Rising threats spark US scramble for cyber workers

Rising threats spark US scramble for cyber workers

The federal government and the private sector are facing increasing pressure to play key cyber functions as high-profile attacks and international threats shake various sectors of the US.

Labor shortages have been a long-standing problem in cybernetics, but it has acquired renewed importance amid growing Russian threats stemming from the Ukrainian war.

“It’s an issue facing the government, as well as the private sector, the state and local communities,” Iranga Kahangama, a cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said in a hearing in the House. this week.

Kahangama said scarcity has been a top priority for his agency, which conducted a 60-day recruitment sprint last summer to hire cybersecurity professionals. Of the 500 job postings sent by DHS, the department was able to hire about 300 new cyber workers.

“It was the biggest recruitment event we’ve had so far,” Kahangama told lawmakers from a House national security subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism.

The focus on labor shortages comes when the United States has been on high alert recently, with intelligence officials warning of possible Russian cyberattacks targeting key government institutions, elections and critical infrastructure, including the energy sectors. and financial.

Private sector executives also feel pressure to hire highly skilled workers to combat the growing threats of ransomware and other online attacks.

“There is a shortage of cybersecurity workforce in all industries,” said Greg Valentine, senior vice president of cybersecurity firm Industrial Defender.

The cyber executive said it has seen an increase in demand for cyber workers, which it mainly attributes to recent events such as the Ukraine war, the 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the 2020 SolarWinds hacking.

Valentine said that whenever there is a security breach that is made public, business executives often panic and struggle to get resources and hire more cybersecurity professionals to make sure their businesses are safe.

He added that it is not necessarily non-compliance itself that motivates executives to invest more in cybersecurity, but rather the publicity surrounding piracy that pushes industry leaders to take action.

As for alleviating the current labor shortage, caused by the demand and growth of cybersecurity that exceeds the supply of workers, Valentine warned that it will take time.

“It’s not an overnight process,” he said.

Experts who spoke to The Hill said one way to increase the supply of cyber workers is to encourage students to choose this career and for the education system to offer more cybersecurity courses and technology-related programs in college. laws and universities.

Reed Loden, vice president of security for technology company Teleport, said schools should offer more specialized cyber programs, including training camps and field-specific practices.

Aside from education, Loden said more effort should be made in hiring, training and retaining young talent, although he acknowledged that many, including himself, are more focused on getting experienced workers in a highly competitive market.

“Good talent is already caught,” Loden said

“I would love to be able to hire junior security engineers and guide them,” he added, “but because I have urgent needs, it’s hard to do it now.”

Labor shortages have encouraged the government and the private sector to collaborate more, even to share critical information to combat the growing cyber threats.

Last year, the federal government introduced several key initiatives that encourage public-private partnerships in cyberspace.

For example, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a subdivision of DHS, launched the Joint Cyber ​​Defense Collaborative in August 2021 in an effort to defend the United States against cyberattacks.

CISA has partnered with several private sector companies to drive the effort, which includes implementing cyber defense strategies at the national level, exchanging information and mitigating the risks of cyber attacks.

Even the White House has promoted this association. Last spring, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at strengthening and securing federal government networks and critical infrastructure against cyber threats.

The order introduced several key initiatives, such as facilitating the exchange of information on threats between the government and the private sector.

“Because there is a shortage of talent, we need to work together to defend our networks and systems,” Loden said.

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