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Wall Street Journal / Biz - Money

SEC Faces Tough Competition for Cybersecurity Talent

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Angus Loten

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday announced plans to ramp up cybersecurity, following revelations earlier this month that hackers had accessed data for illegal trades.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton told a Senate committee this week the efforts will include hiring more cybersecurity talent, saying “single actors dwarf the amount that we have available to spend in this area.”

As the Wall Street Journal reports, finding and recruiting these new workers won’t be easy.

“There’s a talent shortage and it’s even more emphasized at the federal level,” Rick Holgate, a research director at Gartner Inc., told CIO Journal.

He said high-profile breaches in the private sector, such as Equifax Inc., are boosting demand – and compensation — for cybersecurity experts across the economy, increasing the pressure on an already tight labor market.

By one estimation, unfilled jobs are expected to number 1.8 million by 2022, up 20% from 1.5 million in 2015, according to a global survey of 19,000 cybersecurity workers by the nonprofit Center for Cyber Safety and Education, CIO Journal reported in May

A key barrier for public-sector recruiters is compensation.

SilverBull, a cybersecurity recruiting firm, estimates that salaries for chief information security officers in the private sector range from $137,000 to $346,000 per year, with a median of $224,000. Last year, the White House posted a job listing for the nation’s first Federal CISO, with a salary range of $123,175 to $185,100 per year.

One strategy for public-sector recruiters is to look beyond salary expectations.

Jennifer Pahlka, executive director of Code for America, a nonprofit that seeks to introduce modern computing techniques into the government, says many IT and cybersecurity workers, especially younger ones, can be attracted by a clear sense of mission.

“If you create an environment where they can fix real problems, it will attract good people,” said Ms. Pahlka, who served for a year as deputy U.S. chief technology officer in the Obama Administration.

U.S. Digital Services, a federal initiative Ms. Pahlka helped create in 2014, aims to do just that: Bring outside talent to the federal government for two- to four-year stints to work on specific technology issues.

To date, the initiative has hired some 200 individuals, including Silicon Valley engineers from more than 50 firms, to work in teams across seven federal agencies, according to a July 2017 report to Congress.

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