If you have ever opened email that turned out to be spam, you know about the importance of information security. But hacking is a threat to more than just personal passwords. It puts at risk Social Security numbers, bank accounts and even the functionality of the U.S. military. Yet agencies charged with protecting sensitive information are ill-prepared for the human and automated hackers that troll the Internet for vulnerable bits of information.
In the fight to keep information safe, we need more good guys — skilled professionals protecting the information that their counterparts are trying to steal. The good news is that, in a battered economy, there is a surplus of jobs in the field of cyber security. The U.S. government needs 10,000 experts in information security in the near future, and the private sector needs four times as many, according to one estimate published by the news website Mashable.
This should be a dream come true for advocates of more students in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Working in cyber security requires a STEM education and offers quick employment, job security and a sense of civil service to boot. Gov. Rick Scott, lawmakers and school administrators should promote the prospect of employment in cyber security as one incentive for students to enter STEM and schools to enhance their offerings. Working to protect your fellow citizens' sensitive information shouldn't be a hard sell, but it can be when the best and brightest computer science experts are courted by Google, tech start-ups or become hackers themselves.
The Internet can only be a true public good when the institutions that use it protect their customers' information. And, as any glance at your spam folder will tell you, that is becoming more difficult every day.