The Talent Shortage Epidemic in Cybersecurity

by Terry Vahey
The cybersecurity shortfall in the workforce remains a critical vulnerability for companies and nations, according to Intel Security.  In a report called Hacking The Skills Shortage, 82 percent of IT professionals confirm a shortfall in the cybersecurity workforce in companies and nations.

The FBI has predicted that cybercrime will be a massive crime wave and a national security problem unlike anything the world has ever seen.  Today, the IT security skills shortage is occurring right as the volume of sophistication of cyber attacks continues to rise.  This battle means that companies might be in danger of losing simply because they lack the manpower to deal with it.

There are several reasons for this problem.  One is the changing nature of cyber attacks.  The sophistication of the technology and tactics used by online criminals have outstripped the ability of IT and security professionals to address threats.  Another phenomenon is the expanding attack surface.  More things are connecting to the internet than people.  Last year, there were 5 billion cell phones, 2 billion broadband connections and 1 billion people who are on Facebook and Twitter.  By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the network.

The skills gap is so large it can’t be closed in a year or two.  Some experts estimate we are already 1 million security professionals short just this year.  In the U.S. alone, 209,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled in 2015.  By 2020, we expect the global cybersecurity talent shortage to reach 2 million.  It requires a multi-year effort, innovative approaches, and collaborative efforts across industry and academia.  Higher education plays a critical role in solving this difficult challenge.

CyberGirlz Silicon Valley
Only 10% of information security professionals are women, and that needs to change. Offered by SJSU’s Jay Pinson STEM Education program, in collaboration with Facebook and local schools and afterschool programs, CyberGirlz Silicon Valley is a project that encourages girls in grades five through eight to participate in cybersecurity and computer programming activities during their afterschool programs. The project culminates with the CyberGirlz Silicon Valley Summit  – an exciting event held at SJSU where girls from local schools showcase their Cyber skills, engage in panel discussions with STEM professionals from local industry such as Facebook, Anomali, and Cisco, and test their cybersecurity, hacking, and team work skills in a Capture the Flag competition.

Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe PhD is director of the Jay Pinson STEM Education Program in the College of Science and leads the CyberGirlz program.  According to Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe, “We listen to the girls and adapt our methods based on what we’re hearing.  The girls come prepared as contributors, not attendees.”

Collaboration, ongoing funding, and partnership are key to the success of programs like CyberGirlz.  In addition to funding the program, partners like Facebook put skin in the game and provide bus transportation, chaperones and hands-on assistance with applications.  But sustaining a program for the long-term requires that cybersecurity becomes core in the educational curriculum in schools, afterschool programs, and at SJSU.  “We need more advocates and champions and a career path now for people who pioneer innovation in cybersecurity education,” said Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe.

The Silicon Valley Center for Big Data and Cybersecurity
Part of the College of International and Extended Studies, the Silicon Valley Center for Big Data and Cybersecurity was established in 2014 to provide interdisciplinary training to our students in the emerging fields of big data and cybersecurity, and to provide exciting and sustainable career paths into these fields to students with a wide variety of skill sets and interests.  According to Dean Michael Parrish of the College of Science, “SJSU has received a clear message from many of our corporate and government partners that the biggest unmet need in the coming decades will be in the areas of cybersecurity and big data science.”

Currently, a number of certificate and degree programs at SJSU are in various stages of development, most notably in Software Engineering, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Management Information Systems, and the School of Information.

The global search for a skilled cybersecurity workforce requires unique strategies as organizations face shortages, and encounter stumbling blocks ranging from performance issues to the political climate.  Innovation and collaboration will be key to creating a new generation of cybersecurity professionals.

One thought on “The Talent Shortage Epidemic in Cybersecurity

  1. Thoughtful article on a very significant topic! Thanks!