Opportunities for cybersecurity career grow in Springfield | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

SPRINGFIELD — How does $80K a year sound?

That number is right around what you can expect to earn, if you land a job in cybersecurity, according to

And, in a world that is filled with server attacks, phishing attempts and cloud backups, the need for more cybersecurity jobs has never been greater, said Gene Kingsley, of Chicopee, the new manager of the soon-to-be operational Cybersecurity Center for Excellence at Union Station.

“It’s everywhere,” said Kingsley. “We continue to integrate more and more technology into our systems, where everything is connected to a computer, even our thermostats. This means there are more points of entry into networks. The more we expand, the greater the need for protection.”

Along with Springfield Technical Community College and a consortium of other Pioneer Valley higher-ed institutions, the Cybersecurity Center is poised to open doors to more jobs in an in-demand field.

A network of connected devices and personal data requires cyber protection. (iStock image)

A long time coming

Mary Kaselouskas, vice president and chief information officer STCC, said that the center, which has been in the planning stages for three years, is set to be completed this summer.

STCC is the only technology community college in Massachusetts to offer students a degree in cybersecurity. The consortium of partner schools includes nearby Bay Path University, Elms College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Western New England University, Springfield College and American International College.

The center is being built out in 6,000 square feet of space in Union Station and will be divided into two parts. One area will be a security operations center, often referred to as a “SOC,” which serves as a real-life command center to assist in protecting municipalities, businesses and government operations.

The second part of the project will be a “cyber range,” which will include software that will allow students to get real world training for those looking to get into the cybersecurity field. This section will be run by about 10 to 20 students with the supervision of the Kingsley, the SOC manager.

The Security Operations Center eventually will have four full-time employees: cyber range manager, technical support, administrative support and the manager.

Cybersecurity jobs range from entry-level, mid-level to advanced-level, and positions can be anything from a software engineer, cloud architect, malware analyst to forensics analyst, threat intelligence analyst and even ethical hacker.

The average entry-level salary for the field has been reported to be $81,060, and with experience, salaries can rise easily above six-figures.

“This program gives them an advantage, because they are taught theoretical knowledge that is turned into applied knowledge by the time that they graduate,” said Andrew Collins, an associate professor for the Springfield Technical Community College cybersecurity program. (Getty Images)

Degree opportunities

STCC offers a certificate and associate degree program to teach students the needed skills when it comes to navigating the world of computer security. The college offers two tracks for computer technologies, both being viable options to learn the skills of cybersecurity. About 140 students are enrolled in its degree cybersecurity program and 80 students in the computer systems technologies program, both which yield an associate degree.

Students in the program come from various backgrounds and don’t need previous experience in the field. Their ages range from 18 to 60 years old, according to STCC officials, and the program attracts both career changers and those right out of high school. The college even works with some high schools, so that students can take classes for credit while still in high school.

“This program gives them an advantage, because they are taught theoretical knowledge that is turned into applied knowledge by the time that they graduate,” said Andrew Collins, an associate professor for the program.

A world that needs cyber experts

Fighting cyber threats is not something just in the movies, though. Kingsley noted that new ransomware is released every day.

“A lot of your time is spent on prevention and detection,” said Kingsley of the work.

Every year, Collins travels to Las Vegas to attend DEFCON, a convention for ethical hackers, the proverbial “good guys” who try to penetrate their employers’ electronic defenses to test and improve them.

He said what he sees a lot of right now in terms of prevailing criminal methods are “phishing” and “social engineering” attempts.

Phishing is when fraudulent emails or messages are sent out appearing like they are from reputable companies. It is one of many elements in social engineering, a targeted attack to gain private information and spread malware.

He explained that students are trained in both basic tactics and those that require a lot of technological expertise.

A few simple tips to be stay safe online

Kingsley and Collins shared some general rules of thumb for online self-defense and protection.

“First, be skeptical. The first thing we teach is to be cautious. Look at every email, what time was it sent, what is the link or url? Use common sense. Pause before acting, and use a password manager,” Kingsley said.

If something can be set up with multifactor authentication, Collins added, it’s a good idea to use it, as well as making sure your passwords are unique for each account.


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National Cyber Security