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Educational cybersecurity efforts focused on future, is there enough attention to the present?

A pressing need for trained, educated cybersecurity professionals has been highlighted by research and the forward-facing actions of businesses and educators in recent weeks. While many companies attempting to recruit staff members with the skills and experience necessary to protect valuable digital assets have been aware of this problem to varying degrees, a report on the dearth of qualified employees in the field has attracted additional attention.

Filling cybersecurity roles will remain an area of need for many businesses

Incidents up, employee pool down
Detected cybersecurity incidents rose by 48 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to a recent survey. The total number compiled by the RSA Conference and ISACA was 42.8 million breaches and attempts, a strong indication that cybercrime will continue to become more prevalent the world over. This data makes other major pieces of information found in the study more alarming. More than 60 percent of businesses take at least three months to fill IT security positions and more than 80 percent have applicant pools wherein 50 percent or more of candidates are unqualified. Organizations are currently experiencing a lack of qualified talent for cyber defense and security positions and it may take some time to fill those roles.

"Participants will engage in a variety of different activities, learning more about the mechanics of cyberattacks."


Educational opportunities for young students
The Associated Press reported on a growing trend in the world of education: the creation of cybersecurity-centric summer camps that focus on teaching important, relevant informational security skills to relatively young students. The camps are sprouting up in many parts of the country, with The AP highlighting opportunities in Vermont and South Dakota that are associated with local universities and an effort in southern California organized by that state's Girl Scout organization. Participants will engage in a variety of different activities, ranging from the building of their own computers to flying drones and learning more about the mechanics of cyberattacks.

The camps are the product of an outreach program called GenCyber that's managed by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. That venture was explicitly created in part to address the recognized shortage of cybersecurity and IT professionals. Victor Piotrowski, program director of the NSF-backed CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service venture, told The AP that demand is only going to keep growing.

"Every company now has it on its radar, and everybody wants to hire computer science specialists, and unfortunately we don't have the capacity," Piotrowski said to The AP.

The joint venture of the NSF and the NSA had originally operated with the goal of hosting 200 camps by 2020, but that number could easily increase based on both interest and demand, according to The AP.

What can alleviate the lack of skilled professionals?
There is an obvious effort in place to educate more young people about cybersecurity as a skill set and a profession, but the payoff of those efforts is close to 10 years away. Many businesses are in immediate need of qualified employees who can begin contributing to cybersecurity efforts quickly. There are a few developments that could offer short-term benefits in this way. The cybersecurity bills currently winding their way through the legislative process would create regulations and processes that enable for-profit businesses and the federal government to quickly and accurately share information with each other.

NC4's Cyber Threat Exchange is a collaborative environment for cyber threat intelligence development and sharing, creating a trusted community where information can confidently and securely be shared. Such collaborative environments will make the limited pool of cyber defenders a force multiplier for identifying and responding to cyber threats.


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