The United States is reportedly facing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals — particularly for positions within the federal government because it does not offer salaries as high as the private sector.
According to a study published by the RAND organization, the demand for cybersecurity professionals began to overtake supply in 2007, largely due to increased reports of large-scale hacking, including the leakage of credit card data, attacks on Internet connectivity, and the discovery of "advanced persistence threats" — teams of hackers who go after intellectual property by establishing a persistent presence in the networks of U.S. and other technology targets.
The report adds that demand for cybersecurity skills in general began rising in the last five years not because hackers are attacking networks more but because the defenders of those networks are far more aware of the hackers and are eager to employ someone who can set up ways to detect and stop them. In addition, the rise of state-sponsored stealthy cyber-espionage—and in some cases, even hard-hitting attacks suggestive of cyberwar--is heightening concerns.
With cybersecurity professionals commanding salaries of more than $200,000 to $250,000, the U.S. the Department of Defense has sometimes found it hard to compete with the private sector.
“Thus, even as many proclaim the advent of cyberwar as a decisive component of modern warfare, others argue that DoD has a difficult time acquiring the people to wage that kind of war,” RAND notes.
The National Security Agency, which made headlines after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the agency’s spying techniques, has found no dearth of new employees.
RAND says NSA, “the country’s largest and leading employer of cybersecurity professionals,” is doing well in hiring, with fewer than 1% of their positions going vacant for any length of time.
The Central Intelligence Agency also seeks to “build talent from within” but apparently faces more challenges in finding cybersecurity professionals, the report says.
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