Federal and state lawmakers have allocated gracious sums of money to expand cybersecurity programs across higher education this fall semester. While the need for more skilled employees was already there, the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel may increase the country’s investment in rigorous cybersecurity training to protect the nation and its allies abroad.
With Biden set to visit Israel in a show of support and solidarity against Hamas, experts believe cyberattacks on home soil may become more prevalent than they were during the first days of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, reports Tanium, a cybersecurity and systems management company based in Washington state.
“Modern warfare will always have a cyber component, be it operations against computer networks and their content or cyber manipulation of the information space,” said Richard J. Harknett, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the Center for Cyber Strategy and Policy at the University of Cincinnati, according to Tanium.
Hamas is a federally recognized terrorist organization responsible for killing over 1,000 people in Israel on Oct. 7.
Hackers sympathetic to Hamas’ cause have already compromised Israel-related systems. The Israel Electric Authority was hit by a ransomware attack spurred by a phishing scheme, and some civilians received alerts of a nuclear bomb when hackers infiltratred the Red Alert App. Additionally, hackers temporarily shut down Israel’s The Jerusalem Post.
While the extent of the U.S. involvement in the Hamas-Israel conflict is yet to be defined, officials have already begun to mobilize cybersecurity initiatives in support of Israel. Eric Goldstein, the executive assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said that the agency is “in close contact with our partners in Israel and have offered any cybersecurity assistance or support necessary,” according to a statement provided to Politico.
CISA support of the Israeli effort has indirect consequences to higher education. DePaul University and George Washington University, two of the country’s most prestigious institutions for cybersecurity programs, are either accredited or recognized by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CISA. Similarly, South Dakota State University’s state-of-the-art cybersecurity program offerings are strengthened by its partnership with the National Security Agency, a component of the Department of Defense.
With cyber warfare poised to play a significant factor in the Middle East in conjunction with U.S. support, the nation is facing a dearth of skilled cybersecurity professionals. Jobs in cybersecurity are projected to grow 35% over the next 10 years, far exceeding the nation’s average job growth rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Massachusetts alone, there are more than 20,000 open jobs.
CISA recognizes this gap and consequently initiated the Cybersecurity Workforce Framework to align educators, employers and policymakers to better streamline the development of skilled professionals.
“Early cyber education is critical to our national security and tomorrow’s cybersecurity professionals are sitting in today’s classrooms,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly in a statement.