3 Ways the US Can Overcome the Critical Shortage of Cyber Security Experts

Media Division | April 24, 2017

The world has changed more in the past 100 years than in the previous one thousand, and the rate of change is accelerating.

That may sound like an exaggeration, but consider this: a little over one hundred years ago, before World War I, the practice of farming had not changed much since the time of the Egyptians: plow, seed, sow.  Communicating to family usually involved paper and pen, just as the Romans may have used papyrus.  Automobiles were becoming more common, but plenty of folks still traveled by horse or walked into town.

Fast forward and the Baby Boomers saw the advent of the space age, television programming instead of radio or cinema, and, eventually, possibly the biggest game changer of all: the internet.

Information has never been so readily available, and with it has come unprecedented access to long-distance threats: the very tools that connect you via Skype to a friend in Australia also allow governments to spy on each other remotely.

And while the Soviets and the US may have pioneered many spy tactics, Uncle Sam is falling painfully behind in the digital age of cyber sleuthing.  As many as one million job openings in cyber security exist within the United States, many of them for the federal government.

Here’s why, and what to do about it.

1. Offer the Right Incentives

Speaking of Baby Boomers, they have may have been the last generation to willingly work for the United States Post Office for thirty years until retirement.  Government jobs just don’t offer the same appeal to younger generations and have a reputation of mismanagement, bureaucracy, and instability.  Recruitment efforts need to right angle:

  • Benefits—While Americans might still want healthcare coverage, incentives and benefits such as flexible schedules, working remotely, and Google-style playful working environments go further toward recruiting top tech talent.
  • Demonstrate loyalty—To combat the distrust of the federal government, cyber security recruitment incentives will need to take a more employee-centered approach to management, instead of typical bureaucratic government nonsense. That means open dialogue, employee feedback programs, transparency, and internal promotion for talent.  Job satisfaction (and therefore, talent loyalty) stems from a position of mutual trust and employee empowerment.
  • Free-style recruitment—Bug bounties and other hacker-for-hire techniques appeal to a more independent generation. Let hackers prove their mettle, then woo them with the benefits and loyalty.

These and other non-traditional, more modern tactics, stand the best chance of recruiting the more tech-savvy types who don’t necessarily want to work in cubicles surrounded by government red tape.

2. Start Younger

Speaking of recruiting the next generation, educational programs will need to get on board with cyber security preparation.  Archaic schooling methods and requirements, such as factory-model classrooms and foreign language requirements versus computer coding requirements, fail to prepare an adequate talent pool at a young enough age.

Countries such as China and North Korea are likely identifying computer aptitude and developing in-house cyber sleuths.  The US is falling further behind.

With increased access to digital classroom programs, and the promise of incentives for participating schools, an entire crop of coding-savvy students could emerge from American high schools.  Incentives equal tax dollars spent, but those same dollars will eventually pay off in top cyber-sleuth employees for the US government.

Think of it as the vocational prep program, that so many schools had in the past for auto mechanics or woodshed, but geared to the current generation and cyber security prep.

3. Focus on Our Strengths

Honestly, the United States has never been all that good at growing factory workers.  Increasingly, repetitive, mundane, and detailed jobs are becoming robotized or shipped overseas.  While that might not be okay with everyone, the vast majority of Americans do not aspire to factory-style industry work, anyway.

Where the United States has always excelled has been in producing creativity—from Hollywood films to Nikes, invention and individuality are the biggest exports from the United States. Michael Jackson and other pop stars likely did more to spread the concept of a democratic union than any leaflet campaign.

Filling the shortage of cyber security experts will need to include identifying key personality traits and interests in young people, such as:

  • Puzzle-solvers
  • Inventors
  • The digitally-inclined
  • Creative-types
  • Free-thinkers

Doing what Americans do well, and focusing on improving those strengths, stands the best chance of leveling the cyber playing field and filling those million vacancies.

Expert Help Now

Until Uncle Sam acts on a plan such as this and overcomes the critical shortage of cyber security experts, it remains up to individual organizations to combat the millions of cyber attacks occurring every day.

Fortunately, trained, on-demand security expertise is available to identify and mitigate such cyber threats.

A cyber threat assessment, tailored to the specific needs of your organization, will identify potential threats and provide actionable intelligence.  Contact us to find out how.

Massive's Media Division publishes timely news and insights based on current events, trends, and actionable cross-industry expertise.