Reflections on Cybersecurity: A Deliberate Career Choice

By Valorie King, Ph.D

Can one live an unplugged life? Not really. If you shop or receive medical care or do any one of a hundred small things each day, information about you is captured, stored, transmitted to places that are not secure and may not even be securable. Your phone, your watch or step tracker and your tablet or computer—all your devices—know where you are and where you’ve been. The apps on your devices capture information about your location and time of day and send that off to people you don’t even know and might not approve of if you did.

Every single modern computer is vulnerable to a new type of attack. Organizations are scrambling to deploy new defenses. Vendors are working furiously to find, fix and patch. The public is trying to understand what this new cyber threat means and decide how worried they should be. And the hackers? Well, they’re looking for the next new vulnerability to exploit and increase their fame and fortune.

I deliberately chose to move into the cybersecurity career field. I deliberately chose a career that has become one of the most stressful career fields to be in. Every day, there are new attacks, new vulnerabilities and new tactics that negatively impact—and steal away—our safety and privacy. The cybersecurity industry just can’t keep up. The hackers, cyber criminals and cyber terrorists are winning.

What was I thinking? I don’t know. Cybersecurity just seemed like the best career choice at the time, especially for someone re-entering the IT workforce after almost a decade as a stay-at-home mom. Many of my students are facing similar choices, and I applaud them for wanting to better their lives and the lives of their families. But, sometimes, I wonder if cybersecurity really is the best choice. Is the stress of dealing with cyber risks and cyberattacks, day in and day out, worth the impact on me personally or on my family?

Here’s my bottom line. As I read the news and watch videos about the changing landscape of cyber risks, I am reminded of the words of Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke: “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So, for the moment, I’ll keep on keeping on. I will try to balance my job of informing people and society about cyber risks with an obligation to refrain from creating fear unnecessarily. And, I will try to manage the stress of living daily with the responsibility to inform, to defend and to protect.

About the Author

Valorie King, Ph.D, is program chair, Cybersecurity Management and Policy at UMUC. King’s professional focus is on developing tomorrow’s cybersecurity workforce. To accomplish this, she leads a world-class faculty of scholar-practitioners who engage in the design, management, and assessment of cybersecurity programs, products, and services in businesses and governments within local, regional, national and international contexts.