As technology and the internet become more sophisticated, so, too, do the schemes scammers use to appropriate sensitive data. The world needs more trained cybersecurity professionals, and that means rethinking how we educate those who want to enter this fast-growing field.
It seems like each day our personal and professional lives rely more on technology and connectivity. That growing reliance means an increased number of opportunities and vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit.
In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received a record 791,790 complaints, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion — phishing scams alone accounted for nearly 250,000 complaints totaling over $50 million in losses.
“During the pandemic, many companies that are used to doing on-premises work were trying to figure out how to go remote,” said Dr. Shawn Murray, C|CISO, CISSP, CRISC, president and chief academic officer of Murray Security Services. “So, a lot of organizations are adopting technologies that aren’t necessarily the most secure, because they just want to be viable.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic is no doubt partially to blame, the rise in cybercrime can also be attributed to a global shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals. These specialists have one of the most in-demand skill sets in the global market, but there aren’t nearly enough trained professionals to fill the nearly 500,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States alone.
Globally, the number of vacant cybersecurity positions tops 4 million.
“The problem right now is that we don’t have enough qualified people to fill those roles, and that particular struggle is very real,” said Robert Armstrong, a cybersecurity lecturer for Flatiron School, which offers a 21st-century approach to training the next generation of software engineering, data science, and cybersecurity professionals. “There’s a shortage of people who are passionate about doing these things well.”
All walks of life
Armstrong says he’s seen people from all sorts of backgrounds change careers and have massive success in the cybersecurity industry; from soldiers to EMTs and paramedics, bartenders and waiters, and more. That’s due in large part to the wide range of skills needed to make up a highly effective security team.
“If you imagine an entire football field as the realm of cybersecurity, most people are specialists who typically only understand a foot or two of that field, but they’ll understand it a mile deep,” Armstrong said. “Because it’s such a huge field, a lot of people are able to bring different skill sets together. So, there’s an opportunity in cybersecurity for a breadth of different personality types and a breadth of different skill sets.”
Those who don’t fit the traditional mold of cybersecurity professionals aren’t just welcome in the field — they’re needed. One of the contributing factors to the global cybersecurity shortage is the notion that you need a traditional four-year degree to enter the field, which simply isn’t true.
By making things like cybersecurity bootcamps (which give students the training and education they need to enter the field in just a few months) more ubiquitous, the industry is able to attract the diversity of people and skill sets needed to detect and protect against evolving cyberthreats.
Closing the skills gap
The world needs more qualified cybersecurity professionals, and it will take a shift in education — both in the programs offered and the types of students recruited — to meet the demands.
Flatiron School has helped thousands of students launch careers in the in-demand fields of coding, data science, and cybersecurity since it was founded in 2012. According to its 2020 jobs report, Flatiron School graduates have an 86 percent job placement rate and boast an average starting salary of just under $75,000.
Flatiron School’s cybersecurity courses are taught by industry veterans, and the curriculum is developed in collaboration with leaders like Dr. Murray, who is currently assigned to the United States Missile Defense Agency and previously worked with the National Security Agency, FBI, CIA, and U.S. Defense and State departments on various cybersecurity initiatives.
“We at Flatiron School do a really good job of networking with employers in the cyber community to make sure we have an understanding of not only what slots are out there, and how we can help students find a place in the community,” Armstrong said, “but more than that, we also work with those organizations to ensure we have a good understanding of the skill sets these employers are looking for.”
A new approach
In Flatiron School’s Cybersecurity Analytics and Cybersecurity Engineering courses, half of class time is reserved for hands-on lab work in the proprietary Cyber Range, a sandbox that allows students to explore, track, gather, break and build security protocols and programs. This real-world approach to education equips Flatiron School students with the practical skills to meet today’s threats head-on and enter the cybersecurity workforce in months, instead of years.
If you’re thinking about starting a career in cybersecurity, or are a current professional looking to upskill, Flatiron School can give you the knowledge and tools needed to succeed. Start your journey toward making the web a safer place today by visiting flatironschool.com/start/.