Our computer networks are constantly under attack from China, Russia, North Korea and other countries, and the lack of defense of them could be devastating. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in 2012, warned that we are open to a “cyber Pearl Harbor” and Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn protecting our computer networks is “just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.” It is long past due that our federal government, in the interest of protecting national security, undertake a policy to dramatically upgrade computer education in our schools.
Cyber attack threaten commercial computer networks as well as government networks. Just in one day, a “glitch” was blamed for causing the suspension of trading on the New York Stock Exchange for nearly four hours, the grounding of all United Airlines flights, and the malfunction of the Wall Street Journal’s web site.
There have been about 750 “control system cyber events,” which included both malicious attacks and non-malicious incidents, that have effected many major industries. Of those incidents, at least 50 of them caused about 1,000 deaths and a cost of about $40 billion, Joseph Weiss reported in writing for The Daily Beast.
While he believes we will need between 20,000 to 30,000 individuals trained in cyber security, James Gosler, one of America’s top cyber security experts, says the United States only has about 1,000 such trained experts right now. While the number is expected to grow by more than 74 percent over the next five years, according to a Peninsula Press analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 209,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in the United States.
“The number of jobs in information security is going to grow tenfold in the next 10 years,” said Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe, director of the Jay Pinson STEM Education Center at San Jose State University, which mentors youth to enter and excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. “We have to do much more if we want to meet that demand, at the university level as well as K-12.”
Due to a lack of interest on the part of students to study computer education, our schools and universities are producing far too few experts in cyber security. The waning domestic interest in technology is happening at a time when salaries in those fields are booming. High-tech jobs pay 73 percent more than the average private-sector wage in the United States.
“Computer programmers are in great demand by American businesses, across the tech sector, banking, entertainment, you name it. These are some of the highest-paying jobs, but there are not enough graduates to fill these opportunities,” Sen. Marco Rubio said.
The pace of computer science students graduating falls far short of the need for them. According to Code.org, “Only 29 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation. There are currently 559,321 open computing jobs nationwide. Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.”
Many students go through their k-12 education spending very little time learning about computers, which is astounding given how much government, industry, and individuals rely on the use of computer technology. Computer science is the only part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum that has declined in the last 20 years, “from 25% of high school students to only 19%, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.”
Our national security is at stake, and protecting our computer networks will only become a much larger responsibility of our federal government. The coming increased demand for cyber security experts means our colleges and universities will have to graduate more computer science students with expertise in cyber security. Our public schools, at the k-12 level, must inspire more students to take interest in studying computer science. Protecting our computer networks from more and increasingly sophisticated attacks will depend on it.