Critical cyber security shortage in Chicago and U.S. has experts on high alert

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Even though Russian cyber attackers broke into Illinois election computers in 2016, the state still ranks among the neediest in America for cybersecurity talent, the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

There are thousands of current job openings in Illinois for computer experts trained in digital counter-terror, leading one local expert to conclude that the result could be "the data that really matters to us - the data that describes our livelihood - could get into the hands of hackers."

Illinois is not alone. U.S. computer systems-both government and corporate-remain under constant cyberattack from foreign actors, investigators have said. Nevertheless, a huge talent gap exists in the U.S. for cyber experts to monitor and prevent debilitating attacks.

Currently about one third of the country's 1,000,000 cybersecurity jobs are unfilled according to cyberseek.org that monitors the industry.

Illinois right now has more than 13,000 open cybersecurity positions-among the highest in the nation. The majority of vacant jobs, more than 11,000, are in metro Chicago and in the private sector.

According to the director of Lewis University's Information Security Program, several factors weigh on the shortage including colleges playing catch-up to the national need and the current administration enforcement actions preventing some immigrants from entering the U.S.

"We could really be brought down as a society because of the lack of expertise" said Ray Klump, a PhD at the Romeoville campus. "We can't just keep on crossing our fingers. We have to fight the hackers' knowledge with our own homegrown talent" Klump told the I-Team
He says Chicago, at the "epicenter of many different industries," is hit especially hard because of the metro area's need and dependence on computer expertise.

Yesterday President Trump acknowledged the serious shortage while signing an executive order directing the federal government to take "critical steps to strengthen America's cybersecurity workforce."

"The United States currently has a shortage of 300,000 cyber security practitioners" the president said.

The acting secretary of U.S. Homeland Security says that cybersecurity professionals "constitute a core element in our country's frontline defense, and we must urgently bolster them in the face of a myriad of cybersecurity threats." Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan added that "DHS and this Administration are committed to bold action. From enabling movement between the private and public sectors to supporting our workforce's (sic) training, education, and development."

In July 2016, Russian hackers broke into the official database of Illinois voters-stealing the personal information of about 500,000 state registrants.

As the I-Team reported last summer, the dozen Russians charged in connection with the case used common-knowledge hacking skills to gain access to the state election database. The plot, that began in 2015 and was part of a nationwide effort by Russian government agents according to the FBI, also targeted computers at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

The 2016 intrusion became a stepping off point for a wider federal investigation of Russian meddling and alleged collusion by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that recently concluded.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.