National

Shortage of workers in computer security

WASHINGTON — The federal government is struggling to fill a growing demand for skilled computer-security workers, from technicians to policymakers, at a time when network attacks are rising in frequency and sophistication.

Demand is so intense that it has sparked a bidding war among agencies and contractors for a small pool of special talent: skilled technicians with security clearances. Their scarcity is driving up salaries, depriving agencies of skills, and in some cases affecting project quality, industry officials said.

The crunch hits as the Pentagon is attempting to staff a new Cyber Command to fuse offensive and defensive computer security missions and the Department of Homeland Security plans to expand its cybersecurity force by up to 1,000 people in the next three years.

The lack of trained defenders for these networks is leading to serious gaps in protection and significant losses of intelligence, national security experts said. The Government Accountability Office told a Senate panel in November that the number of scans, probes and attacks reported to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team has more than tripled, from 5,500 in 2006 to 16,840 in 2008.

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