Recent cyberattacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment, Target and Home Depot catapulted cybersecurity into the national consciousness and forced business leaders to rethink their strategies in defending and protecting infrastructure, networks and systems. The hacking of email files of the Democratic National Committee only underscored the threat.
Companies with 500 to 2,500 employees and local governments are especially fertile ground for cybercriminals looking to exploit unsuspecting organizations that have valuable data to steal and much more to lose, according to Florida-based Threat Track Security.
“Hackers think local government is an easy target,” Linda Gerull, director of information technology for Pierce County, said at the cybercrime forum.
David Shaw, CEO of Global Business Analysis, a Gig Harbor cybersecurity firm, agrees, warning business leaders and city officials that cyberthreats are becoming more sophisticated and widespread. “It’s a [100 percent] probability that you will be breached,” he asserts.
Businesses and households with computers face a slew of cybersecurity challenges that can cripple office operations and disrupt daily lives. Today’s cybercriminals don’t fit the stereotype of teenagers wearing hoodies. They are sophisticated, transnational, black-market specialists who prey on businesses and individuals, stealing intellectual property and financial information.
“They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes,” says Singer, a strategist at New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “They are not all teenagers living out of their parents’ basements. You never know where it’s coming from. We are all at risk.”
While the security marketplace is booming, Singer says there’s a “people gap” affecting it — 200,000 unfilled jobs in the United States and a million worldwide. “There’s just not enough talent to go around,” he notes.
In the next three years, the demand for security talent is expected to grow by 2.5 million, but the supply only by 1 million, leaving a gap of 1.5 million, according to Experis, a Wisconsin-based staffing and recruiting firm with offices in Bellevue. “Companies need to get ahead of this trend and start thinking more about development and how they will resource their growing talent needs going forward,” says Sean Costello, senior North America vice president of Experis, which recently released the report, Protecting Your Organization in a Talent Scarce Market.
This shortage has led to universities, local governments and companies offering more classes and training programs in cybersecurity. The University of Washington–Tacoma, for example, created a Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. Columbia Basin College in Pasco and Richland-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) teamed up to offer a Cybersecurity Bachelor of Applied Science Program. And more than a dozen colleges and universities in the state, including community colleges in Lakewood, Auburn, Lynnwood, Seattle, Des Moines and Spokane, have programs related to cybersecurity training.
There’s even a cybersecurity summer camp for children in Pasco. In June, Columbia Basin College and PNNL offered the free “Cyber Patriots” camp for kids ages 7-12. It featured presentations on ethics, online safety and cybersecurity career opportunities.
A shortage of security labor also has led to the creation of more than 100 military cybercommands around the world, including Jeffries’ Air National Guard unit in Washington state. They comprise military and citizen soldiers helping to thwart cybersecurity incursions that President Obama has said “pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st Century.”
Jeffries says his role at Microsoft enables him to be more effective in his cybersecurity role with the Air National Guard. “This is a real benefit we realize in the National Guard for these units,” he says. “We train airmen and soldiers in cybersecurity to perform our cyber defense missions in the military department, and at the same time regional companies are able to hire those same airmen and soldiers as technical employees and leverage that training to protect their companies.”