late seventies when computers were the size of refrigerators and I was figuring out what to do with my life, I thought that this “computer security” thing might turn out to be something important. It seemed inevitable that computers were going to be an increasingly big part of human life, and with that trend also comes the natural inclination of some people to break into those computers. I had no idea of how big that trend would become. (More details on my personal career journey in a future post.)

Cybersecurity, once the mysterious realm of the “hacker” community, is now common knowledge. One of my colleagues (I believe it was Chris Young) once said that when he sat down next to someone on a plane and told the person what he did, they would respond with enthusiasm: “Oh, you do cybersecurity!”, and proceeded to ask lots of questions about the latest cyber attacks they read about. Cybersecurity is an important topic for the average consumer in everyday life, and it’s cool!

Cybersecurity is not like most jobs in high tech. Don’t get me wrong, most technology jobs are great — they pay well and are interesting. But when you talk with people who are career cybersecurity professionals, there is something different in their attitude. Cybersecurity is not just a job, it’s a calling. There is a passion, and a deep-seated belief in what they are doing and why there are doing it. They are motivated to do everything they can to protect the world.

During a senior staff meeting at a company where I worked many years ago, I heard an executive say, “After all, we aren’t selling this product for the good of mankind.” When several of us in the room turned to him with a look of horror, he quickly adjusted his response, “Well, we aren’t selling this product just for the good of mankind.” Shudder. I believe that most cybersecurity security professionals really are doing their job for the good of mankind.

Here’s a test for those who are cybersecurity vendors or service providers: if you had to make a business decision that risked reducing profits but would provide better protection for your customers, what would you do? For cybersecurity professionals, there is no debate.

There always have been and always will be a few in the human race that want to harm others. That harm comes in many forms: stealing their money, imposing power over them, misleading them, injuring them, killing them. For the people who want to cause harm, there is a big problem with most techniques — there is a strong likelihood they will be caught, or at least held accountable! For attackers, the great thing about computers is that harm can be caused from very far away, with virtually no chance of catching and convicting the attacker. No wonder that criminals of all sorts have shifted to computers to achieve their goals — computers happen to be the most effective way to cause harm to humanity with no retribution. I see no end in sight to this trend; it will continue to expand, whether it’s emptying a bank account, winning a war, or manipulating an election. Just like the rest of criminal behavior, this problem will never be “solved”.

There have been countless comparisons of the cybersecurity industry to superheroes (one example: What if it was the Marvel Cybersecurity Universe?). OK, maybe that’s a little cheesy, but in what other profession can you as an individual have an impact on all of humanity, literally? There are countless examples of cybersecurity professionals stopping bank robberies, preventing poisoning of water supplies, thwarting vaccine distribution attacks, and blocking the tampering of an election. Life in cybersecurity is a daily battle between good and evil. There may be lots of arcane technology like cryptography, reverse-engineering malware, and behavioral analytics, but I love that at the end of the day the job is about helping people.

So, if you are thinking about a career and you want a job that matters, consider cybersecurity. True, I have had moments of stress, chaos, terror, confusion, depression, discouragement, and helplessness. But I’ve also had the occasional victory. Join in fighting the good fight. And the guaranteed job security doesn’t hurt. :)

Focused on the future of the cybersecurity industry. Preparing the next generation of security professionals.

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Bret Hartman

Bret Hartman

Focused on the future of the cybersecurity industry. Preparing the next generation of security professionals.

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