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CHIPS Articles: Severe Shortage of Cybersecurity Professionals is a Key Risk to Our Nation’s Security

Severe Shortage of Cybersecurity Professionals is a Key Risk to Our Nation’s Security
By Stay Safe Online Blog - October-December 2018
The good news is there are millions of rewarding jobs for students and those looking for a new career or re-entering the workforce.

The unprecedented demand for well-trained cybersecurity workers continues to grow. Some experts predict that there will be a global shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals by next year. This is critical considering the increase in cyberattacks and the erosion of consumer trust in the ability to protect the internet. Enlisting the next generation of skilled cybersecurity workers and training existing employees will help build stronger defenses and restore confidence among digital citizens.

During the second week of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), an online safety awareness initiative co-led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, key influencers - like parents, teachers and employers - are urged to motivate prospective talent of all ages to pursue this rewarding career. It is important to remember that it’s not all about math and tech – there is definitely another side to cybersecurity.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, important attributes of accomplished cybersecurity professionals include curiosity and a passion for learning, problem solving skills, strong ethics and a keen understanding of risks. In addition, job seekers with nontraditional backgrounds may bring new experience and perspectives to the position. And, a variety of industries - ranging from education, financial institutions and banks to fashion, design and retail – are hiring. The bottom line is that the profession is dedicated to helping make our borderless online world safer and more secure for everyone.

Although they are often behind the scenes, these experts are truly on the front lines and have a measurable impact in our digital lives. One leading example of a company that prioritizes security and has long invested in hiring top cybersecurity talent is Intel. Security engineers and researchers at Intel not only strengthen the security of its own products, but also learn and share with the broader community to help collectively develop and accelerate the adoption of more secure technologies across the entire computing industry. The bottom line is that the profession is dedicated to helping make our borderless online world safer and more secure for everyone.

Parents, caregivers, counselors and teachers can play a significant role in paving the way for children to pursue cybersecurity careers. It’s important for these influencers to learn about and have conversations with kids about the breadth of opportunities available. In addition to a focus on STEM - a curriculum based on educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - there are quite a few interesting and fun options to explore.

Here are a couple of NCSA’s top recommendations:

  • GenCyber offers summer cybersecurity camp experiences for K-12 students and teachers. The goal is to help all students understand safe online behavior, grow diversity and interest in cybersecurity and improve teaching methods for delivering content.
  • CyberPatriot focuses on national youth cybersecurity education with three main programs: the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, AFA CyberCamps and the Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative. The Air Force Association developed CyberPatriot to excite students about careers in cybersecurity and other STEM disciplines critical to our nation’s future.
  • Visit CyberCompEx to learn about Capture the Flag exercises and other age-appropriate challenges that are great ways to expose kids to cybersecurity.

For adults thinking about a new career or re-entering the job force, consider re-inventing yourself and pursuing various positions in cybersecurity. Technical skills can be acquired through a number of ways, including traditional college courses, vocational training, industry certifications and on-the-job experience. Experts acknowledge that a workforce with diverse expertise and backgrounds has a greater chance of defending our assets.

As for veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life, you may already have the training and skills that are extremely advantageous to cybersecurity. In addition to potential practical computing and/or IT skills, according to a recent blog in Information Security, there are a number of highly marketable at “strengths” that you most likely acquired in the armed forces. These may include:

  • Leadership training
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work under pressure and with short deadlines
  • Planning and organizational skills
  • Familiarity with safety and security
  • Understanding of protocols and structures
  • Disciplined work habits
  • High personal drive and pursuit of excellence
  • Personal initiative

Even if you were serving a non-technical role in the military, you may still be a valuable hire based on your security clearance alone.

Top Tips for the Cybersecurity Job Seeker

  • Get Credentialed: Four out of five cybersecurity jobs require a college degree.
  • Get Experience: Test the waters through volunteer work and internships; offer to help IT professors at your local college/university or employer to gain insight and experience. Think about becoming a white hat hacker and help top tech companies find bugs within their software.
  • Get Smart: Keep up with the latest on internet security; follow top cybersecurity personalities on Facebook or Twitter and stay on top of the headlines. Join the conversation #CyberAware on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Get Ready: A great place to find out if a cybersecurity career is right for you is to start at the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS). From career resources to learning more about jobs in the field, NICCS is a go-to-guide to learning about and joining the ranks of a cybersecurity professional. Learn more at http://niccs.us-cert.gov/.

Advice for Companies to Help Tackle the Talent Shortage

  • Re-examine your workforce strategy: Do you know what skills you need today and tomorrow to run a successful security program? Realize that skills and experience can come from a variety of places and adjust your hiring efforts accordingly.
  • Improve your engagement and outreach: Don’t limit yourself to the same career fairs and recruiting programs of yesteryear. Get involved in community colleges, P-TECH schools and other educational programs to start building your recruiting base.
  • Build a local cybersecurity ecosystem: Connect with government organizations, educational institutions, and other groups. Sponsor Capture the Flag events and work with local middle and high schools to generate interest in the field. These groups are always looking for willing experts and mentors.
  • Have a robust support program for new hires: Mentorships, rotational assignments, shadowing and other opportunities help new cybersecurity hires gain experience and learn. Remember, not everyone knows what they want to do right away. Keep new hires engaged by giving them the creative freedom to work on different projects and explore new technologies and services.
  • Focus on continuous learning and upskilling: To retain new talent, keep employees current on the latest skill sets through classes, certifications, and conferences. Be open to employees from other areas of your business who express interest in cybersecurity career paths. AI now provides employees with more intelligence and contextual recommendations at a speed and scale previously unimagined, so upskilling your workforce is a completely different ballgame these days.

Additional editing by CHIPS Magazine.

Check out the latest NCSAM infographic for more information and inspiration regarding cybersecurity careers.
Check out the latest NCSAM infographic for more information and inspiration regarding cybersecurity careers.
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