DHS Cybersecurity Update: 190 Jobs OfferedAgency Still Looks to Fill 1000 Positions The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's effort to hire 1000 new cybersecurity experts is ongoing and aggressive. More than 4,700 applications have been received from the DHS cybersecurity virtual job fair, and 190 tentative job offers have been extended.
The special hiring authority granted last fall was the result of a collaborative effort among DHS, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, allowing the Department to fill up to 1000 cybersecurity positions over three years.
To recruit the best cyber analysts, developers and engineers, the agency launched a virtual job fair to attract cybersecurity experts with strong technical skills such as intrusion analysis, malware reverse engineering, security auditing, cyber risk, strategic analysis, secure code analysis, penetration testing and digital forensics.
"The job fair broadened our hiring efforts, and we were able to get a few very talented and diversified cyber professionals who basically understood the breath of responsibilities in this space," says Greg Schaffer, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications.
But for Homeland Security, the challenge to find qualified IT security experts is tough. Simply, the demand outpaces supply. "It's a new niche area which has never had this level of attention and threat landscape," says Schaffer. "Organizations throughout now understand the implications of not doing cybersecurity correctly, and therefore are looking for professionals to secure their systems the right way."
Also, there are very few senior candidates with relative work experience in large networks, having dealt with a broad range of cybersecurity issues. "They are just hard to find," says Schaffer.
Although competition is high, the DHS is in a unique position to offer a potential candidate the ability to work with the broadest range of cybersecurity issues from a single job location, as well as an opportunity to know what is happening across the wider economy.
Moreover, to fill this gap in cybersecurity talent, strong efforts have been made in federal funding of scholarships directed toward education and training of a new breed of security experts. The scholarship for service program is one such initiative designed to strengthen the cadre of federal cybersecurity professionals that protect the government's critical information infrastructure. This program provides scholarships that fully fund the typical costs that students pay for books, tuition, and room and board while attending an approved institution of higher learning in cybersecurity. The scholarships are funded through grants awarded by the National Science Foundation. In exchange the students agree to work for a stipulated time period with the federal government.
Also, the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign Challenge hosted by the DHS is an excellent platform for hiring qualified candidates, says Schaffer. The agency is looking forward to partnering with the winners of this competition in not just leading the planning and launch of the Cyber Security Awareness month in October, but in possibly working with them as employees.
"We are aggressively hiring cybersecurity professionals," he says. "Within the cybersecurity and communications division alone, we have tripled our workforce in 2009 and are looking to double our existing workforce by 2010.
"Organizations succeed or fail based on the people that do the work, and so our main goal right now is on getting the right people in to do the work."