After a number of serious digital security breaches over the past year, companies across the world have realized the need to invest in cybersecurity.
When large companies such as the Colonial Pipeline experience a ransomware attack, the results can be devastating.
Following the breach of its network earlier this year, Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down the pipeline temporarily, which resulted in gas shortages and price spikes across this country. Colonial Pipeline’s CEO eventually acknowledged the company paid the hackers called Darkside at least $4.4 million to get its operations back up and running.
Just last month, President Joe Biden met with business leaders from key sectors of the economy at the White House and described cybersecurity as a “core national security challenge.”
“We’ve seen time and again how the technologies we rely on, from our cell phones to pipelines, the electric grid, can become targets of hackers and criminals,” Biden said. “The reality is, most of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and the federal government can’t meet this challenge alone.”
As a result of these security breaches, companies around the globe are starting to add cybersecurity professionals to their teams.
Back in 2018, Augusta native Hank Leonard had just graduated from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in information systems and immediately went to work in the field of data science as a tech consultant for a large company in Atlanta.
“Honestly, I didn’t really like it,” Leonard said, chuckling. “So, I thought a good way to pivot to somewhere else would be to go back to school. I felt cybersecurity would be the go-to because I wanted to stay in the field of computer science, but I also thought cybersecurity would be something I would enjoy.
“And, of course, cybersecurity seemed to be a field that was blowing up, and it just so happened that my hometown had a great program here at Augusta University.”
Leonard was pleased to find out that most of his classes from Georgia Southern easily transferred over to Augusta University, so he is now seeking his post-baccalaureate degree in cybersecurity from the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences. He is expected to graduate in December.
He is also currently working as a student assistant at Augusta University’s Security Operations Center (SOC) located inside the Georgia Cyber Center.
“I love working in the Georgia Cyber Center because, as a student, all my classes are also here, so I can just walk back and forth between the buildings and enjoy the beautiful area right by the Savannah River,” Leonard said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m here from probably 9:30 in the morning to 8:30 p.m., so it’s nice to be able to come down here and work and go to school in the same complex.”
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the theme this year is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” The 2021 theme is meant to empower individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace.
No matter where he goes, Leonard said people get excited when they hear he is studying cybersecurity.
“Whether you’re in Augusta or in Atlanta, or if you go out West or even to another country, if you mention you’re in cybersecurity, people immediately say, ‘You definitely have a solid career ahead of you. You’re needed everywhere,’” Leonard said.
“Since I’m 25, I could see myself going and stretching my legs and living somewhere else for a while,” Leonard said. “But I think having cybersecurity as my career and knowing my hometown is sort of a bastion of cybersecurity, that is a very comforting feeling.
“At the end of the day, I know if I get married and have kids down the line, I can always come back home and continue my career in Augusta.”