Cyber-Security Training a Top Priority for Industry, Government

With forecasts of heavy demand for cyber-security professionals through 2020 and beyond, private- and public-sector organizations continue to develop outreach programs.

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In an effort modeled after the 1950s push to educate Americans in hard sciences and mathematics, U.S. private and public organizations have launched a number of initiatives to build cyber-security expertise this year, including partnerships with universities to develop cyber-security training programs and coursework to build a steady supply of technical graduates.

This week, IBM expanded its Cyber Security Innovation Program, a program through which the company works with universities to develop courses, provide tools to educators and fund cyber-security research and academic programs. The program is not about creating cyber warriors, but about training the architects of future security solutions, Marisa Viveros, vice president of IBM's Cyber Security Innovation, told eWEEK.

"It is really about creating a new set of talent in future employees so they will understand security, no matter their background," she said. "It does not have to be an engineer; it could be on the business side; it could be in management."

Cyber-security professionals continue to enjoy strong demand and low unemployment, especially in the United States. The International Information Security System Certification Consortium, or (ISC)2, predicts that the rolls of U.S. cyber-security professionals will grow by 11 percent each year through 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the growth to be twice that.

The Obama administration has flagged cyber-security education as a major part of its Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, recalling the push to develop mathematics and engineering expertise in the nation's school children in the 1950s.

"Existing cyber-security training and personnel development programs, while good, are limited in focus and lack unity of effort," the administration stated on its site. "In order to effectively ensure our continued technical advantage and future cyber-security, we must develop a technologically-skilled and cyber-savvy workforce and an effective pipeline of future employees."

In the latest expansion of its program, IBM announced partnerships with 11 universities, including Fordham University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany, Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, Universidad Cenfotec in Costa Rica, Universiti Kebangsaan in Malaysia, and Wroclaw University of Economics in Poland. The company now has partnerships with more than 200 schools worldwide.

The University of South Carolina, another of the schools partnered with IBM, teaches security as part of its integrated information technology program. Enrollment in the program has grown by 20 percent each year for the past few years, says Mark Harris, assistant professor of integrated information technology at the University of South Carolina.

"Security is a pervasive theme throughout all the tracks," he said.

Other initiatives include the National Security Agency's certification of certain schools as Cybersecurity Centers of Excellence and the Cybersecurity Challenge, which seeks to create training opportunities and cyber-security competitions to drive interest in the field.

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...