Cybersecurity expert and Trebas instructor, Benicio Soares explores current and future industry trends.
Meet Benicio Soares, cybersecurity expert and instructor in the Diploma in Cybersecurity Specialist Co-op program. We spoke to Soares about what it is like to work in cybersecurity, job demand, the impacts of AI on the field, and the importance of digital privacy.
1. Cybersecurity specialists are needed across all industries.
According to Soares, cybersecurity affects “not only the telecommunication, computer business, or healthcare, or finance. It affects every way of life.”
Although some sectors are more in need of cybersecurity than others, the truth is that all industries are under attack today. Across the board, businesses are facing an unprecedented number of cyber attacks: in 2022, cyberattacks in Canada increased by 20 per cent, and globally, cyberattacks increased by 38 per cent.
Across industries, companies have private data to protect, including sensitive business information or personal information about customers and employees. One of the things that first interested Soares in cybersecurity was that it “allow[s] one to move anywhere in the world and apply the skills to any industry sector.”
2. AI will not replace cybersecurity specialists.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing faster than anyone can keep up with, which has some people worried about technology replacing human jobs, including the jobs of cybersecurity specialists. What does a cybersecurity expert say to that?
Soares is realistic about the fact that AI is replacing certain jobs, but he points out even the most digitized systems, like self-serve checkouts at the grocery store, still require human.
“When [it] fails, who is it you're going to call? You're going to call somebody working there… to act.”
Unlike humans, AI cannot act in the same way to solve problems. AI can only work within the bounds of what it has been taught to do. Soares compares the current AI panic to the scared reactions people once had to the computer’s development in the 80s and 90s. He recalls, “a lot of people were scared [and] said, 'Well, computers that are being developed, they are going to replace human beings.’” What ended up happening, though, was people learned to work with the computers. After all, “it doesn’t work by itself.”
AI is certainly faster than humans at processing information, and it will indeed replace certain menial jobs with repetitive tasks, but at the end of the day, “it doesn't have the capability to detour and think like a human being.” Cybersecurity specialists are needed to act as human guard rails for security threats.
3. AI will continue to be a useful tool for assessing cybersecurity.
Although cybersecurity specialists can’t be replaced by AI entirely, it’s certainly a valuable tool.
Soares says that AI is helpful for detecting and monitoring systems’ security breaches and threats. For example, it can identify a “zero-day vulnerability” — an undiscovered flaw in the security system that could be exploited.
Cybersecurity technology today is heavy on the AI use, because it can improve accuracy in the monitoring process. Even next-generation firewalls use machine learning and AI now to detect malicious activities.
4. Everyone, in general, should be more concerned about digital privacy.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Canadians reported more than 70,000 instances of fraud last year, amounting to more than $530 million stolen from companies and individuals. Only about 10 per cent of these online scams and fraud cases are actually reported, so this number is still an understatement.
Besides changing your passwords regularly, what else can you do to protect your digital information? An important piece of wisdom from Soares is that “human beings are the weakest link of cybersecurity.” Cybercriminals and fraudsters understand attaining private information is often a matter of manipulating a person.
Generally, Soares suggests the best way to protect yourself is to remain cautious and suspicious of new emails, offers that seem too good to be true and people asking for personal information while claiming to be legitimate authorities (ie. banks, government, employers).
For example, if you receive a phone call supposedly from the bank asking you for personal information, “be very inquisitive.” Soares recommends always asking questions, because the bank normally does not call people to ask for information. Having “security awareness” is key here. You can ask questions like: “'Why are you calling me? Where are you calling me from? Where do you work? Who do you report to?'” These questions will usually make the fraudster nervous or will show you their lack of knowledge and clear lack of authority.
5. With everything so digitized, the cybersecurity industry is booming.
Soares is optimistic about the outlook of the cybersecurity job market, believing it will continue to soar. Nowadays everything — from your fridge, to your microwave, to your phone and TV — is so digitized and connected.
All of these devices can have an IP address and can be connected to and with each other through what is called the “Internet of Things.” Unfortunately, this high-tech way of life means if you aren’t proactive enough about cybersecurity, your system could easily be targeted and exploited.
Soares says, “cybersecurity is more than a technology.” Digital information is so intertwined with our personal and professional lives that “everyone, to some extent, has a responsibility” to protect their private information.
Luckily, the future is bright for prospective cybersecurity specialists: “Cybersecurity is part of our lives — it will continue to be.”