‘Space Race’: The Growth Of Cyber Security And Its Young Talent

Dan Gunderman
Posted: 02/06/2018

George Rettas’ Feb. 5 episode of “Task Force 7 Radio,” airing on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel, found the host – also an information security executive – discussing America’s defensive security posture (or lack thereof), and chatting with guest Rick Geritz about his educational technology service, LifeJourney.

The latter is an online STEM platform enabling students to “test drive” their future and experience career journeys of the nation’s STEM and cyber leaders.

In discussing the sense of “urgency” in centralizing U.S. cyber policy, Rettas kicked off the show by saying that he “just does not see it.”

“I’m talking garnering and strengthening our cyber security defense in depth posture,” he said. “Are there offensive capabilities within the government? Sure, sure. We could shut the lights off somewhere if we need to. But that’s not really what we want to talk about.

“We can do those things, offensively, before a kinetic attack…but so can other countries,” he added. “I think we’d have a problem if an adversary decided to launch an attack against our power grid… With regard to our defensive posture: Where’s the sense of urgency?”

Rettas acknowledged that the Internet was not created with security in mind. Yet he said successful cyber strategies incorporate forward-thinking and sharp reasoning. “There’s no single domain or single solution that will protect us all,” he said. “There’s no magic button. There’s an ecosystem out there. If you’re not familiar with it, you’re going to get beat.”

“We’ve got to have comprehensive cyber security strategies,” Rettas continued. “That’s what this country is lacking... (We need strategies) to protect this country, and our way of life, against a cyber-911. Complacency is the killer, folks.”

Rettas also pointed to the “huge” talent crisis – and ways that security in general isn’t innovating enough to get people in seats. “We need to get down into the schools – high school, grade school,” the host said.

“Collectively, there’s no voice of cyber security in the U.S.,” Rettas continued. He then pointed to a statistic from Forbes Magazine about a projected 1.5 million (plus) vacant cyber jobs by 2020.

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The discussion on cyber curriculum segued nicely into the next portion of the show, where Rettas was joined by Geritz, LifeJourney’s founder and CEO.

Geritz described LifeJourney as a technology platform that takes the “Elon Musks” of the nation’s leading cyber security companies – forensics analysts, data scientists, IoT architects – and reverse engineers their journeys. This includes their soft skills and technical skills. The result: a cloud-based platform that allows any student to “test drive” what their life would be like if they followed their career journey. Students select a mentor, and the technology enables a single mentor to assist one student, 100, or 500,000 – at scale.

Geritz said the technology was first geared toward high schools, then two-year universities and universities – then it emerged in the professional ranks, for folks who sought to make career changes.

Geritz’s NSA Day of Cyber puts students in practical cyber situations and allows them to experience the career of a security professional, the guest said.

“If you get line of sight on what you can be in high school,” Geritz said, “it makes college selection more relevant. It makes parents happier. And it creates a direct connection to the teacher.”

In entering the LifeJourney quest, Geritz said that students are provided with a “digital experience” that allows them to select a mentor, pick from different companies and iconic brands, and experience what they do in a typical day.

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Security Education Students

“Cyber security has a brand problem,” Geritz explained. “If you think of it as a career, most people don’t know what it is – so they can’t necessarily aspire to it if they don’t know the definition.”

He then touted the practical experience of LifeJourney, to “work” alongside the folks who invented the biometric sensor for the iPhone or the folks who defend the nation’s networks every day.

The guest said that students are exposed to a “mosaic” of different cyber careers, are shown a short trailer, are given a personality test which is compared to the selected mentor, and are then placed in an interactive cyber situation. Mentors also talk the users through the experience. By completion, the data is rolled up and a certificate is awarded.

Geritz said that at this point, students can go deeper and start to understand the requisite skills. Depending on age, they could be connected to companies or universities.

“Cyber security operates off a brand new alphabet. The digital alphabet of the world is how data flows over a network. So, what better way to get taught in a ‘digital’ way,” Geritz said.

The guest also outlined how these desired skills – honed in LifeJourney – are also applicable to a number of other fields – such as biology, medicine, law, etc.

“Much of it is breaking down the problem, solving it, and incorporating a technology component to automate thought processes,” Geritz said. “And, the ‘non-linear’ thinkers often end up being the best cyber people.”

The CEO and founder added that the professional skills gleaned from LifeJourney apply to people of diverse backgrounds – “who excel in the way they approach and solve problems.”

“We have to make cyber security something that people aspire to,” Geritz said. “We’ve passed B2B and B2C, we’re now in H2H – human to human. We need to see other humans doing this!”

Further, the “Task Force 7 Radio” guest described how parents play a large role in this as well, seeing as they influence some 80% of career decisions.

“Awareness is the new Space Race,” he said. “Except cyber is bigger and faster…”

Geritz outlined the rising number of women in the LifeJourney experience. He said that 48% of the user base is now comprised of women. He added that raising awareness of women in cyber comes down to showcasing how they, too, are “rock stars in the space.”

The "Task Force 7 Radio" recap is a weekly feature on the Cyber Security Hub.

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Task Force 7 Radio

Dan Gunderman
Posted: 02/06/2018
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