For all the threats to our personal information and government security, there is a significant need for more workers with skills to fight cybercrime.
Across the country the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education estimates there are nearly 300,000 vacant cybersecurity jobs, more than 9,500 of which are in Colorado.
“Yeah it's hard to talk to a CEO and not have them say give me more cyber security experts,” said J.B. Holston, dean of DU’s Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Holston says by the year 2022 the number of vacancies will jump from 300,000 to nearly 1.6 million, citing an estimation by the CEO of Cisco, Chuck Robbins.
“The demand has just gone through the roof,” he said. “It's just ubiquitous. There's nothing that we do now that isn't digital and so we're definitely behind. We're trying to catch up. It's not going to be fast, you know the people playing offense are much faster.”
Holston says the shortage is not from a lack of interest either. In the last two years the Cyber Security Master’s program at the Ritchie School has seen its enrollment quintuple.
The shortage comes from an exponential growth in jobs as more industries move digital, Holston said.
“There's a lot of different aspects to it that it can affect real life,” added Ajay Menendez, campus director of SecureSet in Denver. “Cars, companies, drones, even elections. It affects it all.”
In 2011, an American drone was captured by Iranian forces near the city of Kashmar. The Iranian government announced the drone was brought down by its cyber warfare unit, which took control of the drone and safely landed it.
On Black Friday of 2013, nearly 40 million credit card accounts were compromised when hackers were able to get into Target’s database
And most recently, more than 143 million Americans were affected when hackers compromised Equifax.
“We need new people in the industry. We have to change the paradigm,” Menendez said. “[If hackers] get your information you could have your whole life compromised in 20 minutes.”
Menendez says qualifications to get into the cyber security field are not out of reach. His courses at SecureSet in Downtown Denver run one semester, and DU’s cybersecurity masters program is only 9 to 12 months.
Menendez says employers are looking for people with grit and passion more than they are innate smarts.