Scaling and skilling cybersecurity in Northeast Wisconsin

Posted on Jul 29, 2019 :: Partner
Posted by By Michelle Schuler, Manager of Microsoft TechSpark Wisconsin

What’s scarier than not knowing if your business is vulnerable to a cyberattack? Finding out your business has been hacked.

A recent Ponemon Institute survey of small- and medium-sized businesses reported that 67 percent of respondents said they experienced a cyberattack — an increase from 2017. It’s critical that businesses of all sizes in all industries using technology have the right measures and personnel in place to safeguard against cyber threats.

“In the digital age, cybersecurity threats are everywhere, and our strategies around data protection continue to evolve to meet those changing threats,” said Todd Thiel, vice president of information technology with Secura Insurance.

A key focus of Microsoft’s TechSpark work to foster economic opportunities in Northeast Wisconsin is helping businesses thrive through digital transformation and upskilling talent for the high-demand positions being created, including those in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is a career pathway that requires a skill set that is not readily available but is in high demand. The NEW Manufacturing Alliance recently conducted an Industry 4.0 study that was funded by a TechSpark career pathways grant. It asked how many roles within an organization will need to be trained in cybersecurity from maintenance and production to engineering to supply chain and management.

“Almost half of the respondents stated that they see an increasing demand in cybersecurity officers,” said Ann Franz, director of the NEWMA. “It will no longer be only an ‘IT’ problem. The current and future workforce will need to understand cybersecurity regardless of their role within an organization.”

Over the last year, Microsoft TechSpark collaborated with Ethisphere to provide local nonprofit organizations and service businesses with cybersecurity assessments and workshops to strengthen their cybersecurity programs and practices. Four companies completed the Ethisphere Cybersecurity Maturity Assessment and cybersecurity improvement workshops held in Appleton.

We also partnered with NEWMA on similar workshops with a second group made up of manufacturing businesses. Each company undertook an assessment based on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to develop a Cybersecurity Priority Roadmap Report outlining suggested improvement steps for strengthening its cybersecurity programs and practices.

In April, after the organizations successfully completed their first improvement projects, a second round of workshops was held on improvement projects that will help further protect their businesses from cybersecurity risks.

“Our message internally is that the learning never stops in the cybersecurity space,” Thiel said. “As a result of changing external threats and new state regulations around data privacy, our needs for information security talent continue to grow and evolve as well.”

Ensuring that people have the skills needed is important in this digital economy. Skilling begins with preparing our youth to be future ready through digital skills and computer science, and then upskilling and reskilling our workforce with pathways that connect them with employers.

It is an important connection to make because digitally transforming our businesses and skilling people for the jobs of the future are key to sparking economic opportunities in Northeast Wisconsin.

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Michelle Schuler is manager of Microsoft TechSpark Wisconsin and  co-founder of Women In Technology Wisconsin.