Over the last 30 years, I have often been asked to speak to high school seniors and first-year college students about the best area of tech to study for a tech-oriented career. In the early days of speaking to these students, I would tell them that IT careers would be rewarding and financially beneficial.

Over the last 15 years, I have suggested to them that an IT career, especially related to servers, data management, and security should be majors to consider. I also suggested a minor to pursue at the same time. I explained to them that in the world of business, communications skills are critical to career advancement and suggested they do a minor in English as part of their educational strategy. 

The last time I spoke to students about this was in May of 2019, in New Orleans at a symposium for students from four universities in this area. While I continued to suggest they pursue various IT careers, I put an emphasis this time on careers in IT Security. 

I explained to them that every company, big or small, will need security experts to navigate the world of various types of security threats companies will be dealing with in the digital age.

As I have thought about these types of tech careers students should think about if they decide to choose a career in IT, I have decided to add one other emphasis to this list. That specialty would be one in cybersecurity, with an emphasis on ransomware.

This is a major that includes high tech security skills but also one that includes the need for investigative training, understanding legal issues, and sleuthing skills. 

I was reminded of the need for this type of skill recently when we learned that a major health organization, UHS, was affected by a ransomware attack. 

According to a report from Health IT Security

“Universal Health Services, one of the largest US health systems, confirmed on October 3 that the ransomware attack reported last week has affected all of its US care sites and hospitals, spurring clinicians into EHR downtime procedures. 

Hackers launched the cyberattack around 2AM Sunday, September 27, which prompted a number of staff members and clinicians from around the country to take to Reddit to determine the scope of the attack. The thread detailed outages to computer systems, phone services, the internet, and data centers.  

Some hospitals diverted ambulances during the initial stages of the attack, and some lab test results were delayed. According to staff, the attack began shutting down systems in the emergency department and proliferating across the network. Staff took screenshots of the incident and confirmed it was ransomware.”

The chart below lays out some stats about cybersecurity and the staggering losses we could see by 2021. 

Look at the stat for attacks on healthcare. It states that in 2020 “attacks on healthcare expected to increase 400%.”

Cybercriminals know that these areas hold people’s health records and some hospitals will pay a ransom to get the data unlocked so they can treat their patients and run their hospitals and medical facilities at all times.

Over the last three years, ransomware attacks have increased dramatically, and while these cybercriminals go after all types of businesses, the ones in the health care field have become favorite targets.

When I talk to security researchers, they tell me about the thousands of threats they see daily and a good percentage of them are in the category of ransomware.

It is quite sad that this type of cyber criminality has emerged and become a serious blot on the world of tech. As a result, the IT specialty in cybersecurity suggests that any student who has this type of degree will never have to worry about employment. I suspect that unless we find a way to thwart cybercriminals, the job of cyber warfare security specialists will always be in high demand.