Every year since 2004, Congress and the President of the United States have recognized October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month, highlighting the importance of cybersecurity. This year’s theme, “See Yourself in Cyber,” highlights the fact that everyone has a role in protecting critical electronic resources.
As technology evolves over time, the value of our personal and professional digital assets has also risen. Because we depend on those digital assets, more individuals must take an active role in protecting their personal and business cybersecurity.
In addition, the U.S. needs to expand its qualified cyber workforce. To reach this goal, we must ensure certain segments of society are not left out of the push to embrace new and changing technologies.
Closing the Digital Divide in Cybersecurity
The digital divide shows that for a long time, underserved populations have traditionally had lower levels of access to technology and broadband. This lack of access has limited their ability to embrace technology’s benefits.
This access disparity also contributes to the lack of diversity in STEM fields, including cybersecurity. In fact, the World Economic Forum says that the cybersecurity field needs to grow by almost three million individuals globally.
Organizations and nations must push to re-evaluate what cybersecurity is and break the stigma of cybersecurity being a non-inclusive field. If this work does not happen, our ability to protect critical infrastructure will be negatively impacted.
As innovative products, especially those designed for the Internet of Things (IoT), smart homes and smart cities, appear on the market, there will be more privacy risks. As a result, it is essential for individuals and communities to understand these risks and mitigate them.
Cybersecurity roles are constantly evolving and expanding. But ensuring that organizations have a capable cyber workforce who can manage technical risks and also understand privacy and ethical concerns is critical.
Public Interest Technology and Ethics
A growing field, public interest technology, focuses on the ethics of implementing technology. Because today’s software has the ability to capture large amounts of data in smart cities and make decisions about service, it is a concern that large segments of U.S. society are not taking place in this data collection and are excluded from the benefits of gathering it.
For instance, should utility companies or local municipalities have the ability to adjust household smart thermostats for the common good if needed? What if that thermostat control was utilized to reduce the likelihood of a blackout?
When considering the ethics of public interest technology, it will be necessary to consider if that technology and its implementation is contributing to the public good. Expanding cybersecurity teams to include privacy advocates, policy makers, city planners and IoT developers, however, will be beneficial.
Expanding Cybersecurity Training
With cybersecurity’s evolution over the last few decades, we must look harder at what we can do to expand roles in cybersecurity and make it a more inclusive field if we are to have a chance at keeping our critical digital infrastructure secure.
We must also do what we can to protect individuals from cyberbullying and cyberstalking through various social media platforms; this behavior continues to have a devastating impact on youth and adults. We must identify what we can do individually to protect ourselves online and to support victims.
Additionally, expanding cybersecurity training programs to everyone in a community will be helpful. Organizations can ensure their employees have basic cybersecurity skills and can inform others of potential roles. Ultimately, we should all work together to ensure a more cyber aware society.
About the Author
Dr. Kevin Harris is a faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies, teaching classes in cybersecurity, information systems security and information technology. With over 25 years of industry experience, Dr. Harris has protected a variety of organizational infrastructure and data in positions ranging from systems analyst to chief information officer.
His career encompasses diverse experiences both in information technology and academia. His research and passion are in the areas of cybersecurity, bridging the digital divide, and increasing diversity in the tech community. As an academic leader, Dr. Harris instructed students at various types of institutions, including community colleges, HBCUs, public, private, graduate, undergraduate and online. He has trained faculty from multiple institutions in the area of cybersecurity as part of an NSF multistate CSEC grant.