Finding Tomorrow’s Cyber Protectors in Today’s Digital World

Cyber Security Posted Aug 22, 2019 by Jennifer Torode

As my job entails working in the tech and cybersecurity industry with vendors selling into both private and public organizations, I’m always keeping an eye on what’s happening in this space, including trends. One trend that has been a constant for quite a while now and getting more attention, is the need for employable cybersecurity professionals.

Everything consumers and businesses do each day, one way or another, touches the internet. Most products, services, news, communications, etc. have a common denominator, and that is the internet. This fact is not going to change anytime soon.

With nearly everything being connected to the internet, security has become incredibly critical and it’s an area that requires constant innovation, a 24/7 watchful eye, and pro-active and reactive protection measures. From toy manufacturers to the government, the need to employ cybersecurity professionals to help secure their business and the products and services they offer, has become far more challenging as there is a shortage of cybersecurity experts to fill these roles. All the while, cybercriminals continue to mount attacks—from simple social engineering to sophisticated and targeted—using malware (ransomware), denial of service (DoS), phishing, passwords, etc. and they are constantly honing their craft and recruiting delinquents.

According to analyst firm Gartner, 61% of organizations struggle to hire security professionals. The Harvard Business Review predicts that by 2020, there will be more than 1.5 million unfilled cyber positions worldwide. There are a variety of facts and figures out there, but one thing is for sure, there is a huge deficit in cybersecurity talent, which given all of the above, it not good for consumers or organizations.

I’ve read and listened to many discussions on this topic over the last several years and one thing that has stood out to me, especially as of late, is the education or background required to be employable as a “cybersecurity” professional. With the shortage of talent, excessively high cost of a four-year university degree, and the fast-paced, everything online and in the cloud, there needs to be a plan B.

There have been a variety of articles on how to increase the number of cybersecurity talent, including onboarding more vocational schools to offer cybersecurity programs; loosening higher education requirements—meaning a four-year college degree is not necessary to break into the workforce—and limiting certificates for entry level positions. Hiring adjunct professors to teach cybersecurity curriculum who are actually in the trenches doing cybersecurity at an organization or conducting research and teaching timely and relevant classes, etc. To engage and encourage today’s youth to pursue careers in cybersecurity, we’re seeing more programs and camps sprout. Bootcamps such as GenCyberCyber Camps by the US Cyber Challenge and programs such as KodeConnect and Girls Who Code amongst others.

Throughout my career working at cybersecurity company Sophos for more than 12 years and with numerous cybersecurity clients while at CHEN PR throughout my eight years, I’ve run into a variety of amazingly smart cybersecurity gurus—from those with astute academic backgrounds to those who are self-taught (hands-on experience) and moved up in the IT/security ladder as researchers, product managers to executives.

Bruce Schneier, Katie Moussouris, Alex Stamos,

I’ve worked with some highly regarded cyber security professionals of all ages. In fact, one security standout did not graduate high-school but his incredible aptitude to understand security and to connect the dots, brought him from the security trenches, to executive status and then as a sought-after board member at growing cybersecurity organizations. I’ve also worked for a client whose co-founder and CEO was a former hacker who started his own security company and sold it for more than $2 Billion. There are so many security professionals that inspire tomorrow’s hopefuls and the rest of us. For example, seasoned industry elites such as Bruce Schneier, Katie MoussourisAlex Stamos, Peiter C. Zatko,Window Snyder to security standouts in their early careers.

Most of the talented cybersecurity experts that I’ve had the honor of working with, in addition to being bright, have been incredibly humble, witty, fun and always incredibly helpful—Just an honest observation.

As summer winds down, kids will be heading back to school, organizations will be more fully staffed as its workforce step off vacation mode and all while, the search for tomorrow’s protectors of our digital world marches forward.