The growing threat of catastrophic cyber attacks is transforming the cybersecurity industry from a business dominated by a handful of incumbents to a growing area driven by new entrants into the market.

Along with that expanding marketplace comes a pressing need for qualified cybersecurity professionals, federal statistics show.

Cyber crime can take a variety of forms, including identity theft, hacking, financial fraud, cyber bullying and even website defacement. For businesses, a hacked network can mean the loss of sensitive trade secrets or the personal information of customers.

A June 2014 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimated that cyber crime costs the world economy more than $455 billion each year, a number that equals about 1% of global income. The losses come in the form of missed opportunities, the theft of intellectual property and sensitive business information, and the costs associated with trying to secure networks.

Recent examples of Internet-based intrusions involving North American retailers are numerous. Since late 2013, Target, Michaels, Neiman Marcus, Albertsons, Supervalu and Home Depot have reported major network hacks – cyber attacks that exposed the credit card numbers and other personal information of millions of customers.

Additionally, a Russian crime ring has been implicated in the theft of more than 1 billion usernames and passwords along with 500 million email addresses.

Cyber attacks of this nature are contributing to growing reports of identity theft. In 2013, ID theft complaints topped the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints, accounting for 14% of the more than 2 million complaints.

Cybersecurity Professionals in Demand

The rising anxiety over cyber attacks, coupled with the possibility of high-dollar losses, has created opportunity in the cybersecurity industry. Globally, companies are expected to spend more than $71 billion on information security measures in 2014, a number that’s projected to rise to about $77 billion the following year, the research firm Gartner reported in August 2014.

Spending on security software has also increased worldwide, with total revenue hitting almost $20 billion in 2013, according to Gartner. The top four vendors accounted for 39% of market share: Symantec, McAfee, IBM and Trend Micro.

As new companies enter the marketplace, they are helping create a burgeoning demand for employees skilled in protecting networks, such as information security analysts. Jobs in that field are expected to grow by 37% between 2012 and 2022, a rate that’s much faster than the national average of 11% for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Employment opportunities should be particularly strong in the public sector, where government agencies will need cybersecurity professionals to guard against attacks on vital information technology systems. Healthcare companies also will need trained analysts to prevent the theft of patient information as medical providers shift to electronic health records, the BLS projects.

As of 2012, the median pay for information security analysts nationwide was $86,170 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $135,600, federal Department of Labor statistics show.

Research by other organizations also highlights the need for more cybersecurity professionals. In its 2014 Annual Security Report, Cisco estimated the global shortage of information security specialists would exceed 1 million this year.

A June 2014 study by the RAND Corporation, meanwhile, found that demand has outpaced supply since 2007, when hacks and other cyber attacks began growing in scope and intensity.

“Shortages of this nature complicate securing the nation’s networks and may leave the United States ill-prepared to carry out conflict in cyberspace,” noted the study, Hackers Wanted: An Examination of the Cybersecurity Labor Market.

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