US Government declassifies data to foster would‑be defenders

Cyber Security

US Government declassifies cybersecurity subjects they want you to learn about, and is hoping to pay you to learn them

Recent initiatives, in response to a scathing study highlighting the lack of workforce pools capable of helping the country’s digital defenses, see the government releasing information about the areas on its wish list to prime the cybersecurity education pipeline. It can’t tell you everything, but hopes to reveal just enough for prospective students’ and educators’ appetites to pump those subjects into curricula willy-nilly, to boost future tech worker pools.

If you’re interested in the things the government’s most interested in – like AI, software development, software engineering, knowledge management, critical infrastructure or data science – and secretly want to learn more, and if the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Expansion Act bill passes as expected, you just got a big leg up.

Also, since college curricula tend not to age gracefully, the government hopes to keep stoking the fire and paying for the hard work of the curricula’s continual update so students are taught the latest and greatest, citing it as a critical link in the future defense chain.

Nation states have long meddled in education, hoping to stoke students’ imaginations and gently steer them toward a future in digital defense, but the recent NSCAI (National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence) report lit a fire about how dire the situation may become, in the absence of doing something about it now, under US Congress members. Congress reacted, and plans to get out the checkbook.

This week, we were at CYBERWARCON in Washington DC, where lawmakers and technologists imagined various potential futures where malicious foreign actors’ initiatives are thwarted, in a sort of geek-meets-Fed group-think-tank thing, complete with free T-shirts. It sold out some time back, in a curiously weird kind of touchstone of sentiment surrounding the subject.

Here in the US (and presumably with other countries as well), the government highlights the need to dominate the “global information domain“, which it defines to mean “a sphere of strategic competition in which foreign adversaries and nonstate actors create, obtain, fuse, analyze, distort, transfer, exchange, or disseminate information, overtly or covertly, to influence public opinion for national security, geopolitical, or economic purposes.”

I’m not sure the CYBERWARCON folks would have stated it that way, but that’s how they highlighted it in the ‘‘Digital Defense Leadership Act’’ bill also winding its way through Congress.

And that bill is not alone, there is a drove of 18 of them winding their way across the government desks in Washington. In light of current public sentiment, some (or many) will stick. They’re getting serious, or at least seem to be.

My former colleague Stephen Cobb warned about the impending skills gap years ago. I’m not sure we really listened. But Congress appears poised to, and even if it doesn’t get the free T-shirt, it’s definitely listening to what the folks at CYBERWARCON had to say this year.

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