LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Nevada joins the nation in a shortfall of professionals within the cyber workforce, which the White House is taking measures to reverse as cyber threats evolve.

That’s according to Kembra Walden, acting national cyber director for the White House, who acknowledges cyber criminals are preying on the vulnerability of those increasingly working and learning more from home than before 2020.

Inside UNLV’s Cyber Workforce Summit inside the Science and Engineering Building on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. (KLAS)

“The less sophisticated (cyber threats) are falling off because we’re doing better at our cyber defenses, but they’re becoming more complicated.

They’re becoming more sophisticated,” Walden said inside UNLV’s Science and Engineering Building Wednesday morning. “What we can do is make sure that it’s harder for cyber-attacks to take place. We can make sure that it’s costlier for them and not profitable for them.”

Part of solving the problem, she said, is by expanding the number of professionals fighting the problem. But, she also acknowledges that is a fight in itself.

The largest concern for companies this year continues to be cyber incidents and business interruptions, according to the 2,712 businesses interviewed for the Allianz Risk Barometer 2023 Report.

But, 6,271 cybersecurity positions in Nevada and 663,434 openings across the nation remain vacant, according to Cyberseek.

The data further shows there are only enough workers to fill 69% of the cybersecurity jobs in national demand.

The UNLV College of Engineering hosted Walden and other private sector, academic, and community stakeholders during its Cyber Workforce Summit Wednesday to discuss the growing problem.

The university most recently received $2 million from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, part of the National Security Agency, to bolster its Free Cyber Clinic and cybersecurity education.

The university is already attempting to intrigue high schoolers to gain interest in the industry, part of a larger presidential strategy to grow the workforce.

The White House’s National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy, unveiled by the Biden-Harris Administration last Monday, was the focus of Wednesday’s summit.

Walden describes it as four pillars: equipping everyone with foundational cyber skills, transforming cyber education, expanding and enhancing the national cyber workforce, and strengthening the federal cyber workforce.

Part of this, she said, is by eliminating some “unreasonable challenges” in hiring and onboarding.

“We need to make sure that everybody is upskilled and reskilled to properly take on cyber threats. That does not necessarily always mean a four-year university.

That could mean community college, that could mean certifications, that could just mean having the right skills,” Walden said.

In the age of artificial intelligence, she adds this is also a matter of effectively using resources against the growing and evolving cyber threats.

The National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy can be reviewed here. Multiple businesses – including Western Governors University, CYBER.ORG, BattleBots, Fortinet, Hewlett Packard (HP), and Druvstar – made commitments after the summit to increase these opportunities for students in Nevada.