How the public sector can overcome training and skills gaps to combat rising cyber threats

Strengthening the current cybersecurity workforce with knowledgeable employees and implementing new cloud-based programs alongside legacy systems would signific...

For those with careers in the public sector, the growth in remote work has raised new concerns regarding an organization’s ability to maintain ongoing and effective cyber defense. For example, working from home often requires employees to utilize unsecured wireless networks, leaving devices susceptible to data breaches and ransomware attacks.

Vulnerable systems are increasingly becoming more of a target for bad actors who have recently elevated their infiltration capabilities through sophisticated AI and automation tools. Now, attackers can easily access, disrupt, retrieve data, and then leave an organization’s cybersecurity system fully undetected. And in light of current geopolitical events, it’s clear that adversaries will continue to relentlessly attack U.S. cyber infrastructure, underscoring the increasing need for proactive measures.

With more threats and vulnerabilities than ever before, IT departments must be trained for today’s challenges and understand the value of outsourcing additional help from trusted managed service providers (MSP) to improve their overall cybersecurity posture.

Training a new generation of IT experts

Reinforcing an organization’s cyber defenses is no easy feat, especially when most IT departments are understaffed. The demand for knowledgeable cybersecurity experts was already mounting before the pandemic, but in the last year, job openings within the industry have increased nearly a third, with over 600,000 cybersecurity positions remaining unfilled.

Short-staffed IT departments are more susceptible to data breaches and ransomware attacks due to fewer eyes monitoring an organization’s system and less technical expertise. Filling these positions will take time, so organizations struggling to maintain adequate cyber protection should look to partner with an accredited MSP in the interim.

Quality MSPs can provide advanced services while backed by the latest certifications that demonstrate their expertise and trustworthiness. When searching for an MSP, agencies should confirm the provider meets these criteria to ensure data protection and high-quality cybersecurity assistance.

Working with an MSP is extremely beneficial, but internal labor and skill gaps still need to be addressed. Educating the next generation of IT professionals is key, and many are looking to future undergraduate students to fill the cybersecurity skills gap. Tech giants like Microsoft are even working with community colleges across the globe to train prospective IT practitioners. While these efforts are admirable, educational institutions simply cannot produce enough college graduates to accommodate this increasing demand. American veterans, however, are eager to join the cyber workforce.

Reskilling veterans for success in cybersecurity

The U.S. is the proud home to more than 18 million veterans, with roughly 200,000 service members retiring their uniforms every year. Unfortunately, many returning veterans often have difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Finding a job is a critical part of this transition, but many veterans lack the experience needed to fairly compete in the labor market, especially in the cyber/IT sector.

Fortunately, nonprofits now offer cybersecurity training programs catered to former military and their spouses. These programs provide proper training and arm their participants with the internationally-recognized credentials, skills and resources they need to pursue self-sustaining cyber careers. Moreover, these lessons are updated regularly by cyber industry experts to ensure participants pursue the most relevant and in-demand certifications possible. Providing courses that reskill veterans will prevent unemployment for these citizens and help eliminate America’s cyber workforce shortage.

Out with the old, in with the new

Another hurdle is outdated technology. Many organizations are tethered to legacy systems and applications, often making their efforts extremely slow, prone to bugs, and thus, subject to cyberattacks. When organizations continue using outdated computing software and/or hardware, it exposes them to new risks.

While seemingly counterintuitive, organizations continue to use these obsolete systems because they don’t want to endanger the stability of their current applications by switching to a new program. Shifting to modern technologies can be costly and often messy. Many IT professionals have expressed their concerns about tampering with a program that already accomplishes its intended purpose.

Moreover, upgrading an IT infrastructure is tedious, time-consuming, and cannot be accomplished overnight. Thankfully, there are new cloud-based solutions that can easily be integrated alongside legacy systems. As a result, IT professionals should confidently be able to store, manage and process information remotely. All while knowing they are backed by the latest certifications and have access to critical features such as backup, recovery and data protection. Housing these capabilities on a unified cloud platform can make IT management easier and more accessible for everyone.

Looking to the future

Today, the threat of cyber warfare is more present than ever. Therefore, strengthening the current cybersecurity workforce with knowledgeable employees and implementing new cloud-based programs alongside legacy systems would significantly protect the U.S. public sector from looming threats.

Thankfully, the federal government continues to enact new legislation to help facilitate some of these needed changes. Last November, an infrastructure bill was passed, designating billions of dollars in new cyber spending over the next few years. Public agencies rejoiced as this is the biggest government investment in state and local cybersecurity to date. Defining how public organizations can apply for these grants, raising awareness of eligibility, and subsequently addressing these obstacles will go a long way towards safeguarding the US from future cyberattacks.

John Zanni is CEO of Acronis SCS.


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