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From Ransomware Used To Hack School Districts & Municipalities Around Capital Region, To Cyber-Criminals Breaking Into Equifax & Exposing Personal Info Of Over 100M Americans, Cyber-Attacks Have Become Too Common An Occurrence 

At The Future Site Of UAlbany’s College Of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security And Cybersecurity, Schumer Calls For Nation’s First Program To Equip & Train Future Cybersecurity Workforce At UAlbany

Schumer: Cyber Pilot Program Would Be A Win-Win-Win For Universities Like UAlbany, Local Community Colleges, Students, Privacy & Security In The US

In a visit to the University at Albany, which is currently constructing the brand new ETEC building, which will house the university’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC), U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today sounded the alarm on America’s profound shortage of cybersecurity workers, and initiated a plan to boost the Capital Region’s cybersecurity workforce, which requires training to achieve specific skills.

Schumer explained, that in recent years, the nation has seen a spike in cyber-attacks that have targeted American elections, as well as major employers like Equifax, leading to the exposure of the personal information, including social security numbers, of over 100 million people. Many municipalities and school districts have also been victimized by costly and disruptive hacks, ransomware and more. Furthermore, studies have indicated a need for 1.8 million new, cybersecurity experts worldwide by 2022, to fill hundreds of thousands of jobs annually. Therefore, Schumer announced a major push for the creation of a cyber-education pilot program, which would provide funding to educational institutions, such as the UAlbany and New York’s community colleges, to train the next generation of highly-equipped cybersecurity experts, as well as prepare students to get and keep good-paying jobs in the tech industry.

“Across the country, dealing with hacking and cyber-crime targeting our schools, local governments, businesses and more, expose personal and private information and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover from has become a negative part of our everyday life. This, coupled with the serious shortage of trained professionals in the emerging field of cybersecurity, means that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands,” said Senator Schumer. “Right this second, there are hundreds of thousands of open, good-paying cybersecurity jobs; so it’s a problem we should be able to get sorted out. To do this, I’m pushing for an educational pilot program that will provide funding to educational institutions, from 4-year universities like UAlbany, that have a brand new state of the art college, College Of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security And Cybersecurity, to community colleges like those in the SUNY system, to increase our cyber workforce, to reduce our vulnerability to hacking and ensure that students have the skills needed to get and keep these good-paying jobs. It would be a win-win-win for our students, schools and privacy and security in the United States, and I’m going hack away until it becomes a reality.”

In showing the prevalence of hacking and need to boost the cybersecurity workforce in the Capital Region and across Upstate, Schumer pointed to a recent hack of the City of Albany. This March, according to reports, the City of Albany was plagued by malicious ransomware, with departments across the city losing access to their operating systems. Schumer said the attack on the city also impacted other municipal systems, with locals unable to receive documentation like birth certificates, death certificates and marriage licenses for days. All in all, according to news reports, the hack cost the City of Albany roughly $300,000 to recover from. Schumer explained that this attack is but one example of hackers targeting schools and other public entities across Upstate New York in recent times.

Schumer also referenced the major breach of Equifax as proof of the need to get more cybersecurity experts on the job. On July 29, 2017, Equifax publicly acknowledged that it had been victimized by hackers. The hack, which is reportedly the largest in history, led to the exposure of the personal and private information of roughly 150 million people. This includes sensitive documentation such as social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and even addresses. The hack resulted in Equifax paying out a $700 million settlement fee, the costliest ever for a data breach.

Lastly, Schumer pointed to the relentless and ongoing efforts of foreign adversaries, such as Russia, to meddle in American elections through hacking as a need to increase the cyber workforce. For example, this July in testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections,” continuing, “My view is that until they stop they haven’t been deterred enough.” Additionally, former Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, in testimony in front of the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees, also commented on the continued efforts of the Russian government to interfere in American elections, saying, “They are doing it while we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.” Mueller continued, “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.” Schumer argued that these observations illustrate the urgent need to ensure a well-trained, highly-equipped cyber workforce in the United States.

Schumer explained that in the midst of this spike in cyber-crime, both New York State and the United States, more broadly, are suffering from a serious dearth of cybersecurity professionals. According to the University at Albany, between September 2017 and August 2018, 313,735 job openings were posted by employers in both the public and private sectors, which doesn’t even account for the over 715,000 cybersecurity professionals already employed in the U.S. Furthermore, Cyber Seek, which tracks open jobs for cybersecurity professionals, says that there are currently 14,698 jobs available in New York State, claiming that the state has a “Very Low” supply of cybersecurity workers. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) estimates that between 2016 and 2026, there will be a 28% jump in demand for cybersecurity workers, with similar growth expected in the Capital Region as well. Globally, estimates show that 1.8 million cybersecurity workers will need to be added by 2022, to keep up with demand.

So, to address this shortage of cyber professionals and uptick in attacks, Schumer announced plans to push for the creation of a cybersecurity educational pilot program. The program, Schumer explained, would provide funding to educational institutions with the aims of boosting cybersecurity workforce development. The pilot program would work to prove the effectiveness of a “hub and spokes” model, which would treat community colleges as spokes, such as those in the SUNY system across New York State, offering initial cybersecurity educational opportunities, and universities as hubs, like the University at Albany, offering more advanced cybersecurity and homeland security educational opportunities. The aim of such a model would be to leverage existing, quality programs and enhance them by explicitly connecting them with a feeder system, resulting in a sufficient workforce with varied levels of skill. Schumer explained that not only would such a system boost the cybersecurity workforce, but also prepare students to get and keep good-paying jobs. The emerging field pays workers well, with the median salary for an information security analyst with a bachelor’s degree being $115,000 per year.

Schumer said that New York State, and more specifically, the University at Albany and SUNY system, would be the perfect hub and spokes for such a pilot program. Once construction is complete, the ETEC Complex will house the University at Albany College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. The school’s mission is to “make a difference by providing high quality academic programs, blending an interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial spirit, fostering enthusiasm for learning and teaching, promoting operational application of knowledge, and leading cutting-edge research initiatives that bring together people, technology, and knowledge to address the challenges of the 21st century.” Schumer said that to ensure a well-trained future cyber workforce, such an interdisciplinary approach to higher education is a necessity. Furthermore, Schumer pointed to the diversity of cyber programs and educational options offered across the SUNY system as having great potential to act as a workforce feeder system across the industry.