By Rob Rashotte
Research from FortiGuard Labs, revealed that ransomware attacks increased tenfold in 2021. As we look forward to 2022, widespread adoption of remote work and learning precipitated by the pandemic will continue to drive an increase in the number and severity of cyberattacks.
One thing remains very clear, with uncertain timing and changing health measures, the demand for secure remote access isn’t going away. As more organizations adopt a hybrid workforce, the resulting network complexity will require advanced security products and increased IT support.
While high-tech solutions are available, according to an (ISC)2 report, we need nearly three million professionals to fill the global cybersecurity skills gap. It’s a challenge for organizations of all sizes: security teams are stretched thin trying to keep pace with the evolving threat landscape, and can’t find talent to fill critical IT roles.
Because of the sheer number of professionals needed, building a cybersecurity workforce requires collaborative effort by industry, government, and educators to work together to attract, train and retain the talent needed to defend against cyber adversaries today.
Now is an excellent opportunity to speed the growth of the pipeline of potential workers. If there’s one thing the so-called “great resignation” has indicated, it is a shift among workers’ attitudes and thinking. Whether it is because of income stagnation, dissatisfaction, or job security, people are willing to make a career change during a time of significant economic upheaval.
The opportunity lies in our ability to harness this moment to position cybersecurity as the promising career path that it is. Finding the right incentives to attract workers and the training to prepare them for a long-term career in cybersecurity will require global and local cooperation between academia and the public and private sectors.
Committing to the future workforce
As an industry leader, Fortinet was the first cybersecurity company named a founding partner of the World Economic Forum Centre for Cybersecurity. By collaborating with global leaders from the private and public sectors, we play a role in the collective response to the growing cybersecurity threat and contribute to efforts to build the future cybersecurity workforce.
Recently, the Biden Administration called on both sectors to help develop more cybersecurity talent to fight cybercrime. Fortinet answered the call with a pledge to train a million people globally over the next five years.
This commitment will see Fortinet grow its Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) initiatives and Network Security Experts (NSE) Training Institute program. These programs provide cybersecurity training and certifications, career growth resources, and hiring opportunities.
Growing the workforce requires people have barrier-free access to the training they need. Fortinet has worked to make its training accessible to anyone. Since January 2020, over 1.4 million people have taken our cybersecurity training courses through our TAA initiatives. Our entire self-paced catalogue of advanced Network Security Expert training courses was made free starting in 2020. Today, more than 730,000 certifications have been issued and more than one million hours of training have been completed since the pandemic’s start. Through this program, Fortinet is helping people learn new skills, reskill or upskill in cybersecurity.
We’re also keeping existing talent up-to-date with the threat landscape. We recently launched a new OT security course that recognizes critical infrastructure is becoming a popular cyberattack target. Given operational technology (OT) systems often impact people’s health and well-being, we must have skilled security professionals to protect them.
Another way we can close the cybersecurity gap is by attracting under-represented groups. Working with IBM, WiCyS, Salesforce, and the World Economic Forum, our Education Outreach Program leverages partnerships with academia, government, and nonprofits to encourage women, minorities, veterans, and students to explore cybersecurity as a potential career path. Another example of our work is the Fortinet Veterans Program, which helps them transition to cybersecurity career roles.
While our goal is growing the cybersecurity workforce, we also see high demand for end-user training that increases security awareness for all employees. As cyberattacks grow in frequency and impact, cyber-awareness must become part of all organizations’ culture from the top down. Many programs are available that cover the essentials of what employees need to know in order to minimize cyber risk, and some programs, like Fortinet’s Security Awareness and Training service are free. Helping people become cyber aware can go a long way toward easing the workloads of IT teams and potentially spark interest in further study.
Despite the persistent skills gap, the news is not all bad. Cyber solutions are evolving to keep up with cybercriminals. Tools are more sophisticated, using AI and machine learning to help monitor network activities. In addition, cybersecurity mesh platforms are integrating security solutions to improve defense and visibility. They are a powerful complement to the skilled IT teams keeping our networks safe from cybercrime. Ensuring the industry has the people and skills to meet the challenge of escalating cyberattacks is a priority for 2022 and beyond. Fortinet will be there, working to keep our commitments to significantly reduce the cyber skills gap and grow the global cybersecurity workforce.
Rob Rashotte is Vice President of Global Training & Technical Field Enablement at Fortinet.