How to fix shortage of cyber security professionals?

The cyber security skills shortage comes from an aging workforce and lack of interest in security among students. Emphasis must be put on education to close the gap.

What's behind the shortage in cyber security professionals and what can be done to close the gap?

The Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report, along with news outlets Forbes and CIO.com, estimate the shortfall of IT cyber security professionals to be well over 1 million. The shortage of skilled security workers leaves many organizations struggling to adequately monitor and protect their networks and data. The Cisco report indicates that, even when organizations have the funds to hire people, they are challenged to find prospects with current, applicable skills and knowledge.

This shortage stems from a variety of factors, such as high experience requirements, an aging security workforce and a lack of interest from students. The March 2014 Job Market Intelligence report by Burning Glass, for example, states that 84 percent of cyber security postings specify at least a bachelor's degree and two-thirds of job postings require a minimum of four years of experience. Exposure and awareness are also considerations. According to a December 2013 Medill National Security Zone article, younger people either don't know about, or aren't presented with, security as a career option as they make their plans and pursue degrees and training.

Closing the security skills gap can be accomplished mainly through education and collaboration. Primary and secondary education curricula should build in computing and information technology, emphasizing security as much as possible. Companies and government agencies should invest more funds in scholarship programs. Security training and certifications should emphasize skills needed to address security risks and explain how to apply them on the job, rather than simply requiring cert candidates to understand them. Finally, more strategies like the Delaware Cyber Initiative are needed. Still in the proposal stage, this program seeks to create a "collaborative learning and research network" in which academia, companies and nonprofits reside on the same "campus" to promote more and better interaction, and to foster and fund research and innovation around cyber security.

This was last published in May 2014

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How do we get students interested in cyber security?

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