By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Aug. 11, 2023 8:19AM GMT-7
Las Vegas, NV ― Black Hat ― On Thursday, the White House’s acting national cyber director emphasized a crucial point: humans play a vital role in the realm of cyberspace. She also noted the significance of having a robust cyber workforce, adding that the absence of such a workforce poses a significant challenge to the nation’s security.
Kemba Walden, who has been serving as the acting director of the Office of the National Cyber Director since February, recently took the stage as a keynote speaker at the Black Hat USA event. In her address, she spoke to an audience of international security professionals about the groundbreaking National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy (NCWES) released on July 31. This strategy marks a significant milestone as the first of its kind in this domain.
“We found that people are so integral to cyberspace that we had to do a whole separate strategy,” said Walden. “Some hundreds of thousands of cyber jobs are unfilled and that is a national security problem in my mind.”
In a cybersecurity workforce study released by (ISC)2 last year, a concerning trend came to light. The United States is grappling with approximately 411,000 unfilled positions in the cybersecurity sector, signifying a notable 9% surge compared to the previous year. This growing gap between the demand for cybersecurity experts and the available workforce underscores a critical reality. According to insights from CyberSeek, a collaborative effort involving the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Lightcast, and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the ratio between employer demand and the supply of cybersecurity professionals has risen to an average of 69%.
The acting national cyber director stressed the crucial importance of bolstering the workforce by adhering to the four foundational principles of the workforce and education strategy. As outlined in the NCWES, the United States is gearing up to address this challenge through a comprehensive approach. This involves ensuring that the entire population acquires essential cyber skills, reshaping cyber education from an early age, and fortifying both the national and federal cyber workforce.
“It is more than cybersecurity awareness. Making sure that every human has digital literacy skills and computational literacy skills,” remarked Walden. This transformative approach also extends to education itself, with Walden advocating for children to be educated in digital literacy with the same emphasis as reading and mathematical abilities, which are seen as fundamental aspects of basic education.
Furthermore, the director explained the need to make changes aimed at nurturing talented individuals and encouraging them to become integral components of the cybersecurity ecosystem. “Some of my best friends are hackers and they work in the corporate world. Believe it or not, they don’t have college degrees,” said Walden. “They have particular skills you can’t get in any other way but by doing it.”
Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.