KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Growing concern for cyberattacks has created a major influx of cybersecurity job positions.

Events like the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack in May, which sparked a gas shortage along the East Coast, are prompting more companies and businesses to consider protecting their data and networks.

According to CyberSeek, there are more than 17,000 open cybersecurity jobs in North Carolina. A majority of them can be found in Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh. Nationally, the supply of cybersecurity professionals is very low compared to the demand, with more than 450,000 open jobs across the nation. 

Robert Phelps is the president of Triad-based IT and cybersecurity service, Creative IT. Phelps and his team are seeing more clients who are looking for help, but unfortunately, by the time they seek out help, it’s usually after an attack. 

Even if a person, company or business thinks they don’t have any information worth accessing, it doesn’t matter to cyberattackers. Phelps says anyone can be a target. If you have been hit by ransom ware, Phelps suggests not paying the ransom.

“Once you pay the ransom, you are more likely to be hit with ransom ware again, because once they know you’ll pay, they’ll know you’re a target,” he said.

The best practice is to have a service like Creative IT, or a cybersecurity professional as a part of the company’s team beforehand to monitor potential threats and have strong security measures in place. Phelps says it’s not just one tool that protects a network from cyberattacks, but a suite of tools. 

“If they already have that equipment in place, some businesses can take weeks, months [to recover]. Some companies never recover and they go out to business due to it,” said Phelps.

With such a great demand for cybersecurity professionals, Phelps said it’s difficult to find adequate candidates. The cybersecurity industry is fairly new, with the landscape gaining more recognition in 2018, as crypto-currency started to become more popular.

Many companies are looking for candidates with 10 years or more of cybersecurity experience, which is hard to find. Many collegiate programs are geared toward IT, which is foundational compared to cybersecurity. 

“If you want to get into the profession, it really starts with a good IT fundamental background. What a lot of businesses need to understand that hiring one person to do the IT is different from hiring a cybersecurity expert. They are different fields,” he said.

Phelps suggest companies consider hiring IT professionals and offer educational courses to train them in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is expected to see a 31% industry projection over the next 10 years, which is a lot faster than the average industry’s 4% projection.