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Next Generation Thinking
Next Generation Thinking

It’s time to get kids and teens started down the path to cyber security training and education

Jane Leclair
Cyber security is one of the greatest problems facing the digital community today. Hardly a week goes by without reports of a big box retailer, government agency, financial institution, healthcare facility, or small business being attacked by hackers with malicious intent. While their motives vary from cyber crime to espionage, from cyber terrorism to boredom, bad actors have one thing in common — across the globe they are intent on gaining entry to digital systems and creating havoc.

To combat these evildoers, organizations have trained and developed IT staffs to install and monitor defensive systems to protect their digital assets. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of skilled cyber security professionals to operate those systems.

Those with a vested interest in cyber security recognize that currently there is a critical shortage of skilled personnel in the cyber field. Writing for Forbes.com, Steve Morgan notes that, “More than 209,000 cyber security jobs in the U.S. are unfilled ... with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million by 2019.”

How will this shortfall be addressed? Where will we find these much-needed skilled professionals? Perhaps more importantly, when and how will these professionals be trained and educated?

An educational solution

Currently our IT professionals tend to follow one of several paths: Some rise through the IT ranks and learn on the job. Some take advantage of concentrated skills training via certifications, boot camps, and other means. Some attend high-level learning institutions, either online or at traditional brick-and-mortar schools, to acquire a degree.

Increasingly, institutions of higher learning are expanding their IT programs and developing cyber security curricula to assist in filling the pipeline with skilled individuals. More instructors are being hired, improved study plans are being developed, and more lab space is being made available. There is more that must be done, however, in three specific areas.

1) Encourage better ‘hygiene’

First, we need to begin educating our youth early, not only in the use of computers, but in cyber security itself. In many cases, learners in middle school and high school are not even aware of basic cyber security precautions, and unintentionally invite viruses into their mobile devices and computers due to a lack of proper cyber “hygiene.”

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October 2017