The importance of cyber self-defense education

As recent headlines have highlighted, one thing is clear; there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in the world of cybersecurity. Whether it is companies being breached or personal data being offered to the highest bidder, it is an incredibly challenging job to keep everyone safe online. In order to protect the online world, it is vital that not only are we creating technology and software that can prevent these attacks, but also making investments to help educate individuals on the cybersecurity landscape. So as cybersecurity professionals, should we be doing more and how are tomorrow’s generation making sure they are staying one step ahead?

Only recently, it was reported that cybersecurity firms were facing a chronic shortage of qualified staff. One organisation commented that the pipeline of security talent isn’t where it needed to be and that until the problem was rectified and the quality of education improved, cybersecurity positions would continue to be unfilled. As far back as 2015, Frost & Sullivan forecast a shortfall of 1.5 million would be experienced by 2020, with more recent predictions by Cybersecurity Ventures claiming that figure could be closer to 3.5 million by 2021. The danger of having such a chronic shortfall in cybersecurity professionals is the risk it poses to not just businesses, but individuals as well. As we become more and more reliant on our connected devices, the more exposed and ultimately at risk we are of being targeted by cybercriminals.

Along with the need to upskill at a professional level, improving education much earlier will also help narrow the skills gap. With 12 to 15 year olds spending over 20 hours a week online, it is imperative we find a way to not only educate but also to nurture cyber skills. We need to be encouraging children to explore the digital world and teach themselves the broader cybersecurity skill set that is required in today’s connected world.

Despite this much-publicised shortfall in cybersecurity professionals, is there any hope or are are we going to be considering cybersecurity a career of yesteryear in a few years? If the most recent A-Level results are anything to go by, absolutely not! Whilst there are still some obvious concerns about filling cybersecurity roles, the increase in popularity of Maths and Further Maths at A Levels by nearly 25% since 2010 bodes very well for narrowing that skills gap. As cybersecurity is linked so closely to STEM subjects, the increase in popularity of Maths is incredibly encouraging to see.

With a solid understanding of STEM subjects, students seeking a career in cybersecurity are well equipped to deal with fast-evolving security threats and being able to adapt a dynamic environment but the help needs to start early. Whether it’s support from the Government through to scholarships and internships to teaching young children about how to behave online, we must help individuals today to secure the world of tomorrow, and with the number of cybersecurity jobs in the UK increasing at nearly 20% a year, there is no better time to enter the exciting world of cybersecurity.

To keep up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity news, take a look at the McAfee Security blog here.

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