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More millennials needed to fill cyber jobs as threat increases

While millennials are aware of the dangers and threats online, many of them still do not follow safe cybersecurity practices.

“Alexa, what do young adults know about cybersecurity?”

Our digital assistant didn't know the answer, even though its own future depends upon it.

As the numbers of smart devices and cyberattacks continue to rise, businesses and governments face a problem: an estimated 1.8 million cybersecurity jobs that will go unfilled over the next five years. Young adults, who grew up with keyboards and game controllers in hand, are being looked to for the answer.

To better understand this potential talent pool, Raytheon and Forcepoint, in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance, conducted a survey called Securing Our Future: Cybersecurity and the Millennial Workforce. The survey involved more than 3,000 adults, aged 18 to 26, in nine countries.

“Our core message is that the internet is a shared resource, and securing it is our shared global responsibility,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. “Throughout National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October, we’re highlighting a number of issues, such as career opportunities and workforce development, that are crucial to the safety of our online future."

This year’s survey showed a tech-savvy generation that has become more aware of the field, with 52 percent of respondents saying they knew the typical range of responsibilities in the profession, up 15 percent from 2014. Unfortunately, the number who said they were more likely than a year ago to choose cyber as a career (39 percent) hasn’t changed much over that same period.

Awareness about cybersecurity also rose, but again, that knowledge doesn’t translate well to real-life practice. About 76 percent said they connected to public Wi-Fi, but nearly the same amount admitted responsibility for keeping themselves safe online. The contradiction between knowledge and practice is important for businesses to understand as millennials fill cyber and noncyber roles alike.

“In many ways, this group is a study in contrasts, which also creates security challenges for today’s workplace with the evaporating line between personal and work device use,” said Carolyn Ford, director of global governments for Forcepoint. “One of the trends we found interesting was the seemingly higher-risk behaviors with less concern for the consequences that millennials engage in today versus five years ago.”

Role models, including parents, teachers and cyber professionals, were shown to hold influence over the career choices of young adults. The education system showed improvement when it comes to informing students about cyber. There remains a gender gap, with women continuing to say they run into more hardships and fewer opportunities than their male counterparts.

Further highlighting the importance of filling the job gap, the dominant share (43 percent) of survey respondents said they thought cyberattacks influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It’s a reminder that a safe online world is important for everyone.

“In three years, the millennial generation will make up half of the workforce,” said Valecia Maclin, Raytheon director of cybersecurity programs. “That deadline means we had better understand their attitudes toward cybersecurity if we want to create the workforce necessary to protect our infrastructure and way of life.”

Last Updated: 10/23/2017

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