Preparing Professionals in Cybersecurity
By Dr. William "Vic" Maconachy, Vice President for Academic Affairs
As industry and government alike present the case for the need for skilled workers in the cybersecurity area, a two-fold question which arises is, “What types of skills, and how many workers do we need?”. Recently, Symantec estimated for the need and places the current vacancy rate in cybersecurity jobs in the USA at 300,000, with the promise that “the demand will likely rise as the private sector faces unprecedented numbers of data breaches and cybersecurity threats.”
So where does America turn for cybersecurity-prepared workers? One answer is our great American higher education system. Here, at Capitol, we share the distinction, along with 165 other colleges, of being a NSA/DHS Designated National Center of Excellence In information Assurance. Our program addresses the workforce shortage by providing cybersecurity-prepared personnel at the Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral level. We are one of a handful of such full spectrum degree programs in the USA. However, the issue of producing a professional cybersecurity workforce for the USA goes way beyond cybersecurity-focused degrees. In a recent report on critical infrastructures, Dan Verton noted that:
The demand and the shortfall may be larger than anybody ever imagined if you consider the size and scope of the nation’s critical infrastructure. There are more than 300,000 manufacturing plants in the U.S., 50,000 water utilities, thousands of electric utilities, 200 natural gas utilities controlling 2.4 million miles of distribution pipes, 28,000 food processing plants, 100 urban rail systems and 140,000 miles of freight rail tracks — and that’s just a small portion of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
All of these infrastructure sectors are powered by computers and networks known as industrial control systems, which require unique skills and knowledge to keep secure. But training and educating enough cybersecurity professionals to protect such a massive network of systems may prove impossible.
Thus, at Capitol, our preparing the next generation goes far beyond just the Cybersecurity curriculum. In Astronautical Engineering (AE) we offer a joint course in AE and Cybersecurity taught by professors from both departments. We offer an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in the Management of Cyber and Information Technology. In the Information Technology Lab, Professor Mehri is assembling and teaching the vulnerabilities and fixes to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. In our Computer Science Department we teach secure computing as a part of many programming courses. In taking this approach we fulfil the challenge set forth in a 2014 study by the National Research Council of the National Academies which found that, “The cybersecurity workforce encompasses a variety of contexts, roles and occupations, and is too broad and diverse to be treated as a single occupation or profession.” In that context we believe we are fulfilling the industrial and government needs in the emerging cybersecurity workforce for the USA.
 State and Local Governments Hustle to Fill the Cybersecurity Workforce Gap. As found in Government Technology, October 3, 2014. http://www.govtech.com/security/Cybersecurity-Workforce-Gap.html
 Verton, Dan. New Concerns About Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage in Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Found in FEDSCOOP. June, 26, 2014. http://fedscoop.com/cybersecurity-workforce-shortage-impacting-critical-...