GUEST COLUMN:

Our country depends on cybersecurity

Imagine having a home safe with all of your family’s valuables in it: jewelry, birth certificates, financial records, irreplaceable family photo albums. Now imagine leaving the safe door wide open so that the protections are rendered useless and the security mechanism is left ineffective. That is exactly what we are doing with our personal, business, and government’s cybersecurity infrastructure all across our nation: We’re leaving the safe door wide open.

According to data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, since 2006, the United States has fallen victim to more than 100 significant cyber incidents. These include “attacks on government agencies, defense and high tech companies, or economic crimes with losses of more than a million dollars.” This figure is even more startling when considering that in this timeframe, the U.S. has experienced more cyberattacks than any other nation, and more than India, China and the United Kingdom combined. Equally alarming, the Identity Theft Resource Center reports 10,000-plus data breaches since January 2005, exposing over 1.4 billion records.

Our country’s cybersecurity industry is startlingly lacking when it comes to adequate resources and trained workforce. In fact, an ISACA report this year on the state of the nation’s cybersecurity found that nearly 70% of cybersecurity teams say they are understaffed, and that the budget for cybersecurity growth is slowing across the industry. In addition, candidates applying for cybersecurity jobs haven’t been able to learn the skills they need to be successful, with only 29% of employers saying that job candidates are qualified for the positions for which they are applying.

According to CyberSeek, an interactive cybersecurity jobs heat map funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, there are more than 300,000 cybersecurity job openings nationwide, including about 2,000 in Nevada. The supply of qualified cybersecurity workers is low, both nationwide and statewide.

We’ve all heard the news stories of cyberattacks against Facebook, Equifax and even our election system, but it’s not just big businesses and government at risk. Cybersecurity is an issue that’s become increasingly important for the success of small businesses, as attacks can be particularly devastating to them.

Hackers use sophisticated methods to breach systems, and they are increasingly targeting small businesses, leaving employers, employees, customers and our economy at risk.

In fact, according to the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small companies that experience a cyberattack go out of business within six months. We need to ensure they have the tools and trained workers needed to prevent a disastrous attack.

It’s time we made a change, and that’s why we introduced the Cyber Ready Workforce Act in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

The act — bipartisan legislation introduced with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. and Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; and Denver Riggleman, R-Va. — would establish a grant program to support the creation, implementation and expansion of apprenticeship programs in cybersecurity. These apprenticeships would help provide greater opportunities for people to pursue cybersecurity through structured on-the-job training and technical education, helping to bring in a larger, better-educated workforce. Cyber professionals need education and hands-on experience to be prepared for 21st century careers — the classroom alone cannot provide the knowledge necessary for a field where threats change every day.

We must take swift action to address the shortage in our cybersecurity workforce and meet the demands of this growing industry that creates good-paying jobs in Nevada and across the country.

We are taking this step to help educate and train the next generation of employees in the field, and to help ensure our economy and national security are protected now and in the future.

We will continue to develop forward-thinking solutions to provide businesses, communities and government with the cybersecurity they need, and we will ensure that our career and technical education system trains a skilled workforce to keep us all safe from cyberattacks.

Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee, both Democrats, were elected in November to represent Nevada in Washington, D.C.