Source: CNS Y-12 | Release | December 22, 2020

With technology essential to our daily lives, cybersecurity education is increasingly growingFrom cracking textbooks open to cracking codes, cybersecurity is entering the halls of secondary education in East Tennessee. In expanding cybersecurity knowledge beyond the sites, CNS Chief Information Security Officer Paul Beckman virtually met with 25 students from Bearden High School’s Cybersecurity 1 class, led by Timothy Cathcart, Ph.D., to present his professional insight in the digital world.

With more than 20 years in the industry, Beckman shared his background, life lessons, and experience with the class. Beginning his civil service career with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2005, Beckman joined CNS in March and emphasized the gravity of ensuring cybersecurity for the CNS mission and the importance of cybersecurity in industries nationwide.

“What was traditionally considered just internet security has now become everything security,” Beckman said. “Whether it’s our phones, refrigerators, or vehicles, everything is becoming a computer, which increases our exposure to cyber risk; thus, the need to implement effective cybersecurity protections is no longer reserved to just our desktops.”

Beckman shared how his background and degree in psychology have translated to the cybersecurity industry – especially when it comes to assessing risk probability.

“Whether we realize it or not, it’s in our nature as human beings to continuously assess risk hundreds of times a day, and often times we get it wrong due to shortcuts our brains take called heuristics,” Beckman said. “From a psychology standpoint for example, we typically assess risks as being lower when they are within our direct control. These are the everyday risks like driving a car. Conversely, we tend to assess risks as being higher for things that we feel are out of our control, such as flying or riding as a passenger in a car. With cyber risks, we have to be cognizant of these inaccurate shortcuts our brains take and ensure we accurately and objectively assess the risks posed against our assets,” he said.

Meanwhile, as we continue to exponentially evolve in the digital era, Beckman recognized what it means for future growth and challenges in the cyber industry. In reference to Moore’s Law, which suggests that the speed and capability of our computers will double every two years with decreased costs, underscores the growing threat and signifies the importance of having cybersecurity professionals and skills to serve the demand.

“There is still by far a negative unemployment ratio in the cybersecurity industry. There are more cybersecurity jobs out there than there are people to fill them,” Beckman said.

Setting the stage to meet that need, Cathcart’s students are learning the basic concepts of cybersecurity with an emphasis on integration, application, practices, devices, and ethics. In addition to concepts, students are able to demonstrate how to implement cybersecurity features within a networking system and how to protect network information.

To those potential future minds of the cybersecurity industry, Beckman noted the importance of being fluent in cyber and overall information technology principles. However, when asked what he looks for in a future cyber professional or candidate, it’s having a learning mindset that thinks of ways to find solutions.

“We have the responsibility to encourage and inspire our youth to pursue the industry and become the next generation of information security professionals,” Beckman said. “No two days are the same in cybersecurity, and our adversaries are always adapting their tactics to our defenses, requiring that we have the strongest and brightest workforce to help defend against those adversaries.”

Beckman’s time with the Bearden students is just one example of how CNS is working to connect with young people who could eventually be part of the workforce. “The ability to make an impact and support the development of future professionals by pairing our experts with opportunities to share their knowledge is critical to our education community,” said CNS Education Outreach Specialist Kristin Waldschlager.