Biden administration scrambles to fill growing cybersecurity workforce gap

On Tuesday, the administration announced a multi-agency plan to create hundreds of registered learning programs with the private sector to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity workforce — and defend against a growing wave of data breaches. , ransomware attacks and other hacking incidents.

In a 120-day sprint, the U.S. government will work with employers to establish apprenticeship programs in the cybersecurity industry, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said, pledging to launch the joint program with the Department of Labor. Trade “in as little as 48 hours”.

The initiative draws funding from a larger $500 million Department of Commerce program known as the Good Jobs Challenge, and will particularly focus on recruiting young people, women and minorities for training and work. in cybersecurity, Walsh and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at a White House event on Tuesday that focused on broader cyberworkforce issues.

The U.S. government’s commitment highlights what officials describe as a critical lack of cybersecurity professionals in government and the private sector who can help protect the nation from foreign adversaries and cybercriminals. A few months ago, there were about 500,000 cybersecurity job vacancies in the United States, Raimondo said, but today that number has exploded to more than 700,000, a 40% increase. .

In recent years, a steady drumbeat of cyberattacks targeting government agencies, financial institutions, healthcare and other sectors have demonstrated the country’s vulnerabilities in cyberspace, highlighting a lack of IT security professionals. trained and alarming experts who have spent years tracking the growth of hacker groups. .

“The cybersecurity talent shortage is one of the most significant and threatening challenges facing our industry today. We all need to think differently about the issue,” said Barbara Massa, the company’s executive vice president. of Mandiant cybersecurity. “We need more cyber professionals entering the professional field. And a career in cybersecurity should be within reach for anyone who wants to pursue it. We need more paths to cyber careers and we need them as soon as possible .”

To meet the increased demand for cybersecurity defenders, the country cannot depend on legacy talent pipelines, US officials have argued, saying the glut of open job openings provides opportunities for all Americans, but especially to historically underrepresented groups.

“We’re not going to find 700,000 people if we’re only looking for white men. That’s not going to happen,” Raimondo said.

Amb. White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice said women make up less than a quarter of the nation’s cyber workforce, with 9% of the workforce identifying as black and only 4 % as Hispanic.

“America is safer and stronger when we bring everyone to the table,” Rice said, before referring to a notable example of a company hit by a ransomware attack. “Helping a company like Colonial Pipeline protect itself [means] creating a much better cybersecurity job pipeline.”

National Cybersecurity Director Chris Inglis told CNN on Tuesday that the United States is currently only able to fill about two-thirds of all cyberspace job openings added to the industry each year. , leading to an increase in vacancies.

“It’s going to take a little longer to stop its rise before it bends and lowers,” he said. “But we’re very aggressive about it, and I think we can make a substantial difference in a few months or a few years instead of leaving it with us for the next generation.”

In the coming months, he added, the US government plans to release a national cyber workforce strategy that will lay the foundation for further training and development.

As part of Tuesday’s summit, dozens of companies and organizations traveled to the White House to discuss how to expand the nation’s cybersecurity workforce. The list of attendees included technology companies such as Amazon and Google; cybersecurity companies such as Mandiant and Fortinet; and companies that consumers interact with daily, such as Bank of America and Walmart.

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