As technology continues to adapt and evolve at almost breakneck speed, cyber security has become one of the most important risks facing every major organisation in the world.

The UK is now seen as a leader in the race to tackle and counteract cyber attacks. In November 2016, the UK government unveiled a five-year, £1.9bn national cyber security strategy.

It was stark in its assessment of the existing cyber security landscape. “We are not yet ahead of the threat,” it said. “The capability of our most technically proficient adversaries has grown.”

However, the cyber security strategy has been well received – both at home and overseas. According to media reports in March 2018, the United States is hoping to produce a similar national cyber security strategy. It would be intended to provide common guidance to help American organisations stay protected from large-scale cyber threats.

What are the risks in cyber security?

The UK’s national cyber security strategy outlines five major cyber security threats:

  1. cyber criminals
  2. states and state-sponsored threats
  3. terrorists
  4. hacktivists
  5. young, amateur hackers

Other concerns include those described as ‘insiders’ – trusted employees with access to “critical systems and data”, who can “cause financial and reputational damage through the theft of sensitive data and intellectual property”.

Common vulnerabilities include an expanding range of devices, poor cyber hygiene and compliance, insufficient training and skills, legacy and unpatched systems, and the availability of hacking resources.

The importance of cyber security education

Education, of course, is a key method to tackle these vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021. With this predicted, huge-shortage of skilled professionals, online master’s degrees from top universities have become an ideal way for technology professionals to update their skills in contemporary cyber security techniques.

The University of Liverpool online MSc in Cyber Security, for example, provides students the chance to gain skills to assess security risks, conduct investigations into suspected cyber-attacks by using a cloud-based server platform that mirrors real-world scenarios.

The rise of AI and a new wave of threats

The scope of potential cyber security threats doesn’t look like decreasing, and artificial intelligence (AI) looks set to bring further opportunities for those with sinister intentions.

A 100-page report published in February 2018 generated headlines after suggesting AI could be exploited by turning drones into missiles, generating fake news, and conducting automated hacking.

The report – entitled The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation – urged governments to introduce new legislation to tackle the growing threats.

It also suggested policy makers work with technical researchers to better understand how AI could be exploited, as well as calling for lessons to be gathered and analysed from other technologies with dual-use risks.

From a fully automated phishing system that could create “tailored tweets… based on a user’s demonstrated interests, achieving a high rate of clicks to a link that could be malicious” through to AI systems that learn to evade Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) platforms.

The report suggests “AI might enable larger-scale and more numerous attacks” to be launched, compared to what is currently possible by attackers with similar skills and resources.

Earning your MSc in Cyber Security online

With an MSc in Cyber Security from the University of Liverpool Online, you could gain the skills and insight needed in the ongoing battle against cyber terrorism. The specialist qualification offers you the chance to gain practical experience to contribute to the protection of organisations against the growing range of cyber security risks.

The 100% online format provides the flexibility to study alongside your career and graduate from a research-led university. It could also be a significant step towards new opportunities within this exciting and challenging sector.

Find out more about the University of Liverpool’s online MSc in Cyber Security.

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