Tag Archives: cybersecurity

Filling the Cybersecurity Talent Pool

I seem to see a new article weekly raising the alarm about the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs. A 2015 report from (ISC)2 projects the shortfall to rise to 1.5 million worldwide by 2020. A recent Harvard Business Review article highlighted the gap in the number of skilled cybersecurity professionals and offered some insight into how we can bridge that gap through educational programs and by hiring non-traditional employees. My aim with this post is to start a dialogue on creative ways to attract fresh minds and new faces to the field.


First of all, what traits are most desired in a security professional? I would submit that a strong sense of curiosity is important. Those creating hacks and spreading malware are certainly curious about how much trouble they can cause so it stands to reason that those tasked with detecting intrusions should also be curious. The next question is are people born curious or can it be learned? The authors of a 2015 Fast Company article suggest that we are all born curious but many lose their sense of curiosity, and it can be regained through discipline.

It is also important to have a keen sense of patterns. I believe that everyone seeks out patterns in order to make sense of chaos but some have an innate sense of irregularities that others cannot see. As pointed out in the Harvard Business Review article, machine learning is augmenting that pattern searching and discovery but it will still take human intelligence to find security anomalies.


In order to train and retain more cybersecurity professionals we are going to have to change our thinking on where they come from. They don’t necessarily all come with a four year computer science degree in their pocket. Some do have that credential to be sure and they excel in the field, but we are going to have to cast a wider net in order to fill the gap. When I think of the traits of curiosity and pattern recognition I think of trained musicians. Is it possible that someone could be a security expert during the day and a musician at night or vice versa? Do we need to look closer at how we match up hobbies and vocations? Can the lines be blurred between the two?

Harvard offers an eight week introductory online course in cybersecurity through HarvardX. This is one of several online courses that allow a prospective professional to test the waters. This is a great way to match up potential security enthusiasts with information on the field. A graduate of this course may decide to go on and take advanced courses either online or at a nearby college training center. This will hopefully lead to certifications and a job offer in the field. As employers facing a skills shortage, it is important to be flexible in who we seek and how we view their academic and professional background. Perhaps expanded internships are in order for the right candidate.


These ideas can apply to other fields facing employee shortages but I think it is important to stay flexible on who we view as potential hires. If we continue to look at a narrow pool of candidates this gap is only going to grow. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Cybersecurity: After Ashley, Sony, and Target

Abstract image of padlock against blue tech background.There have been several high profile cyber attacks over the last two years, some for financial gain, some out of malice, and some from hacktivists trying to right what they see as moral wrongs. Has anything changed since these security breaches? Do we take security more seriously now? Do company leaders pay more attention to technology and security?

Grey Hat Hacktivism

I wrote about grey hat hacktivism after the breach of the Ashley Madison website. Hackers threatened to publish the names of Ashley Madison members unless the site was taken down. They did this under the guise of moral outrage that the website was encouraging and enabling adultery by matching members. The hackers later published a few of the names, and then the full list. Whether the full list was published purposefully or accidentally is still unclear.

While the hack and the revelation of member names has interrupted many lives, Ashley Madison and its parent company, Avid Life Media, are still operating as usual. The CEO resigned last year after the breach, but the company states it “continues to have strong fundamentals with tens of thousands of new members joining AshleyMadison.com every week.” If the company claims are true then the hackers did not succeed in their objective. Hopefully it has caused people to be more careful about their own security and dealings on the internet. There is no evidence that Ashley Madison has changed its security policy to prevent future hacks.

Right on Target

In December 2013, Target was breached and 40 million debit and credit card accounts were exposed. In the aftermath, Target hired cybersecurity experts to probe the network and they found that once inside, hackers had access to every single cash register in every store. Target has taken steps to ensure this particular breach will not be repeated. It is thought that the initial entry came through a heating and air conditioning contractor who had a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel into Verizon for the purposes of exchanging contracts and work orders. Once the contractor was breached, the hackers had access to Verizon through the VPN and once in Verizon, they could go out to the point of sales systems to collect customer information. Even one weak link can cause incredible damage.

It is not clear how much customer information was actually used or sold but Target suffered, at least temporarily. Short-term earnings were down after customers lost confidence in the company. The CEO and CIO both resigned over the incident and Target has since worked to examine every aspect of their network for possible security holes. In short, security is serious business now, even at the highest levels.

Sony Hack

In November 2014, hackers breached the Sony Studios network and made public information about personnel, including salaries, unreleased films, and e-mail correspondence between Sony employees. They demanded that the upcoming movie, “The Interview” not be released. The movie was a spoof about North Korea, which led to the conjecture that the North Koreans were behind the hack. I will go on record as saying that I believe that the hack was an inside job, either by disgruntled employees or perhaps even orchestrated by the company to create publicity around a potentially bad movie. In any case, the movie was not released to theaters right away and Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal was fired. It is not clear what Sony has done to shore up their defenses from further attacks but this is a case where limited and targeted inside information was exposed instead of customer information.


These are just three of the recent high profile attacks perpetrated for financial gain, moral outrage or embarrassment. High-level executives lost their positions and organizations lost credibility in the eyes of customers. Here are three take away messages for me:

  1. Security does matter and it should matter in the highest levels of an organization. In the old days, the shop proprietor locked the front door when she went home at night, but it is not that simple anymore. With the increase in cloud computing and storage, there are a lot more doors to secure. It is complex and it is important.
  2. Organizations need to evaluate their security threats from both the outside and the inside. Employees know the systems and networks better than hackers. Are they with you or against you? How do you know?
  3. Security matters to each individual. We need to be diligent about our own digital presence and tracks on the Internet. Are your transactions secure? Are you using solid passwords? Are you encrypting your personal information when necessary? We all have a personal responsibility in that regard.

Those are my thoughts. Let me know what you think.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.