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CSU Pueblo working to build future cybersecurity professionals

PUEBLO – A portion of the next generation of cybersecurity experts is working to spread its wings at CSU Pueblo, by learning all things related to coding, encrypting, and ethical hacking.

“I feel like I’m turning out to be a pretty well-rounded cybersecurity guy,” commented Mark Reyes, a sophomore in the school’s cybersecurity program.

CSU Pueblo recently competed and placed among the top 10 schools in the nation during the NCL, or National Cyber League games, games that are gearing up again for the Spring season.

“We participate in these games because it gives us kind of a sense of what it’s like out there,” stated Mark Hedrick, another student in the program.

The games focus, as you might’ve guessed, on placing students in simulations where their knowledge of password cracking, finding digital back doors, and more is all tested.

“These games are a good catalyst,” stated  Dr. Roberto Mejias, associate professor of computer information systems at CSU Pueblo.

Students are saying that the challenge, is helping them prepare for real-world cyber problems.

“Some of the stuff I’ve learned from the NCL challenges, I have already utilized in my working environment,” stated senior cybersecurity student, Ryan Garbars.

Now, why is this important for everyone’s peace of mind?

“Since we live in a digital world, we have all these new technologies, every year we see the new iPhone or something coming up,” stated Hedrick, “So if we can shift our focus to cybersecurity, I think our nation will be a safer place.”

It’s a technical field that has needed a lot of attention in our ever-evolving digital age. Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of qualified individuals that can deal with the advancing cyber trends.

“The demand for cybersecurity professionals is very high because the supply is very low,” continued Hedrick.

According to a 2018 data set created with support from the US Department of Commerce, throughout the country, there’s a shocking amount of empty cybersecurity jobs.

While an estimated 715,000 people are currently employed in cybersecurity, more than 313,000 jobs in the field need to be filled. In Colorado alone, the number of estimated “cyber-ployees” stands at 18,000, with 10,000 industry jobs standing vacant.

“So obviously when we fill that void, it’ll be a lot safer,” commented Hedrick.

According to the Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation, cybersecurity brings in nearly $1 billion annually to the local economy.

According to Glassdoor, the average starting yearly salary for a cybersecurity job in Colorado is $72,000.  Compare that to US Census data showing the median household income of $42,386 in Pueblo, $58,158 in Colorado Springs, and $62,535 in El Paso County.

At CSU Pueblo, computer-oriented programs and the challenges from the NCL are forces working to change this lack of cyber pros.

According to Dr. Mejias, students are learning all about cyber threats, exploits, and attacks as well as strategies and defenses needed to counter such issues.

“We’re training the next wave of cyber-warriors to address this major lack [of cybersecurity employees],” stated Mejias.

Students might be seeing the growing importance of the field because the program is also growing.

“We’ve had a cybersecurity program for 10 years, but it’s really taken off in the past 4-5 years,” Mejias continued.

While these students work to improve themselves and to help keep everyone’s information secure, they’re also working to train the next-next generation of potential cyber-enthusiasts.

Click here to find jobs and education opportunities, and to test your skills in cybersecurity.

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Jon McMichael

Jon McMichael

Jon McMichael is the digital reporter for KOAA. He's been with the station since October 2017.
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