Most people would never consider going to bed at night without first locking all of their doors and windows, and perhaps even activating a home security system. However, few think much about what is required to protect our nation’s infrastructure from those lurking in the shadows seeking to steal and destroy anything they find unguarded.
Although cyber-terrorism ranks second on the list of threats Americans fear most in the world, many of us assume someone else is protecting our investments, energy, and safety. Unfortunately, this is not the case. With the recent explosion in cyber-attacks around the world it is time that we, as a country, begin to take this threat seriously.
Everyday our society becomes more dependent on technology. The United States has almost three billion internet users. Very few companies could operate successfully without their computer networks and telecommunication systems. In these modern times, there are even refrigerators that connect to the internet. All of this technology makes us an obvious target to cyber attackers seeking profits, classified information, or malicious intent.
Eighty percent of American companies have reported successful cyber-attacks on their data. Cyber hackers seek to exploit weaknesses in a company’s computer network system in an attempt to steal trade secrets and customers’ personal and financial data. In some cases, social protest hackers steal data for the sole purpose of making records public to elicit change or to “out” what they see as an injustice.
Target, Home Depot, Sony, and the U.S. government — including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — are just a few who have fallen victim. China alone has successfully executed over 600 cyber-attacks on American corporations and government agencies. Their hacking efforts have been rewarded with stolen information about our critical infrastructures — specifically, our electric grid, internet, and telecommunications. For a cyber-hacker, the returns are near limitless, and the risks are low. The net cost of cyber-crime is estimated to be more than $445 billion worldwide each year.
The U.S. government is trying to combat this growing threat by increasing its cyber security departments. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cyber security job growth is projected to grow by 37 percent through the year 2022. That’s more than three times the average occupation’s estimated job growth.
Unfortunately, however, the American education system is failing to adequately provide the resources to properly prepare college graduates with the skills they need to answer the demand for cyber security careers. Last year, there were only 42,969 computer science graduates ready to fill the 559,321 jobs posted in related fields. Each year brings an increased interest in computer science-related degrees, but American universities are not keeping up with the demand.
Many universities are simply not placing a priority on cyber security classes. They are not dedicating enough classroom space or experienced faculty to meet the growing need. Some universities do not even offer degrees in cyber security. Of course, however, they never fail to offer degrees in women’s studies and 16th-century French literature.
According to Anthony Carnevale, a director and research professor for Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce:
[W]e have a debate raging in this country right now over whether universities are supposed to teach for enlightenment or to prepare students for the job market.
Last year, approximately 2.8 million students graduated in the United States. Considering that recent grads make up almost 40% of the country’s unemployed, it is obvious that the current education system is not preparing graduates with the skills needed to attain the available jobs on the market. Employers are forced to bridge this growing void of qualified personnel by hiring foreign workers utilizing the high tech, H1B visas.
Many other countries’ technology education systems are leaps and bounds ahead of ours. American students are being left behind because their antiquated education system is failing to prepare them for the future.
If our nation is to remain one of the world’s greatest countries economies, it is vital that we adapt to the ever-changing world around us so that we can, once again, truly compete with the rest of the world.