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As companies brace for cyberattacks from Russia, specialists are in short supply

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A woman working on a tablet examines a rack of servers in a data center.

Though the U.S. has added more than 250,000 cybersecurity professionals in the past year, there's still a shortage of workers. EvgeniyShkolenko

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Cybersecurity watchers around the world have been on high alert as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.

Cyberattacks from Russia have so far played only a minor role, but security experts have warned those attacks could intensify, including against targets in the U.S. Although the federal government and many companies have moved to beef up cybersecurity in recent years, there’s still a big gap in this workforce.

The good news is that the U.S. added more than 250,000 people to the cybersecurity workforce between 2020 and 2021.

The bad news? “The need for cybersecurity professionals increased by 30% in 2021,” said Clar Rosso, CEO of the nonprofit cybersecurity association (ISC)².

That leaves about 400,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., according to an (ISC)² report. “In any period of time, this is concerning. It is especially concerning now,” Rosso said.

International business services firm Accenture currently has hundreds of openings in cybersecurity, said Ryan LaSalle, who leads the North America practice for Accenture Security.

“There are more jobs out there than there are people qualified to take them,” he said.

People have traditionally come to the industry through computer science and information technology, which narrows the pipeline too much, LaSalle said.

“So we look really hard at upskilling and reskilling. How do we bring people from other adjacent areas and make them great security professionals?” he said. “We love anthropologists, we love social scientists, we love criminologists.”

Accenture runs an apprenticeship program that recruits and trains early career workers, many without college degrees. The company has also helped high schools create curricula to attract young people to the profession.

But expanding the pipeline will take more than just a company-by-company approach, according to Max Stier, founding partner and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

“Much of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector,” he said. “The government, the federal government, however, has a critical role in quarterbacking their response and preparedness.”

Stier suggests something like the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, a scholarship for service model, to get people into cybersecurity.

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