Election Cyber Threats Spur Interest in Cybersecurity Careers
Hacked candidate emails. State and local election boards asking the Department of Homeland Security to scan their voting systems and identify irregularities. These cyber threats during the 2016 election may have produced at least one positive: Millennials are taking note and are more likely to consider a career in cybersecurity, according to a recent report by Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance.
That’s good news, according to Andrew Hacker, cybersecurity expert-in-residence at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. Hacker tells GoodCall the Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report revealed the global shortage of information security professionals had reached a million – and is widening. By 2019, the shortfall will hit 1.5 million positions, he says.
That’s why any indication that millennials are paying attention to these threats and considering careers in information security is encouraging.
Below are selected millennial responses from the survey portion of the Raytheon/NCSA report:
|Heard about cyber attacks in the news in the past year||48%||64%|
|Say cybersecurity programs or activities are available to them||68%||70%|
|Have sought out cybersecurity activities||45%||33%|
2016 U.S. Presidential Election (U.S. Respondents Only):
|Does a political candidate’s position on cybersecurity impact your level of support for that candidate?||53%||24%||23%|
|Do you think cybersecurity has been a big enough part of the discussion leading up to the presidential election?||33%||50%||17%|
However, there appears to be a gender gap in understanding and interest:
|Know what cybersecurity professionals do||54%||36%|
|More likely now than a year ago to choose a career to make the Internet safer||43%||30%|
|Would participate if a cyber competition were available||21%||15%|
|Received formal cyber safety lessons in school||59%||51%|
|Teacher mentioned cybersecurity as a career option||54%||36%|
The report also reveals that millennials want jobs using the skills that cyber professionals need:
Cyber threats and the 2016 presidential election
Cyber threats have steadily increased for several years, so what makes the 2016 election cycle different from other high-profile breaches? Joe Devine, partner at Bridge Technical Talent, tells GoodCall, “When cyber-attacks on presidential campaigns are in the news and a presidential election is potentially affected, these high profile cyber threats illustrate the danger that can result from poor security and better emphasize the need for stronger security protection.”
While other types of breaches are well-publicized, Devine says they don’t have the same impact. “Cybersecurity attacks on retailers and financial institutions might not resonate as well with younger people that might not understand the ramifications of those attacks compared to a presidential election.”
However, he says linking these attacks to corporate attacks (that seem to occur on a routine basis) can be used to demonstrate the growing demand for specialists in the field.
Sustaining interest and increasing awareness
The segment of the survey revealing what millennials want in a career can help with outreach efforts. Valecia Maclin, program director of cybersecurity and special missions at Raytheon, tells GoodCall, “We know that they want to utilize their problem-solving, communication, management and data-analysis skills, so we need to take this information and show young people that a career in cybersecurity fulfills these criteria.”
But that’s only the first step. Maclin also thinks it’s important for the private and public sectors to join forces and commit to investing in programs that encourage students to pursue majors and careers in STEM. “Scholarships, competitions, internships and mentoring programs are some of the ways to encourage students and young adults to pursue cyber careers.” However, she says students should be targeted at a young age, and the emphasis should be sustained throughout the college years.
It doesn’t hurt to mention that cybersecurity jobs pay quite well. According to a recent survey, starting salaries are up for college grads in 5 areas, and technology is one of the 5 areas with projected salary increases. In the IT sector, starting salaries are projected to increase by 3.8%, but network security engineers can expect a 5.7% increase for 2017. The various types of security analysts, security engineers, administrators, and other cyber experts can earn anywhere from $70,000 to more than $100,000 annually.
Addressing educational deficiencies
With the shortage of cybersecurity workers already eclipsing 1 million jobs, closing the gap will require unconventional methods. “We need to invest in cyber programs starting the day students are exposed to computers in the classroom – and these programs should address both cyber safety and the basics of coding,” Maclin says.
Because parents are the primary influencers in a child’s career path, Maclin believes they, along with teachers and business leaders, can help foster interest. In addition, she says, “It is the responsibility of those with the exposure and expertise in the cybersecurity field, in particular, who best understand the critical challenge our nation faces, to act with urgency in helping to solve this talent shortfall.”
When students learn that there’s such a strong demand for cybersecurity professionals, Hacker believes that this will also encourage interest. “Making cybersecurity more accessible through comprehensive introductory courses and challenges like Hackathons and Capture the Flag, in addition to having educational institutions offer cybersecurity programs, can also increase interest in cybersecurity careers,” Hacker says.
Closing the gender gap
The gender gap regarding awareness of cyber threats and careers is growing, a comparison of this year’s and last year’s surveys shows, and Maclin warns that it has the potential to impact national security and the economy negatively. “Striving for gender parity in the field of cybersecurity would go a long way toward shoring up our defenses, while also addressing obvious concerns about fairness and equality in both our educational institutions and our U.S. workforce.”
The report shows that women are more likely than men to think that they don’t have access to activities that encourage cybersecurity careers. Maclin says. “Clearly, there’s an imbalance that needs to be addressed, not just through cyber education but also in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
One thing that could help: Raytheon has partnered with the (ISC)2 Foundation to establish the Raytheon Women’s Cybersecurity Scholarship. Offering $90,000 in scholarships and paid internships between 2016 and 2018, the scholarship is designed to encourage women to pursue degrees in the cyber field.