Cybersecurity is Key to Securing Our Future

Phishing attacks, ransomware, malware…with the prevalence of data breaches and security threats and new risks posed by remote work, cybersecurity has never been more important.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month — the perfect time to highlight this growing and essential field. Founded in 2004 by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity Awareness Month seeks to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and provide resources to increase online safety and security.

Today’s Threats

The image of a lone hacker in a hoodie typing in the dark is not only outdated, but it fails to convey the scale of influence cybersecurity plays in our modern society. Increased regulations and the complexity of mitigating risks are resulting in more investment in cybersecurity. In fact, the global information security market is projected to reach $170.4 billion in 2022.

Why is cybersecurity essential to our future? Here are three examples.

· Jobs: Over the next decade, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 33% in this field — that’s approximately 16,300 job openings each year. This trend highlights the challenges posed by an enormous skills gap, but it also provides a tremendous opportunity for graduates of the future to pursue meaningful careers. It will be essential to fill these new positions with skilled, knowledgeable professionals to meet this demand.

· Public welfare: Cybersecurity is critical to ensuring stable infrastructure and community services. In December 2015, a strategic and sophisticated attack brought down Ukraine’s power grid, causing widespread power outages. Attacks like this can disable critical functions such as our energy supply, drinking water and food sources or hospital systems. They can also erode public trust in governments and other institutions.

· Sustainability: Cybersecurity is just as important to building a better world as fighting climate change. We may not think of cybersecurity in relation to sustainability, but security breaches can have a negative effect on our environment. Think about critical services such as wastewater treatment, oil and gas pipelines or the management of hazardous materials. A security breach in any of these areas could result in a large pollution event or other environmental disaster. We also need a robust and sustainable cyberinfrastructure to support our global economy and the millions of electronic transactions that occur every day.

Assuring Confidence in the Cyberprofessionals of Tomorrow

Today, ABET accredits a total of 4,361 programs at 850 colleges and universities in 41 countries and areas around the world. These include the first two associate cybersecurity programs to receive ABET accreditation.

ABET has been focused on cybersecurity education since 2016. In 2018, we announced the approval of our first program-specific criteria for cybersecurity at the baccalaureate level. Programs at the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, Towson University and Southeast Missouri State University were the first to earn the distinction of ABET accreditation.

Now, we’ve reached another milestone, as the first two associate cybersecurity programs — at Anne Arundel Community College, Maryland, and Lord Fairfax Community College, Virginia — have been accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET.

As institutions continue to devote resources to cybersecurity programs, they can look to ABET accreditation to assure confidence that these programs meet quality standards that produce graduates equipped to enter the workforce.

If you’re interested in learning more about cybersecurity workforce challenges and tools, training and education resources, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies offers this list of information.

Executive Director & CEO of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in the STEM disciplines.