security-magnifying-glass-mark-eganBusiness leaders in Silicon Valley are all too aware of the shortage of trained cyber security professionals. This shortage stands in direct contrast to the explosion of advanced persistent threats and other vulnerabilities that are on the rise each year.For instance, the number of zero day vulnerabilities discovered in 2015 more than doubled from the previous year (54 total) -- a 125% increase, according to Symantec's 2016 Internet Security Threat Report. Meanwhile, more than 430 million new unique pieces of malware were also discovered in 2015 -- up 36% from the previous year. 

Most organizations don't know how to detect or mitigate attacks that leverage digital channels such as social media and mobile. Most respondents in the study (82%) reported a lack of security talent within their organizations. One in three said this makes them hacking targets, and one in four claimed they have suffered reputational damage and proprietary loss as a direct result of the skills shortage.

It doesn't help that there were more than 200,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in the U.S. in 2015 while the global shortfall is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2019, according to Symantec.

Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents California's 17th Congressional District located in the heart of Silicon Valley, has made it a top priority to address the shortage of trained cyber security professionals, as he shared in this recent clip on C-Span. Rep. Khanna (D-CA) is encouraging decision-makers to take bold and innovative approaches in addressing the cyber skills shortage.

One of the options Rep. Khanna has embraced is the Merritt College Information Security program. Traditional 4-year university programs aren't producing enough candidates to resolve the shortage of skilled cyber security workers in the U.S. However, curriculum such as the Merritt College Information Security program offer would-be employers a viable alternative.

The Merritt cybersecurity program is a fully accredited A.S. degree with majors in Applications and Infrastructure Security. Merritt serves the San Francisco Bay Area East Bay School districts, which include students from less advantaged backgrounds through its partnership with the CISE CIO organization and CIOs / CISOs from leading San Francisco Bay Area companies. 

The Merritt College program develops trained, entry-level security professionals that employers can then further develop internally.

Highlights of the Merritt College program include:

  • A fully accredited Associate of Science degree in information security, with majors in applications and infrastructure security
  • Courses designed and co-taught by security industry experts
  • "Hands-on" labs to develop students' technical security skills
  • Internships with Bay Area companies to work in the information security field while students study for their degree
  • Class projects include forensics of a pharmaceutical organization that suffered a security breach, securing systems on Amazon Web Services, and developing information security strategies

On Friday, March 10, Merritt College and CISE will be holding an event at the college's Oakland, CA campus to showcase its program. Attendees will get a chance to meet students and talk with them first-hand about their training and experience. Rep. Khanna has been confirmed as one of the speakers at the event.  

Please contact to register for event. 

To learn more about best practices in addressing the cyber security skills shortage along with other insights into cyber security leadership strategies, register here for the HMG Strategy 2017 San Francisco CISO Executive Leadership Summit.