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Communications of the ACM

Privacy and security

Would Cybersecurity Professionalization Help Address the Cybersecurity Crisis?

 Cybersecurity, illustration

Credit: Gary Neill

The thousands of serious cyber attacks occurring daily highlight the critical need for a workforce with the requisite skillset and of sufficient size to meet growing and increasingly complex demands. Yet despite significant investments in the development of the cybersecurity workforce from governments across the globe, the U.S. and many other nations lack a sufficient supply of well-trained cybersecurity professionals. It is often argued that this workforce shortage, and the consequent openness to attack, is a pressing security threat facing the U.S.1

Despite descriptions of the cybersecurity workforce as a "profession"—meaning a single occupational category—it is not.

Professionalization—activities such as certification, licensure, and skill-based competency exams—has been advanced as a strategy for creating a workforce capable of addressing the growing cybersecurity threat. To explore this argument, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sponsored a National Research Council committee, which we led. What follows are insights largely drawing on the study and although the impetus for asking the question at this moment came from the U.S. government, the issues and analysis would have general applicability. Our key question was: What is the role that professionalization might play in enhancing the capacity and capability of the U.S. national cybersecurity workforce? This question led to a complex mosaic of answers to the cybersecurity workforce issue.


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