Don’t Know Code? You Can Still Work in Cybersecurity


Person types at a laptop
Up to 70 percent of jobs in the cybersecurity industry do not require coding, according to a 2017 report on the cybersecurity workforce from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
At The University of Texas at Dallas, economist Dr. Daniel Arce is studying such “human components” of cybersecurity, while at the same time, the University is preparing students to enter the workforce with the unique skills to meet the growing demand for these cyber professionals.
The human element in cybersecurity includes the roles economics, competition and market forces play in the tech industry. For example, Arce recently published research that shows companies that offer cloud-based services need to offer enough security safeguards to ensure that their users don’t switch from their product to a different platform or company.
The study was published in the June issue of the journal Computers & Security.
“Let’s say a user wants to use an iPhone because there are lots of apps for that platform,” Arce said. “App developers want to create apps for iPhones because there are lots of users. The existence of those indirect externalities must be taken into consideration to keep either side from switching platforms. These issues are inextricably linked to security, but can never be addressed by coding or a technical solution.

“My research shows an example of why so many of the jobs in cybersecurity do not require coding.”
– Dr. Daniel Arce, Ashbel Smith Professor

“Similarly, when you’re providing cybersecurity in a platform market, as cloud service providers do, you don’t want your customers to switch providers,” Arce said. “Therefore, cybersecurity has to satisfy this no-switching criteria. That’s an economic characteristic of cybersecurity that’s nontechnical. It has nothing to do with coding, yet it’s something that cybersecurity has to satisfy to be competitive in the market. Therefore, the whole idea is, you can’t separate cybersecurity from a platform’s economic environment or competitive environment.”
Arce said the same can be said for any technological architecture or ecosystem that connects users with developers or sellers of complementary services such as Windows, iOS, Android, Airbnb, Uber and Lyft.
“My research shows an example of why so many of the jobs in cybersecurity do not require coding,” said Arce, Ashbel Smith Professor and program head of economics in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. “That human element exists for economic reasons, and it’s never going to be coded away. There are so many facets of cybersecurity and so many areas in which people can work in the field of cybersecurity.”
UT Dallas offers a master’s degree in cybersecurity, technology and policy that helps prepare graduates for the nontechnical jobs that are necessary to understand relationships between cybersecurity and other aspects of society, such as government, public policy and risk assessment.
The School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences began offering the program this fall, in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
The interdisciplinary degree provides an opportunity for both students with prior computer science experience and those coming from nontechnical backgrounds to learn strategic, policy and analytic aspects of cybersecurity.
–Brittany Magelssen