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Let's Come at the Cybersecurity Skills Gap from a New Angle

By Special Guest
Aidan McCauley, VP, Technology Investments, IDA Ireland
July 03, 2019

Chess players know the satisfaction of solving a skills gap. Succeed in advancing a pawn completely across the board and it can become a queen, bishop, rook, or knight. The player now has a piece with more ways, more angles, to come at opposing pieces.

One skills shortage problem in the larger world is the lack of individuals trained to thwart cybercriminals’ malicious actions. The size of the shortage is daunting. Worldwide over the next five to seven years, businesses could find themselves unable to staff north of three million positions for cybersecurity professionals.

In the United States the cybersecurity professionals shortage is an equal opportunity problem, with firms in every part of the country experiencing some degree of talent shortfall. Comparisons to chess notwithstanding, this is no game, although it can seem that cybercriminals are continuing to make the world their playground with impunity. For example, security firm CyberSecurity Ventures says that 2021 will see costs from cybercrime jump by $3 trillion from 2015. And just a few of the concerns that the December 2018 McAfee Labs Threats Report notes are underground forums role in pumping up cybercriminals’ effectiveness, the emergence of new malware families, and the rise of IoT malware 200% over the previous year.

What’s at Stake
The cybercrime problem can rob us of, or slow progress toward, solutions that include preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases by using the data medical wearables gather. Or hinder real-time data collection that can let factories change when and how machines are used in order to cut power consumption, aiding sustainability.

Industry and government alike have a vital interest in defending against actions that hurt our ability to lengthen patients’ lives, create environmental sustainability, and keep us reliably connected with one another—to name just a fraction of what a secure cyberworld enables.

Despite this common interest, one could argue that fighting cybercrime has been well-intentioned, with noteworthy gains from both business- and government-led efforts, but nevertheless not as powerful as needed.

So why not use every move available to us, including that of bringing industry, cybersecurity agencies, the government, researchers, and academia together? Cyber Ireland has been inaugurated to make that move. It is a cluster organization set firmly upon, among other pillars, the recognition of coordinated efforts’ multiplied worth when it comes to massive problems. Top U.S. tech firms — like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Dell, SAP, Cisco and others with a strong vested interest in digital security — located in Ireland helped lay the groundwork for this expansive cybersecurity initiative. The foreign direct investment agency IDA Ireland and Cork Institute of Technology created Cyber Ireland, Representatives from cybersecurity agencies, government, industry and academia make up its board. Dr. Eoin Byrne, cluster manager of Cyber Ireland, rejects the idea that the organization’s objectives extend only to filling the cybersecurity skills shortfall. It’s not only that we can address issues that the industry currently faces and will face beyond just security, it’s also that we have the advantage of building upon U.S. businesses, Irish government, and academia already having put their heads together as far back as April 2017 to understand the key challenges for the cyber security and technology sector,” Byrne says.

Virtuous Cycle
Another plus for Cyber Ireland? It launches at the same time that those who are part of the region’s supportive cybersecurity ecosystem are finding that the ecosystem’s growth is bringing benefits that in turn lead to more growth and more benefits—a virtuous cycle. For example, the “pure-play” security companies, e.g., McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, have added core engineering to locations in Ireland, representing expansion beyond support and shared services. More evidence that companies are confident that cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions can be fostered here: Galway is the site of the HP Enterprise Global Cyber Defense Center; In 2016, Docusign opened its Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence in Dublin to protect its customers’ data and privacy.

Also fueling this thriving ecosystem are the cybersecurity professionals being trained by the well-funded Cybersecurity Skills Initiative (CSI). Like Cyber Ireland, CSI has at its core goals which were set and/or clarified during the above-mentioned collaboration among academia, U.S. firms, and the Irish government. CSI-graduated cybersecurity professionals will within three years be employed by multinationals in Ireland, and by other businesses as well, although it is expected that multinational firms will have the majority of the hires. Trained graduates are already part of the cybersecurity workforce, and the number of graduates in three years will be around the 5,000 mark, while the number of participating firms is planned at 4,000 firms.

Engaging closely with their counterparts at Skillnet, Ireland’s corporate-government training partnership, CSI educators have designed a cybersecurity skills curriculum. In doing so these educators relied for core content on input from U.S. companies as to what’s needed to assure successfully trained professionals. IT professionals being trained by CSI can participate in cross- and up-training. Programs come in several varieties including 12-week courses, graduate programs, and two-day foundational courses for non-technical employees.

At the same time that CSI is training the individuals who will devise the strategies vital to ongoing cybersecurity, Cyber Ireland will be aggressively pursuing an important goal: seeing to it that resources and knowledge flow freely among R&D in academia, business enterprises, and cybersecurity agencies.

Taking a new angle on cybersecurity with innovative and collaborative action is making the right move.

About the author: Aidan McCauley is Vice President of Technology Investments at IDA Ireland to contact him email: [email protected].

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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