Saint Leo computer science instructor says now is the time to prepare for a career with a rock-solid future.

From cyberwar to cyberdoom, the cyber lexicon continues to expand, leading one to think, perhaps, that cybersecurity is a relatively new field.

Not true, according to Saint Leo University computer science instructor Eva Groudas. Historically speaking, cybersecurity has been around for a long time.

Arpanet, the first computer network and the Internet's predecessor, was created by the U.S. government in 1969. "And ever since that day when we first put two computers together, securing networks has been a necessity," she says. "We just started out by calling it by other names liked 'locking down,' 'hardening,' or 'securing systems.'"

More than four decades later, what is new about cybersecurity is the explosion of daily data breaches and threats to computer networks and systems – and the urgent need for professionals to safeguard businesses, organizations and individuals against it.

"Hacks are taking place more massively and more frequently than ever," says Groudas, "making now the ideal time for to prepare for and enter the cybersecurity field."

Webinar focuses on getting started in cybersecurity

Prior to joining Saint Leo, where she teaches courses such as Programming in Java, Web Design and Information Resources, and Introduction to Internet Applications, Groudas worked for more than 15 years in the information technology industry. She held positions as a software architect for a state government agency and as a software engineer for a major defense contractor and several technology-related companies.

Recently, Groudas shared her industry insight as a speaker for the Leaders in the Industry webinar series, presented by Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning Career Services. During her presentation, Groudas discussed the importance of security in technology, opportunities in the workforce, and the launch of Saint Leo's online Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity, which joins the online Master of Science in Cybersecurity.

To view Groudas's presentation in its entirety, click here.

Following are a few highlights.

Who are the hackers?

Groudas: Hackers are thieves. They steal valuable data or hold it for ransom and then sell it on the black market. They're vandals who destroy data, reputations and businesses. And they can also be spies, installing software on your computer or on a network with the intention of stealing or ransoming your data at a later date.

Hackers' motivation.

Groudas: Most hackers are motivated by money. Some are motivated by self-interest and the desire to make names for themselves. Still others are motivated by politics, ideologies and other causes. They're called hacktivists, and they may use legal and illegal digital tools to target government and corporate websites to bring awareness to their causes.

No one is immune.

Groudas: Everyone is at risk. Government, utilities, all industries, agencies and companies and every individual. It's not just websites, it's networks around the world and across every field. If your device is connected to anything, it's hackable. We're talking PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, wearable devices. If you connect online, you are at risk.

Why threats are worsening.

Groudas: New platforms continue to provide new points of attack for hackers. Whenever we have a new tablet, a new FitBit, a new smart watch device, or any new device storing information and connecting to a network, there's going to be a new point of attack. All industries are online now and the network demand continues to grow. Security measures have to be built into all future devices and applications from conception, unlike in the past, when it was good enough to just have it up and working.

A scary trend.

Software hackers' advanced techniques for attacks are becoming more sophisticated and are increasingly accessible, one example being advanced exploit kits. These kits – 70 percent of which originate in Russia – contain software that can take sites down and cause theft and destruction of data on the cloud, servers and PCs. In the future, they could hijack cloud service traffic and redirect it to other sources of malicious content. The scary part is that the average person can easily purchase and run them. They require no technical knowledge, so they can be really dangerous in the wrong hands.

Industries most at risk.

Groudas: All industries are at risk, but some are a bit further down the security road than others. The financial industry, for example, has had its act together for a while. They were hit decades ago and have learned their lessons and improved security over time. Right now, the biggest hits are in the health and medical industry. One reason why has been the push to digitize medical records and data as quickly as possible.

Cybersecurity professionals at work.

Groudas: There's a lot that cybersecurity professionals – the "good folks" – can do to protect us against cyber threats and data breaches. It begins with maintaining physical security, restricting physical access to buildings, locations and rooms. And then, of course, there's digital security: locking down networks, software, systems and databases and all the activities that each of those efforts involves. The responsibilities of cybersecurity professionals grow constantly.

Careers in cybersecurity.

Groudas: Just like you can specialize in medicine, there are different levels of specialty for cybersecurity professionals. The number of titles is vast – from system administrator, database administrator and network engineer, to database security analyst, IT auditor, and more. Many titles sound similar and some do overlap. But most you can attain with either a cybersecurity or a computer science degree.

Degree programs at Saint Leo University.

Groudas: The absolute best way to fight the hackers and get into this industry is to get a degree. Saint Leo offers bachelor's degrees online in cybersecurity and computer science-information assurance that are good preparation for a cybersecurity career, as well as an online master's degree program in cybersecurity that is also offered on-ground at University Campus.

Best advice.

Groudas: As long as we are able to connect a computer to the Internet or any devices on a network, we'll always have a need for cybersecurity and for cybersecurity professionals.

Take courses. Get your degree. And after that, stay current by investing in professional certifications that will keep you on top of the crest as you ride the cybersecurity wave.

Image credits: Julie Macey on Unsplash