In wake of Sony hack, what does future hold for cybersecurity?

From Hollywood to the White House, cybersecurity is top of mind. On Feb. 13, the White House hosted a cybersecurity summit at Stanford University. Hundreds of miles to the south of Stanford, Hollywood executives continue to ratchet up cybersecurity in the aftermath of the Sony Pictures email hack.

At the cybersecurity summit, President Obama said attacks like the one on Sony’s computer system hurt American companies and cost American jobs. Thus, he said, this poses “a threat to America’s economic security.”

That threat is all the more dangerous because of a shortage of cybersecurity specialists. According to The Wall Street Journal, talent wars have broken out in the cybersecurity space. “Companies are seeking engineers who can secure applications and computer networks and, in the event intruders wreak havoc, plug the holes and remediate attacks,” the Journal said.

Two major sessions at the 2015 NAB Show will tackle the cybersecurity threat: Cybersecurity expert John McAfee will speak April 15 at the NAB Show Technology Luncheon, and he will also be part of a panel later that day called “Protecting Our Assets: Cybersecurity and the Media.”

“Many companies today are grappling with serious concerns about security and privacy,” NAB Chief Technology Officer Sam Matheny said.

As cybersecurity efforts ramp up in Hollywood and elsewhere, who will help media companies protect their assets?

TechCrunch recently reported that 11 major movies in production are using so-called blackphones “to keep sensitive details under wraps and protect the privacy of actors who are working on the films.” But that certainly isn’t enough of a shield.

Some companies in Hollywood have turned to outsourced talent to help thwart cyber invasions. However, that’s more of a short-term response than a long-term solution. Ultimately, they’ll need to rely on in-house talent to further guard against cyber attackers.

“As technology becomes more integrated in our daily lives and a supporting pillar of the global economy, the cybersecurity skills shortage is becoming more critical and broadly recognized by governments and industry,” according to a recent forecast from Sophos, which makes cybersecurity technology.

Making matters worse, Sophos said, the gap in cybersecurity talent might not subside until 2030.

“Businesses should consider their recruitment strategy for these professionals,” Sophos said, “and the industry as a whole needs to make it clear to graduates that there are career prospects in this exciting space.”

A study released in 2014 by think tank RAND Corporation indicated that some large organizations are coping with the shortage of cybersecurity talent through internal promotions and stepped-up education. The shortage is particularly acute for high-level jobs with annual salaries of $200,000 to $250,000 or more, the study found. 

Paying those top-dollar salaries could prove very valuable. A 2014 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, pegged global losses from cybercrime at $375 billion to $575 billion a year. Those losses will continue to rise “as more business functions move online,” the report said, “and as more companies and consumers around the world connect to the Internet.”

To stem losses of data and money, former US Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said law enforcement agencies must be given the appropriate resources to combat cybercrime. Furthermore, Dodd said, content creators, payment processors, ad networks, Internet service providers and other “responsible participants in the Internet ecosystem” must work more closely “to forge initiatives to stop the unlawful spread of illegally obtained content.”

Meanwhile, the threat of cybercrime looms large for every industry, including media.

“Businesses of all sizes are vulnerable to this kind of theft, which can leave their proprietary, competitive secrets and even their digital products exposed and available online for anyone to loot,” Dodd said.

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