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Half a million open cyber jobs leaves US vulnerable to threats, experts warn



Half a million open cyber jobs leaves US vulnerable to threats, experts warn

A massive gap in the cybersecurity workforce has left the United States and its critical infrastructure vulnerable to attacks from foreign adversaries, members of Congress and security officials warn.

There are more than 500,000 open jobs in the cybersecurity space in the United States, according to government estimates. It was the subject of a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Homeland Security in which Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., compared the current need for cyber professionals to the need for troops in WWI and WWII.

“We find ourselves in a similar moment today,” Garbarino said. “We need Americans in critical areas like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and zero trust.”

Some of the main hurdles for filling government cyber jobs are lower pay compared to the private sector, federal agencies’ tendency to narrow fields of candidates due to a preference for four-year degrees over real-world experience, and notoriously slow federal hiring processes.

The Biden administration recently announced an overhaul to the federal hiring process to become entirely skills-based for technical jobs set to take effect next summer. To focus on teaching cyber skills as early as elementary school, the administration launched a cyber workforce and education strategy last summer.

Meanwhile, adversaries like China have a head start. During remarks in April, FBI Director Christopher Wray said cyber hackers from China outnumber all of the bureau’s cyber personnel by at least 50 to one.

Committee member Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill., said the U.S. should utilize an advantage it has over its adversaries: a diverse population.

“To fill cyber workforce positions, we have to focus on outreach to women, to people of color, to rural populations and others who are not adequately represented currently in the cyber workforce. And we can’t simply address the cyber workforce shortage without including everyone and doing so with an intentional effort on the part of the government and private sector,” Ramirez said.

Cyberattacks are of particular concern to financial systems. During an interview with CBS earlier this year, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he thinks they’re the biggest threat to the global financial system, especially one that could shut down payment processing.

“It’s day by day. I mean, the attackers are always improving their game and the defenders have to be improving their game all the time,” Powell said. “And you’ve got to keep investing and staying caught up or getting ahead, that will never stop. So there will never be a moment when you can take a breath and think, ‘Yeah we’ve got this.’”

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