Attacks on US Spark Need for More Cyber Security Degree Holders

By Catherine Groux
Posted October 23, 2012 02:00 PM

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently spoke about cyber security.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently spoke about cyber security.
At the recent Business Executives for National Security gathering, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated that the nation must bolster its cyber security efforts, Reuters reports. In what U.S. officials are calling the first major policy speech on cyber security by a secretary of defense, Panetta said that if the country does not act, foreign criminals could attack the nation's chemical, electricity, water and transportation control systems. In doing so, these intruders could shut down the power grid, derail passenger trains and contaminate the water supply.

"We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems," Panetta told his audience. "We also know that they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, and destruction, and even the loss of life."

Panetta's speech came on the heels of a series of cyber attacks against U.S. banks by Iranian hackers, The Wall Street Journal reports. For five weeks, the foreign intruders have disrupted Capital One Financial and BB&T corporations' websites, despite the fact that they announced their plans to do so in advance.

The cyber attacks reflect the nation's need to recruit more cyber security experts to protect the country's critical infrastructure. Tom Kellermann, vice president at Trend Micro and former member of President Barack Obama's cyber security commission, told The Washington Post that the government must hire at least 10,000 cyber security professionals in the future, while the private sector must recruit 40,000 experts in the coming years.

Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation at the State Department, told the Post that this is what makes cyber security such a great major for bachelor's degree seekers.

"If any college student asked me what career would most assume 30 years of steady, well-paying employment, I would respond, 'cyber security," Ross said. 

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