Attributed to Dr. Halim Khelalfa, Associate Professor for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong in Dubai(UOWD)
In early October 2021, a programming error from Facebook, along with WhatsApp and Instagram, went down for six hours, causing a substantial fall in shares for the stock market. On May 7, 2021, Colonial Pipeline, the largest petroleum pipeline company in the US, was the target of a ransomware attack and was forced to shut down its major pipelines for a whole day. In the weeks preceding the attack, Colonial Pipeline was trying to fill two security leadership positions.
In July 2021, a sophisticated new malware, the Pegasus, infected more than 50,000 smartphones of journalists, heads of states, ministers, and prime ministers. This malware is so sophisticated that only a very few institutions have the knowledge and ability to detect it and remove it.
These are just three examples of the increasing importance of cybersecurity and the current shortage of cybersecurity professionals.
Closer to home, the Projects of the 50 announcements by the UAE leadership showcases the nation’s ambitious digital roadmap, and as technology evolves and becomes more creative, so does the need for enhanced cybersecurity. This raises an important question: what is the answer to mitigating this growing concern as we become increasingly interconnected?
Filling the job gap
With huge advancements in technology across multiple sectors, cybersecurity is being prioritized as the next hurdle to tackle particularly with the region’s 250% increase in cyberattacks in 2020 according to Mohamed al-Kuwaiti, head of UAE Government Cyber Security. There is an increasing need for more cybersecurity professionals in all activity sectors for the UAE and the Middle East and developing the next generation is key to reversing this uptake in attacks.
But according to ISC, there is currently a worldwide shortage of more than 3.12 million jobs in cybersecurity, and the State of Cybersecurity 2021 Report from ISACA doesn’t bode well for the MENA region either, with a current deficit of 300,000 jobs.
How universities can help
Forming a key part of filling the gap for cybersecurity roles in the region is universities with a huge onus placed on its programs in computer science and engineering degrees to drive employment opportunities.
In most organization throughout the world, a university degree is required for entry-level positions in cyber security. A career in computer science provides you with the fundamental theoretical and hands-on skills to be successful cybersecurity professional.
In positions such as a Cybersecurity Architect, Cybersecurity Auditor, Cybersecurity Software Developer, and Vulnerability Assessor, you will be able to design systems that thwart potential cybersecurity attacks, assess how digitally secure an enterprise is, and use your skills to advise enterprises in enhancing the protection of their information assets.
While this is just a handful of positions available within the cybersecurity sector, equipping students for the place of work can also provide many financial benefits for employers such as reducing cybercrime costs.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, in its Cyberwarfare in the C-Suite 2021 report, it expects cybercrime costs to grow by 15% per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015.
While we are becoming more technology efficient, we are more vulnerable to attacks. Providing additional educational platforms for students and future generations to learn and expand their knowledge in the cybersecurity field will be crucial to thriving in a digitally connected ecosystem.