Dan Benjamin

OPINION

5 reasons cyber ed should be core to all you do

Our modern society relies heavily on information technology to enable every sector of society to function effectively. Unfortunately, some individuals, organizations, and countries continue to exploit weaknesses in IT systems in order to gain monetarily or politically. This makes the U.S. infrastructure extremely vulnerable to hackers and cyber terrorists.

In one of the most widely reported events, hackers gained access to credit cards used at Target, making more than 70 million shoppers vulnerable to identity theft and unauthorized access to their personal information and assets. We are now beginning to understand that the scope of this intrusion also extended to other big retailers.

Keeping ourselves, our homes, our communities, and our nation safe isn’t just a question of locks and keys and traditional weapons anymore; we now need to guard our national cyberspace as well. Cybersecurity education will be beneficial to addressing the growing threat of cybercrime.

Here are five reasons why all businesses, and especially government contractors, should engage in cybersecurity education:

Revenue Stream

Education in cybersecurity can open doors to new revenue streams. For example, you can build training or consulting practices or develop products and bid on federal contracts that require cybersecurity training, services, or products.  According to Market Research Media, the cumulative market value of the U.S. federal cybersecurity market is in excess of $60 billion and rising.

National Imperative

The Homeland Security Department is concerned with protecting our national critical infrastructures which includes information technology. They leverage the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education to equip and empower people to become smarter and safer as they connect to and navigate cyberspace. With cybersecurity education, you can contribute to addressing this national imperative both by improving your own practices and by training others.

Self-Preservation

Your livelihood as a contractor could depend on your commitment to cybersecurity education. While there is no fixed cost assigned yet, Target is certainly experiencing high costs that smaller companies may not be able to similarly absorb. Target retained Experian, a credit monitoring service, to provide their shoppers with free daily credit monitoring and a free copy of their credit report.

While no specifics are available for the price for this service, we can safely assume several million dollars given a cost to individuals of about $10 per month. According to other reports, Target also retained Mandiant, a security firm, to investigate the breach; we can assume this is also a multi-million- dollar service agreement.  Target will also have to deal with any lawsuits that result from this breach. They are already dealing with a loss of reputation and diminished sales. Smaller organizations may not have the wherewithal to survive such a breach.

Compliance

Every organization is expected comply with prescribed laws and standards in cybersecurity. Ignorance of these laws does not give you a free pass. You could be liable already and not know it. You could also open yourself up to lawsuits from individuals and organizations. It is in your best interest to get cybersecurity and cyber law education so you practice and establish good controls to prevent cybercrime within your organization.

Good Business

A responsible organization protects information about its customers and clients regardless of the requirements of the law. Customers and clients that feel safe will continue to do business with organizations that are responsible with their information and they will share their experiences, both good and bad, with others. Cybersecurity education will equip you and enable you to serve your customers more responsibly.

You can also foster good will and develop loyalty with your customers and vendors by building an awareness of the need for cybersecurity in their organizations. This also makes business sense; if one of your customers or vendors has a breach, it could have secondary legal, financial, and other impacts on your ability to provide goods or services.

In conclusion, cybersecurity education is not a choice, but a necessity. A security breach is not a distant possibility; it is a distinct reality that can be detrimental and disastrous to your company, to your customers, and to your country. Becoming cyber aware is your responsibility as a citizen of our country.

Just one incident can distract your efforts, derail your priorities, and destroy your business. At best, recovering from an incident can be costly to your bottom line and to your reputation.

At worst, a cyber attack can wipe you out financially and totally put you out of business. Getting educated is one of the best ways to prevent hackers and cyber terrorists from gaining entry to your business and those that you are connected to and chipping away at our critical infrastructures.

About the Author

Dan Benjamin is dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at American Public University System. He is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology and has a master’s degree from Kakatiya University. He has provided IT and management education and consulting solutions to the public and private sectors, including the White House, U.S. Senate, Defense Department, Treasury Department, FAA and the Education Department.

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