Source: Washington Examiner | Dan Perrin | September 5, 2016

On the grand timeline of mankind, revolutionary innovations can be found throughout each century. The Internet, although relatively new by comparison, is undoubtedly deserving of being considered among such achievements. It has become the backbone to the 21st century infrastructure, allowing instant communication across the globe and the ability to store nearly infinite amounts of data. With each passing day, society finds itself increasingly dependent on the worldwide web. People's lives are chronicled there, from pictures of cherished memories to sensitive information such as bank accounts. Corporations rely on their computer networks for communications, research and development, and collecting and processing consumer information. But as the Internet becomes further embedded in all of our lives, it is also increasingly becoming one of the greatest threats to our national security.

Cases of cybercrimes are multiplying exponentially each year. New research from market analyst Juniper Research details that the more we embrace the Internet — and the more consumer information is digitized — the more likely companies will suffer a data breach. The company projects that by 2019, the cost of data breaches will increase to $2.1 trillion globally. That is four times the estimated costs of breaches in 2015.

At a recent IBM Security Summit in New York City, Ginni Rometty, IBM Corp.'s chairman, president and CEO, told executives from 123 companies that she believes data "...is the world's new natural resource. It is the new basis of competitive advantage, and it is transforming every profession and industry. If all of this is true — even inevitable — then cyber crime, by definition, is the greatest threat to every profession, every industry, every company in the world."

This threat must be taken seriously. Better cybersecurity measures must soon be put into place in this country, or we will soon suffer the wrath of the $2.1 trillion projected cost of breaches.

American corporations are desperately working to overcome their data security challenges by rapidly growing their cybersecurity divisions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity job growth is projected to grow by 37 percent through the year 2022. That's more than three times the average job growth. Unfortunately, the supply of qualified domestic workers is not keeping up with the demand. Last year, there were over 550,000 jobs posted in computer science-related fields. However, U.S. universities produced fewer than 43,000 computer science graduates.

Due to the lack of qualified American workers, corporations have been forced to go overseas to bring in cybersecurity experts utilizing the high tech, H1B visa. Foreign workers are certainly not the ideal employees when considering our national security — China alone has committed more than 600 successful cyberbreeches and attacks on the U.S. government and American corporations. There needs to be a higher priority placed on computer science and more colleges need to offer classes and degrees specifically in cybersecurity.

There is, however, a new ray of hope that we can cling onto to overcome the huge gap between our cybersecurity needs and the lack of qualified American workers. Corporations, educators and even some of our elected officials are realizing that we need to start computer science education at the K-12 level to help guide our children into important fields that can provide secure futures and higher wages.

Seventy-seven CEOs in tech and corporate America — among them Bill and Melinda Gates, Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO, Amazon; Tim Cook, CEO, Apple; and Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO, Facebook — have teamed up with a bipartisan coalition of 28 governors and many educators to ask Congress to provide $250 million in federal funding to school districts in order to give every single K-12 student in the nation an opportunity to learn how to code.One hundred and thirty-five Republicans and Democrats are working in unison to ask the Appropriations Committee to prioritize funding for this much-needed educational program.

There are over one hundred school districts all over the country that are trying to implement computer science programs on their own, but they need funding to do so.

Many corporations and private donors are setting aside money to help schools develop programs that will prepare students for the job market. Unfortunately, even with all of their efforts, three-quarters of U.S. schools still cannot afford to offer any substantial type of computer classes to their students.

It is time for the federal government to step up and fund programs that will keep our country competitive and safe from nation state attacks, cybercriminals and hacktivists. We need more white hat hackers. The future of our children and our nation depend on it.

Dan Perrin is the founder of the Council to Reduce Known Cyber Vulnerabilities. This was a op-ed submission to the Washington Examiner.