First published in EdTech Digital by Jennifer Teeters
The future of cybersecurity is at risk. That’s not a statement I make lightly, and I don’t believe I’m being “Chicken Little” either. The reality is that we are facing a massive cybersecurity workforce shortfall in the number of qualified and trained security professionals. A multitude of studies show the cybersecurity labor shortage and illustrate the drastic need for more experts. The need for these professionals is real and students in higher education have an opportunity to be the next-generation of skilled cybersecurity experts.
While the workforce shortfall is one we cannot ignore, the question becomes how do we load the pipeline of skilled workers in the field. Many higher education institutions are not
equipped to give students the education or hands-on training required for their students to enter the corporate world prepared for these roles. Students in higher education environments need to be given the tools and curriculum to give them a leg-up in order to enter into these positions straight from college.
The Need for Cybersecurity Experts is Growing
British insurance company Lloyd’s estimated that cyberattacks cost businesses as much as $400 billion each year. Nearly every industry is under attack, with top targets being financial services, healthcare, education institutions and technology companies. Attacks range from malware to botnets to application exploits. And if history serves as a guide, the attacks and attackers will become more sophisticated and adapt to circumvent security measures. It’s no secret that security threats are increasing and impacting organizations in all industries, of all sizes, worldwide. Rand Corporation estimates there are currently 1,000 top-level cybersecurity experts globally—with an immediate need for 10,000 to 30,000 experts. With the workforce shortfall plaguing the security industry, who is available to monitor, report and block these attacks from happening?
There must be an ever-expanding pool of qualified experts who are ready to attack threats head-on and stop them. Without this pool of candidates, attacks will have far-reaching impacts. And right now, there just aren’t enough people who are interested in and pursuing (typically lucrative) opportunities in cybersecurity.
Students currently in the higher education system prove to be great candidates for the next-generation of security professionals. When you think about these millennials, they are different than any other generation before. They have grown up with technology and have lived in an always-on world since birth. With this in mind, they have an inherent understanding of technology making them prime suspects for a career in security. But how do they get to the point of having the skills and tools needed to work in the trenches of the security networks?
Enter the Fortinet Network Security Academy
Dedicated to helping bridge this cybersecurity talent gap, Fortinet has launched the Fortinet Network Security Academy (FNSA) to help develop and train action-oriented cybersecurity experts to manage new and advanced threats on the horizon. Programs like FNSA bring industry knowledge into the classroom by providing institutions with faculty training, curriculum, lab experience, and instructors to deliver the program content. These programs bring the necessary training and advanced education students need to become tomorrow’s security professionals. Institutions can also find that offering these types of programs also makes them more competitive and desirable for students seeking environments that offer depth to their education programs.
Current organizations involved in FNSA are already seeing results with their students. “Willis College has been a pioneer in preparing our students for the most in-demand positions,” says Rima Aristocrat, CEO of Willis College in Canada. “Partnering with Fortinet enables us to provide enhanced cybersecurity training and education to our students. Real-world, hands-on experience like this Academy provides has already produced over 50 graduates who have found lucrative careers at Fortinet over the past five years. Our commitment has always been to help students prepare for the long-term careers, not just a job when they graduate.”
The Future is Now
Threats are increasing daily. And they are happening in every industry worldwide. If steps are not taken to fill the cybersecurity pipeline, society will become paralyzed. When you think of how much of our personal information resides in digital form, cyber threats become more personal. From banking to healthcare to even our taxes, all are for the most part done online or in digital form. Without groomed professionals prepared to fight cybercrimes of tomorrow, all of our online information can be compromised and held hostage.
Skilled cybersecurity professionals can and should be working with every organization worldwide to protect their valuable assets. And that’s only possible with people. People are behind the tools of cybercrime. Ensuring the secure future of our society and global economies absolutely depends on security technology innovation, but it also depends on the people who operate our global cyber businesses. Together, we can work toward creating a more secure future by fostering the learning of the next generation of security professionals.
Jennifer Teeters is Director of Authorized Training Center and Fortinet Network Security Academy Programs at Fortinet.