What Is Cyber Security?

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By Deshan Mendis
Last updated on October 27, 2023

Cyber security, a rapidly growing field, is essential to protect sensitive information online. Here’s what to consider if you plan to pursue a STEM degree with a concentration in cyber security.

An Asian international student studying cyber security sits in front of a laptop and second monitor and studies code for a security breach

As more business processes and data move online, cyber security has grown increasingly important for organizations of all sizes. Cyber security, meaning the protection of data and digital assets, has become essential to operations across the globe. From banking and finance to health care and education, cyber security protection is needed in almost every industry.

Read on to find out what is cyber security, how to build skills in cyber security protection, and why you should consider pursuing a career in the field.

Why Is Cyber Security Important?

To understand why cyber security is important, let us first ask: what is cyber security? Cyber security is the process of taking preventative measures to guard computer systems against online threats or unauthorized access to digitally stored information. It also involves developing procedures and recovery processes in the event of a possible security breach, to help organizations respond rapidly to a cyber attack.

Cyber security is important because it protects personal data from being sold or distributed into the hands of unauthorized individuals. Protecting data against cyber attacks requires addressing security issues in a wide variety of fields, both digitally and physically. If you choose to study cyber security, understanding these different elements is critical to ensure that you can identify the best ways to protect sensitive information.

What Are the Elements of Cyber Security?

While the exact parts of cyber security depend on its usage, host organization, and type of data, there are six fundamental elements that offer well-rounded data protection. These include:

  1. Application security — Application security protects software applications at the development phase to prevent cyberattacks. It protects websites and web-based applications against various cyber security threats preying on source code flaws.

  2. Disaster recovery planning — A disaster recovery plan (DRP), also known as a business continuity plan, describes how a company’s operations can be quickly and effectively resumed after an attack or breach. Companies must develop strategies to prevent a breach or malware infection, as well as prepare for rapid recovery after an attack.

  3. End-user education — With human error being one of the main causes of information breaches, it is important for companies to educate employees about cyber security through training and awareness programs. End users could unknowingly allow cyber security threats into an organization if they do not know what to watch out for.

  4. Information security — Information security prevents unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of company data collected from customers, clients, or vendors. The information may include contact information, addresses, login information, network information, and social media profiles.

  5. Network security — Network security deals with preventing and guarding against unauthorized access to computer networks through sets of rules and configurations that monitor and stop breaches.

  6. Operational security — This element involves reviewing cyber security strategies to ensure all security measures are working together throughout an organization. A company operational security officer examines every aspect of the company’s cyber security protection system for vulnerabilities. They also update security strategies on a regular basis to keep up with new threats and security developments.

With online threats always evolving, each of these elements of cyber security must be implemented in an organization to safeguard sensitive data against cyber security threats.

As an international student, you may be considering a STEM degree with a concentration in cyber security. Here’s a look at the different types of cyber security threats you can learn about at a US university; developing this foundational knowledge will be key if you plan to pursue a career as a cyber security professional.

What Are the Different Types of Cyber Security Threats?

Any malicious attack aiming to gain unauthorized access to data, interfere with digital operations, or damage information is referred to as a cyber security threat. With the rapid advances in technology, there are many forms of cyber security threats that grow, adapt, and change to cause harm to digital networks and end users.

Here are some of the most common cyber threats encountered:


Malware is malicious software such as spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms. Malware is usually spread through a fake email attachment or a download designed to cause a cyber security breach. There are many types of malware, including:

  • Virus: Computer viruses are self-replicating programs that spread through a system or network by injecting clean files with malicious code.

  • Trojans: Appearing like legitimate software, trojans trick users into uploading them onto their computers. Trojans then can damage or destroy data from within a computer system.

  • Spyware: Spyware secretly records user activity which cybercriminals can mimic or replicate later. For example, spyware could capture credit card details.

  • Ransomware: Ransomware encrypts user’s files and data under the threat of it being erased unless a ransom is paid.

  • Adware: Adware generates unwanted advertisements that are used to spread malware.

  • Botnets: Botnets are networks of computers infected with malware which cybercriminals can use to carry out tasks online without the user’s knowledge.

Source: Kaspersky

SQL Injection

A type of cyber attack, SQL (structured language query) injection is used to take over and steal data from a database. Cybercriminals use malicious SQL statements to insert malicious code into databases by taking advantage of flaws in data-driven applications that provide access to sensitive data.


This practice is when cybercriminals send emails to their victims appearing to be from a reliable company and requesting sensitive information. Phishing attacks are frequently used to deceive people into giving out credit card numbers or other personal information.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack

In this attack, the attacker hijacks the session between a client and host by interfering with a two-party communication to steal and alter data. A common way of falling victim to this cyber threat is by using unsecured public WiFi.

