By David E. Hubler
Despite the continuing spread of the new Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Americans are increasingly returning to long-vacated offices, plants and service facilities; Others are seeking new challenges and new careers. Cybersecurity is one career field that has steadily sought workers even before the pandemic began in 2019 because governments at all levels face unprecedented hacking attacks and threats.
Cyberseek reports more than 36,000 public-sector cyber job openings at the national level. And a “very low” supply/demand ratio of 1:7.
Blistering Senate Report in 2019 Found Dangerous Cybersecurity Lapses at Eight Government Agencies
As Joseph Marks reports Tuesday in The Washington Post’s Cybersecurity 202: “A blistering Senate report in 2019 found dangerous cybersecurity lapses at eight government agencies, including unpatched computer bugs and citizens’ personal information left vulnerable to hacking.”
In 2019, Nextgov Managing Editor Heather Kuldell reviewed the original report on the 10 “Most Critical Legacy Systems in Need of Modernization,” which cost taxpayers $337 million each year.
At the time the oldest of the 10 was 51 years old (Treasury Department) and the newest was 17 years old (Small Business Administration).
As an example, Kuldell cited the Defense Department’s 14-year-old Air Force “System 1,” to support the wartime readiness of aircraft. The program runs on COBOL on a mainframe hosted by another agency.
“Two years later, things are barely any better,” Marks says.
Seven of the Eight Agencies Made Only Minimal Improvements during the Past Two Years
“A 2021 update released this morning by the Senate Homeland Security Committee found seven of the eight agencies had made only minimal improvements during the past two years. “Only the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the government’s lead cybersecurity agency, is doing substantially better,” he reports.
The updated report includes a “report card” on agencies’ cybersecurity readiness based on numerical scores from their inspectors general. “It is riddled with C’s and D’s,” Marks notes. “They paint a picture of a government that, despite years of warning shots, is ill-prepared to withstand hacks from Russia, China and elsewhere.”
Dearth of Cyber Workers Is Making It Harder to Protect Government Data from Being Stolen
In a previous column Marks explained that the “dearth of cyber workers is making it harder to protect government data from being stolen by adversaries and diminishing its ability to help improve cybersecurity in industries vital to national and economic security.”
“It also worsens the dangers posed by the government’s notoriously outdated technology systems,” he added.
DHS Announces Largest Cybersecurity Hiring Initiative in its History
On July 1, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department’s “largest cybersecurity hiring initiative in its history,” hiring about 300 cybersecurity professionals and offering positions to another 500 applicants between May and July.
“As cybersecurity threats to our communities continue to rise, we must recruit and retain diverse top talent to defend against today’s threats and build a more resilient future,” Mayorkas said.
“DHS is dedicating significant energy toward exceeding our cybersecurity hiring goal by recruiting talented experts, investing in diverse talent pipelines, and ensuring equitable access to professional development opportunities at every level,” he added. By DHS’s calculations, there are about 1,700 more cybersecurity vacancies it needs to fill.