Cyber Security: Batten Down The Hatches!

Service-leavers from the Armed Forces are in the box-seat where IT security is concerned. They’ll have been well used to high tech equipment and IT from their Military days and familiar with security and protection protocols where information security is of vital operational importance.

This foreknowledge is a head start for Service-leavers looking to make their mark in the massive IT security sector where an ever-growing reliance on technology, both desktop and mobile has seen not just bank details and money markets, but also social media and even dating profiles become vulnerable to the murky issue of cyberattack.

Cybercrime: A Thriving Industry

Cybercrime is a big earner for criminals both in the UK and further afield and it is estimated by internet security provider McAfee that a staggering £265 billion is lost from the global economy as a direct result of cybercrime. GCHQ reported in January 2015 that eight out of every 10 major businesses in the UK had experienced some form of cyberattack.

It’s not just big business which is vulnerable to cyberattack either, the Office for National Statistics found that 86% of the adult population of the UK had regular internet access in 2015 and, according to the Telegraph newspaper, the British population moves around £2.9 billion every week through mobile banking apps alone.

In a recent trend prediction from KPMG, David Ferbrache, Technical Director at their cybersecurity practice said: “The recent field trial by the Office for National Statistics suggested that there could have been over 7.5 million cyber offences against individuals last year… I doubt that even the headline grabbing statistics which follow will capture the true scale of cybercrime – with many crimes against organisations remaining unreported.”

All of this makes taking crime out of the analogue world and into the digital one an incredibly attractive prospect for entrepreneurial criminals but this move toward large scale cybercrime also has more positive repercussions as the cybersecurity industry in the UK continues to grow and grow, offering incredible incentives for qualified applicants.

It is estimated that the UK cybersecurity industry employs more than 50,000 people and is worth £8 billion. So how do you get a piece of that?

What Qualifications Do You Need?

It’s no secret that there is a global shortage of cybersecurity skills as the pace of advancing technology outstrips the ability of many organisations to keep on top of online threats. With this in mind there has never been a better time for Service-leavers to seek out the qualifications necessary for a career in IT security.

Depending on your Military experience, the best approach would be to seek out a degree level course which will give you the requisite core skills in cybersecurity to make your way into the field but remember that many companies will require experience before taking on candidates, so be sure to take advantage of any and all workplace training either offered by the university or found on your own.

Once you’ve completed the course, you may wish to look into a further Masters qualification with some of these now being officially accredited by GCHQ to offer graduates a path into the workplace.

Cybersecurity Degrees

Top 10 Undergraduate (Computer Science)

  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Oxford
  • Imperial College London
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Bristol
  • The University of Warwick
  • Durham University
  • University of Southampton
  • University College London
  • University of Birmingham

Source: The Complete University Guide

Postgraduate (Certified by GCHQ)

  • Edinburgh Napier University – MSc in Advanced Security and Digital Forensics
  • Lancaster University – MSc in Cyber Security
  • University of Oxford – MSc in Software and Systems Security
  • Royal Holloway, University of London – MSc in Information Security
  • Cranfield University – MSc in Cyber Defence and Information Assurance
  • University of Surrey – MSc in Information Security

Professional Bodies

There are a number of professional members organisations which can help those looking to get into IT security and many offer their own professional certifications which, while not mandatory to work in the industry, can help those looking for that extra edge in a competitive worldwide jobs market.

  • BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT:
  • ISACA (Information Systems Audit & Control Association):
  • IBITGQ (International Board for IT Governance Qualifications):
  • (ISC)² (International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium):

Who Can You Work For?

Part of the beauty of a career in IT security is that you can work for pretty much any organisation which relies on computers to do business, provide services or manage their payroll and, thankfully for the industry, that’s just about every organisation on Earth.

Massive companies like Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro are all employers to consider but some of the most influential cybersecurity organisations; the likes of Lancope and FireEye are far from household names. One of the biggest cybersecurity employers in the UK is BT whose subsidiary Openreach holds the natural monopoly on the British IT infrastructure. As recently as February they committed to hiring 1,400 new apprentices and recent graduates to boost their cybersecurity offering.


If the lure of the private sector doesn’t do it for you then you might wish to consider a career combating both cybercrime and cyberterrorism with Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Their state of the art facility near Cheltenham is at the forefront of ensuring cybersecurity for homes and businesses in the UK and further afield.

As you can imagine, their recruitment process is exhaustive but with years of experience from the Military you may find that you are a prime candidate to fill one of their roles and keep the UK safe from cyber warfare.


How Much Can You Earn?

De Montfort University suggest that graduates of their Computer Security BSc (Hons) course can expect to earn as much as £21,000 in an entry level position. From there, you may not be surprised to find that the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can earn in an incredibly skilled position.

The average IT security salary, according to IT Jobs Watch, is £60,000 with an impressive 10% of candidates being offered more than £80,000 in the sector.

While the leap to a career in IT security can be a difficult one to make, the potential rewards both personal and professional are huge and with Service-leavers already possessing knowledge of the importance of security and privacy in all things, not just in information technology, they are prime candidates to plug the skills gap.

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