Denial-of-Service Attack

Denial-of-service attacks, also known as a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service), are attacks when cybercriminals prevent computers from responding to valid requests by flooding networks and servers with traffic. This makes the system useless and prevents an organization from performing essential tasks.

Cyber security threats can come from corporate spies, hacktivists, terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and lone hackers, among other sources. By pursuing a career in cyber security, you can learn how to prevent cyber security threats and implement strategies to protect data from cyber criminals. There are many emerging job opportunities in the field of cyber security and by pursuing a degree with a concentration in cyber security, you can develop the necessary qualifications, knowledge, and skills employers seek for these roles.

What Are the Benefits of Obtaining a Degree in Cyber Security?

Cyber security degree curricula cover a wide range of subject areas, including what is cyber security, type of cyber threats, cyber security protection strategies, data systems, and more. The in-depth technical knowledge and skills offered in cyber security courses add value to your resume and prepare you for careers in the data security industry and other related fields.

Here are some of the benefits of becoming an expert in cyber security:

Gain knowledge and practical skills — Cyber security courses offer a mix of digital and non-technical skills relevant to many roles, including understanding law and ethics, critical thinking, analysis, and complex problem-solving.

Increase your job opportunities — Cyber security professionals are well-positioned for stable, growing careers as organizations are eager to invest in data security measures. A degree with a concentration in cyber security allows you to stand out to employers, even in other IT-related roles.

Earn a lucrative salary — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage offered to cyber security professionals is higher than other occupations. Due to the role’s importance and ongoing need, cyber security professionals are more likely to receive high entry-level salaries.

A cyber security degree prepares you to be aspecialist in fields such as cyber security analytics, digital forensic examination, network engineering, and much more.

What Are the Different Career Opportunities Available in Cyber Security?

According to the 2021 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, there is a growing demand for cyber security professionals globally, and more than half a million cyber security professionals are needed in the US alone. With a cyber security degree, you can access many career pathways.

Here is a list of several roles you may qualify for, along with their average annual salaries in the US, Brazil, China, and India:

Starting salary in the US

Information security manager


Cyber security engineer


IT auditor


Security systems administrator


Starting salary in China

Information security manager


Cyber security engineer


IT auditor


Security systems administrator


Starting salary in India

Information security manager


Cyber security engineer


IT auditor


Security systems administrator


Starting salary in Brazil

Information security manager

R$ 203.903

Cyber security engineer

R$ 192.544

IT auditor

R$ 139.748

Security systems administrator

R$ 159.208

Source: SalaryExpert, 2022

To pursue a career in cyber security, the first step is to choose a cyber security program suited to your learning goals and career objectives. There are many Shorelight universities offering programs that provide an in-depth education about what is cyber security, combined with hands-on learning experiences that prepare you with valuable skills.

How Does Shorelight Help Students Find the Right Cyber Security Programs?

Many Shorelight universities offer degrees with a concentration in cyber security, all in a welcoming environment where international students can access exclusive support services. These programs are designed to give you a strong foundation in cyber security, while exploring innovative and sustainable solutions for future challenges.

Edgewood College

Edgewood College offers a Computer Information Systems degree with a cyber security concentration. You can look forward to working with industry professionals and learning about advanced concepts in the field of cyber security through practical exercises, interactive software, and real-world projects while building your team working skills and problem-solving capabilities.

Florida International University

Florida International University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Cyber Security at the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences. Cyber physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and vulnerability assessments are some of the key subjects covered in FIU’s curriculum. And with the growing tech industry in Miami, internships and real-world cyber security work experience opportunities nearby can give students a competitive edge after graduation.

Robert Morris University

Nationally ranked among the top 50 best value schools by U.S. News & World Report, Robert Morris University outside Pittsburgh also offers a Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security at their School of Informatics, Humanities and Social Sciences accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. Students can learn about the disciplines of cyber technology, business, organizational behavior, and law to gain the knowledge and skills needed to become a cyber security professional.

As you work toward a career in cyber security, Shorelight is ready to support you every step of the way with a variety of learning opportunities and resources. Whether it’s understanding what is cyber security, applying for a program for jobs involving coding, online courses, visa assistance, application assistance, or discussing a career development plan, Shorelight advisors are always ready to assist you.

If you are looking for a high-paying career that will give you new challenges to solve, pursue a rewarding career in cyber security, meaning you can safeguard and protect the data of others every day.

Shorelight advisors can help you find the right degree program for your goals >