Congratulations, cyber graduates!

This season millions of students will graduate from a college or university with a degree in their chosen field. This is a great milestone, and each and every one of them is to be congratulated for the fortitude and focus it took to earn their degrees.

So, we congratulate the cyber graduates in finance and fine arts, business and biology, communications and criminology, psychology and political science, history and horticulture. Every one of these career fields now requires a cyber component to excel. If we’re doing education right, cyber needs to be a core component of every course of study. 

You’ve heard by now the RBNs (really big numbers) thrown about regarding the coming skills gap in cyber, with annual shortfall numbers in the millions. While I’ve long been on record as believing that security technology improvements will reduce that number dramatically, there is clearly still a shortfall that needs to be addressed by K-12, two- and four-year schools, dramatically improved apprentice and mentoring programs, specialized visa programs and cyber rotations between public and private institutions. Yes, the cyber skills gap in pure cyber careers is real, but that’s not what this article is about.

The other cyber skills gap is with all of these other classes and majors. Learning about cyber is not just for cyber professionals anymore. Finance is as much about ones and zeros as it is dollars and cents. Just try to do criminology without a thorough understanding of cybercrime and the capabilities of modern law enforcement tools. The same holds for every one of these non-cyber majors mentioned above — cyber is a key to success. And if you didn’t take the time to learn it in the cozy confines of your higher education experience, then it’s time to begin your continuing education right now. The sooner the better. 

Leaning cyber doesn’t mean just knowing how to use some apps on your phone or being slightly more knowledgeable than your parents. It means getting a firm understanding of what is under those apps and inside those clouds. It means knowing what a EULA is (hint: it stands for end user license agreement) and what it means to you before you click. It means understanding how AI will be transforming your job and everyone else’s in the coming years, and how 5G will completely change the way you’ll be communicating. You don’t have to learn to code to understand what’s going on under the covers.   

I work with a non-profit in Augusta, Georgia, that teaches programming to preschoolers, so don’t tell me you can’t learn it. Anyone can, and everyone should. I also work with the White House on National Cybersecurity Moonshot, which also calls out the specific need to improve our collective cyber literacy. 

It may take a cyber version of “Schoolhouse Rock” (I know you’re humming “I’m Just a Bill” right now!) to change some behaviors at a young age. Our institutions of higher learning – as well as the students themselves – also really need to lean into cyber regardless of major. 

Tom Patterson, Chief Trust Officer, Unisys

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