There’s barely a week that goes by without a high-profile cybersecurity incident. Not only do these scourges affect everyday life for businesses, but consumers are also impacted as hackers go after any amount of personal data they can access.
In a face-to-face meeting with President Biden on Wednesday, Big Tech stalwarts Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft all agreed to write big, fat checks to help the nation as a whole address the rising tide of cybersecurity threats. The companies also plan to address the ever-widening abyss of high-growth jobs in the tech sector.
Spending billions to shore up cybersecurity
Here’s what Big Tech told President Biden they’ll commit to:
Google says it’s good for $10 billion over the next five years to expand zero-trust programs, help secure the software supply chain, and enhance security. The company also promised to assist 100,000 Americans in earning industry-recognized digital skills certificates.
Apple announced that it will create a new program -- one that includes more than 9,000 U.S. suppliers -- to drive continuous security improvements throughout the technology supply chain.
Another plus for tech education came from IBM, which announced that it will train 150,000 people in cybersecurity skills over the next three years. The company will place a special focus on historically Black colleges and universities to create “Cybersecurity Leadership Centers” in an effort to grow a more diverse cyber workforce.
Microsoft -- which has been on the wrong end of some serious hacks this year -- announced that it will invest $20 billion between now and 2026 to up the ante on cybersecurity both by design and in delivery throughout its systems. To prime the pump, the company said it will immediately make available $150 million in technical services to help federal, state, and local governments upgrade their current security protection. It will also invest heavily in tech training by expanding partnerships with community colleges and non-profits.
For its part, Amazon said it will make the same security awareness training it offers its employees freely available. It also plans to offer a free multi-factor authentication device to protect against cybersecurity threats like phishing and password theft to all of its Amazon Web Services account holders. Those account holders include companies like Facebook, Netflix, Adobe, ESPN, Ticketmaster, Samsung, and Disney.
Increasing tech education and jobs
One huge challenge facing these Big Tech companies is that nearly half a million cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled. A spokesperson at the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) told ConsumerAffairs that, as of this week, it was tracking 454,366 job ads for cybersecurity in the U.S. -- 13% more than the year before.
The education effort isn’t being carried solely by Big Tech. To get people trained quickly, colleges and organizations are investing heavily in “micro-credentialing” and training that doesn’t call for a four-year college degree. To that end, Girls Who Code announced that it will establish a micro-credentialing program for historically excluded groups.
The University of Texas System told the White House it will make available entry-level cyber educational programs through UT San Antonio’s Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute to help grow new short-term credentials in cyber-related fields by more than 1 million workers.
“To meet the scale of the demand for cybersecurity skills, we need to be considering creative alternatives to the classic college pathway into the profession. The majority of cyber jobs don’t require a four-years computer science degree,” Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO at CompTIA, told ConsumerAffairs.
“We can have people come through community college programs, through for-profit university programs, through online university programs, through paid apprenticeships and through industry certification programs that can be completed in a matter of months to accelerate this process.”
If there’s any doubt that a tech education can pay off, recent data shows that tech professionals in 9 of the 10 top-paying U.S. states make over 70% more than the average worker. Life as a techie in places like Alabama pays off especially well. The average salary for someone in technology in Alabama is $86,720 a year -- 85% higher than the $46,840 that salary workers in other fields in the state bring home.