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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House convened a distinguished roundtable in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building led by Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden. Participants represented a diverse realm within the cybersecurity profession. Experts discussed how more Black participation in cybersecurity could strengthen Black America economically. This discussion took place on the final day of Black History Month.
Cybersecurity as a Profession for Black Americans
Cybersecurity is quickly becoming a vibrant and essential field for Black Americans, allowing them to be at the forefront of a rapidly changing world. This can involve anything from developing new IT strategies to defending against cyber attacks, making it an extremely versatile career. The opportunities for Black professionals in this area are immense, as the demand for talented professionals continues to rise. According to Cybercrime Magazine, it’s estimated that there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs available around the world. This includes over 715,000 of these in the US alone.
According to the White House’s readout, U.S. Government participants included Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, White House Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement; Camille Stewart Gloster, Deputy National Cyber Director for Technology and Ecosystem Security; and senior representatives from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, and The National Science Foundation.
A Cybersecurity Attack on a large American City
On March 22, 2018, the City of Atlanta was hit with a major cybersecurity attack that impacted many areas across the city. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed the issue in a press conference within days of the attack, calling it a “hostile and advanced cyber security attack” that affected many online services, including various customer-facing applications. The attack also affected internal systems and networks associated with various City departments and agencies, as well as affecting crucial data for multiple businesses throughout Atlanta.
“I woke up one morning to a text message from my COO saying, ‘we have a little problem.’ That little problem turned into a very big problem.” Mayor Bottoms added that it ended up being the largest cybersecurity attack on a municipality in U.S. history.
“We were critical. Thankfully, someone had the forethought to get cyber insurance. Because had we not had it, we would have been in really big trouble. At that point, we didn’t know what we were dealing with. It was a ransomware attack. And they were asking for maybe $50,000 in Bitcoin payments,” Mayor Bottoms said to roundtable participants.
Promoting Economic Growth for Black Americans in Cybersecurity
At a roundtable discussion moderated by Camille Stewart Gloster, Deputy National Cyber Director, these influential tech leaders discussed ways to promote cybersecurity and economic growth in the Black community. They outlined strategies that could create job opportunities and suggested innovative ideas for collective action toward meaningful change.
The Black Wall Street Times caught up with the founder of Black Tech Street, Tyrance Billingsley II, who was also invited as an expert by the Biden-Harris Administration.
“It was exciting to offer my voice to the Biden-Harris Administration alongside some of our nation’s most impressive people and institutions in cybersecurity to address one of the most pressing issues faced by Black people nationally. I look forward to continuing this work and cannot wait to unveil how Black Tech Street will utilize the industry vertical of cybersecurity to aid in the rebirth of Black Wall Street through technology,” Billingsley shared.
Commitment to Building more Diversity in the field
In an effort to promote equality and expand access, the Biden-Harris Administration recently pledged $90 million towards building apprenticeship opportunities in key industries for underrepresented populations such as Black Americans. The Labour Department is aiming to open this initiative up through funding applications from early March onwards.
In the meeting, the Small Business Administration (SBA) committed to providing cyber-safety information and resources for Black entrepreneurs throughout the nation. To this endeavor, SBA says its forming partnerships with organizations such as National Pan-Hellenic Council, in addition to launching initiatives like Cybersecurity For Small Business Pilot grant program & upcoming Cyber Summit scheduled for October 2023. These programs are designed to empower small businesses while also keeping their digital data safe from potential threats online.
Claudia Walker, renowned educator and author of the “ABCs of Black Wall Street and the ABCs of HBCUs”, is collaborating with Black Girls in Cyber, Blacks in Cyber, and #ShareTheMicInCyber to create a groundbreaking book series called “The ABCs of cybersecurity”. By combining her educational background with the expertise from these organizations, she hopes to provide an informative experience that empowers young readers of all ages while they navigate digital citizenship safely. The project will also include tips on how to enter exciting careers within this field.
Craig Newmark of Craig Newmark Philanthropies announced the doubling of his philanthropic commitment to fighting cyber threats, increasing it from $50 million to a whopping $100 million with racial equity in mind. Currently, Newmark’s foundation funds organizations such as Black Girls Hack, #SeeYourselfInCyber HBCU Tour, National Black Journalists Association, and Black Girls Code.
These commitments should provide opportunities that promote diversity within technology companies and the cybersecurity field, introducing potential students from underrepresented backgrounds.
“Overall, cybersecurity provides a bright future for Black American professionals if they make use of all the resources available to them and work hard towards building successful careers in this dynamic field,” Billingsley II said.