two wanted posters for next gen cyber defenders

Building the Next Generation of Cyber Defenders

two wanted posters for next gen cyber defenders

As we look to solve the massive wave of threats that are affecting our commercial and government organizations, the conversation often circles back to technology: What innovations can solve for this latest attack vector?

We have responded to this challenge in force – investing billions of dollars as an industry into emerging cybersecurity technologies. As a result, we live in a true Golden Age of innovation. I have been in this industry for 20+ years and never have I seen the level of innovation and pace of commercialization that we are seeing today. Yet, owing to the size, complexity and boldness of cyberattacks, it actually feels as though our national cyber resilience is declining.

Where we continue to fall short is around our cybersecurity talent. Cybersecurity, while certainly a technology problem, is also a very human problem. The threats are created by humans – either maliciously or in error – and it must be solved by humans (aided by technology of course). Yet, we do not have even close to enough cyber defenders to defend against the latest threats.

The deficit we face is immense. According to (ISC)2’s annual Cyber Workforce Study, there were an estimated 2.7 million unfilled positions in cybersecurity in 2021. Each of these unfilled positions represents a crack in the armor protecting the most critical functions of our society, and, by extension, our national security.

This skills gap sits against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions, where countries like China and others are investing heavily in advancing their cybersecurity skills. You only need to open a newspaper or turn on the TV to know that it is working to our detriment, and that it poses an existential threat to the U.S.’s dominance on the digital world stage. Closing the cybersecurity skills gap needs to be an immediate national and industry imperative.

As an industry, we’ve begun to rally around this important topic. Organizations like Microsoft, Google and others and non-profits like Cyber Future Foundation, Girls Who Code, Cybersecurity Gatebreakers Foundation, Next-Gen Cyber Talent and others have launched dedicated programs to nurture and encourage cyber talent at different stages, from kindergarten to reskilling in adulthood.

But we must do more. When I look at the state of education in the United States, a shockingly small number of our colleges and universities offer degree programs in cybersecurity. Even when my daughter recently went to college, she struggled to even find a single class she could take to learn about cybersecurity. This is a gap that must be fixed.

NightDragon is proud to do our part by announcing we are committing $75 million alongside our affiliates of investment into ThriveDX, a company that has developed the technology and team to address the talent crisis at scale. This is a topic I am incredibly passionate about and I believe ThriveDX’s platform will help us educate students early and often at every stage of their life – from high school, to college, to continuing education in the enterprise.

ThriveDX develops and licenses advanced professional development programs in cybersecurity and digital skills training through collaborative partnerships with top-tier academic institutions and corporations worldwide. It provides software solutions and education programs focused on hands-on skills training in high-demand digital career fields such as cybersecurity, software engineering, data science and analytics, and others.

We view its cyber skills platform as unique because it is built by practitioners – people who have walked the walk in cybersecurity. Meanwhile, it’s also built in a way that you can take a highly complex subject matter (like cybersecurity) and teach it in an accessible way to someone with little or no technical expertise. This model is proven. Its partners include some of the world’s top universities, including New York University and the University of Michigan, and Fortune500 companies like Toyota, Microsoft, Bank of America, Snap, Intel, and many more.

This is a company with incredible mission, but also market opportunity. The new funding will support the company’s growth strategy, including reaching more universities, enterprises and – most importantly – students with its platform. In doing that, we can help millions more students from all backgrounds realize the immense opportunity in cybersecurity careers and make meaningful, exponential progress against the cyber skills gap.

We’ve made some incremental progress to date, and I applaud the organizations and programs already out there working to solve this problem. But we need to grow our cyber workforce more efficiently, at scale, and we need to do it now. We cannot afford to wait.

Read more about the announcement in our press release with ThriveDX.