Business

Attacks Increase Atlanta’s Demand For Cybersecurity Experts

A specialist works at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Ground zero in the nation’s fight against cybercrime hides in plain sight, in a nondescript suburban office building with no government seals or signs. Only after passing a low-key receptionist stationed on the seventh floor does one see the metal detectors, personal cellphone lockers and a series of heavy doors marked “classified” _ all leading to the auditorium-sized National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Credit Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

From Home Depot to the Secretary of State’s office to Grady Hospital, the Atlanta area has had its share of data breaches.

To protect these companies, there’s a growing demand for cybersecurity experts in metro Atlanta, but not enough supply, according to a recent study by Randstad Technologies of 12 major technology markets.

Kathy Van Pelt, vice president of marketing for Randstad Technologies, said for every seven job listings, there’s only one qualified candidate in the Atlanta area.

“Sadly no market in the country has enough talent to meet the demand,” Van Pelt said. “Really in our business, it’s all about going after what we consider passive candidates.”

She said the employment rate is so high for these positions that employment staffing firms recruit cybersecurity talent from passive candidates: those who are already employed.

Van Pelt said companies pay a premium for these employees. In its report, the Atlanta area ranks fifth in compensation with a median salary of $129,450 for cybersecurity professionals.

Mustaque Ahamad, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, said the presence of large health care, IT and financial transaction companies in the Atlanta area creates demand for workers to protect those companies and their customer’s data.

Nationally, 46 percent of chief information officers said the threat of cyberattacks is a top concern for the upcoming year. That’s up from 31 percent in 2015.

Ahamad estimates there are now nearly 100 companies in metro Atlanta focusing on cybersecurity and the frequency of data breaches is just one reason companies are aggressively hiring.

Cybercriminals are trying to take your data and profit from it, so everybody needs to protect themselves,” Ahamad said. “And the other part is IT is everywhere and we’re getting connected, which basically allows attackers to reach you from wherever they are.”

A 2015 national survey found nearly 80 percent of companies said they experienced a data breach in the last 12 months.

Ahamad is also co-founder of the fraud-detection company Pindrop and former director of the Georgia Tech Information Security Center. He said for the past 15 years, Georgia Tech has been working on new solutions for the cybersecurity industry, even before cyberattacks were taken seriously.

It’s also training students to fill these new positions through undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs.

This summer, the university launched a leadership program targeted at educating company executives and military leaders about cybersecurity threats.

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