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What is Cybersecurity?

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Cybersecurity is the practice of defending your organization’s networks, computers, and data from unauthorized digital access, attack or damage by implementing various processes, technologies and practices. With the countless sophisticated threats targeting all types of organizations, it is critical that IT infrastructures prevent a full-scale attack on networks. There is a dire risk of exposing your company’s data and reputation, as well as customers’ private information.

Cybersecurity concerns itself with external threats. The analogy of a castle explains the difference. Cybersecurity watches those trying to pass through the gate or breach the parapets. The two areas have a lot of overlap, but their areas of concern are quite different. The cybersecurity specialist is the crusading knight defending the kingdom. Cybersecurity not only focuses on the barbarians at the gate but also how the castle connects to the world around it.

What is Network Security?

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Network security, a subset of cybersecurity, aims to protect any data sent through devices in the network to ensure that the information is not changed or intercepted. The role of network security is to protect the organization’s IT infrastructure from all types of cyber threats including:

  • Viruses, worms and Trojan horses
  • Zero-day attacks
  • Hacker attacks
  • Denial of service attacks
  • Spyware and adware

Network security uses software programs and hardware devices to identify threats and deter them. A network security specialist is in charge of using software programs to detect threats, prevent intrusions within a network, and resolve threats. Their primary purpose is to protect confidential data stored on a computer network and to maintain the data’s integrity by implementing security policies to thwart cyber crimes and data breaches.

Degree Similarities and Differences

From the above definitions, it sounds as if the degree programs should be similar. They both involve computer science and IT security. In some cases, the two combine in one degree. For example, a Bachelor of Science in Cyber and Network Security teaches you to prevent, detect, and battle digital crime. This type of program covers network virtualization, website security, and computer configuration.

A Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity differs, in most cases, from network security in the classes related to the major. In cybersecurity, you will encounter courses in cryptography, network systems security, cyber defense, cybersecurity techniques, and network engineering. You may also have classes in digital forensics investigation techniques. This is the application of discovering and presenting evidence in court obtained from computing and storage devices. This course will examine digital forensics as it relates to both civil and criminal investigations. The course content includes best practices in securing, processing, acquiring, examining, and reporting on digital evidence.

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Many college programs incorporate their Network Security coursework in their Cybersecurity degree. However, there are stand-alone Bachelor of Science degrees in Network Security. The curricula may cover the study of proactive techniques, including defense-in-depth and layered security. You will learn how to mitigate or eliminate vulnerabilities in information systems and how to protect against potential exploitation. This may include network and application penetration testing, software and hardware reverse engineering as well as developing exploits for identified vulnerabilities.

The degrees meld when a university describes their network security curriculum top include cryptography algorithms and applications, data integrity and disaster recovery, programming in Python, and firewall and perimeter security. And another outlines their cybersecurity coursework to include cryptography, penetration testing and ethical hacking, and forensic electronic discovery. (The basis of modern cryptography is mathematical theory and computer science practice.)

Employment

Through researching job postings at online employment sites, there is an assortment of titles associated with cybersecurity and network security. Some of the names are Cyber Security Engineer, Systems Engineer, Security Engineer, Security Specialist, Network Engineer, and Cybersecurity Analyst. Regardless of the position, most of the preferred degrees are in computer science. For example, a Cybersecurity Engineer posting requires a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related discipline. Candidates must have experience in security aspects of multiple platforms, operating systems, software, communications and network protocols or an equivalent combination of education and work experience.

The real world seems to dispel the notion that you need a degree in cybersecurity to work in cybersecurity.  Or you need a degree in network security to seek a job in network security. The two degrees are compatible with many professions in the security business.

Designations

When choosing either degree, you may want to concentrate on schools designated by the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Network Security programs may have the designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAEIAE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This prestigious designation recognizes the school’s program as one of the best in the nation.