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As cybersecurity threats grow, so does the opportunity to get a job to fight back against them.
“The more we get into technology the bigger it gets,” says Ida Byrd-Hill, found of Automation Workz, an institute in Detroit that offers career training in the field.
Approximately 90% of data breaches are the result of human error, according to a study.
“Cybersecurity is not really 100% techie. I would say it’s more emotional and psychological than people think,” Byrd-Hill said.
Many of her students live in cities across the country and take the 12-month cybersecurity course online.
Her mission is to create diversity in an industry that is more than 75% white men.
Separately, she believes the industry can benefit from embracing those who have had run-ins with the criminal justice system.
She has contracts with organizations like Detroit at Work, which helps those who are returning to the workforce after spending time in prison.
Byrd-Hill said part of the challenge is getting companies to embrace those who may not pass a traditional background check.
“Martha Stewart, she’s a returning citizen. There’s all sorts of people who have a criminal or felony background, but they have viable skills and integrity and once they pay their debt to society, they deserve a shot,” said Malia Salaam, a manager at the Reentry Career Center.
“You need more people who’re in that mindset, who think like a criminal to face off against a hacker because all a hacker is, is a criminal,” Byrd-Hill said.
Lewis De Payne spent time on house arrest 20 years ago. He was charged in connection with an effort to hack a phone company’s software.
“You know, I never really bothered with labels. It’s a matter of defining your terms and nobody really likes to define their terms so everyone has a different meaning when you define the label. Hacker certainly fits,” De Payne said about whether he considered himself a hacker at that point in his life.
He later went on to have a successful career in the tech industry.
“You need people who can think outside the box. You can read from a textbook, you can learn from a textbook, you can apply textbook examples in real life, but a security incident, especially one five to ten years from now, that’s not going to be in any textbook,” De Payne said.
Many cybersecurity jobs pay more than $100,000 a year.
“To go from $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 a year to $100,000 is a major lifestyle leap. It impacts your children, it impacts the people around you, it changes a community,” Byrd-Hill said.