Solving the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

4 min read

Recognizing the critical need for cyber professionals, Critical Insight Founder Mike Hamilton began creating a unique program when he was CISO of Seattle.

Why Our 97.5% Retention Rate Matters

Using a unique training program called PISCES (Public Infrastructure Security Cyber Education System), Critical Insight partners with universities to train and develop the next generation of cybersecurity talent. The students hone their cyber skills through an innovative curriculum paired with live-fire training using our tech, as they defend small cities, which could not otherwise afford the protection provided. Critical Insight continually engages with this highly skilled talent pool and we get the unique opportunity to hire the best of the best.

And, when we hire the best, we put them through an internal training and development program. That program mixed with our company culture has led to a retention rate for analysts over 97%. For customers, that means analysts and supervisors who get to know you and your network environment don’t depart often. That allows Critical Insight to provide better defense and allows you to know who has your back 24x7.

The program is so unique, the Wall Street Journal wrote about it:

PISCES works with colleges to develop a curriculum where students analyze real network logs from these organizations as part of their cybersecurity courses to identify suspicious events. The project is backed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a research and development facility overseen by the Energy Department.

Over 125 students from five institutions are currently involved in these programs.

Public sector institutions have become preferred targets of hackers in recent years. A report from cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks Inc., published in August, estimated that the majority of cyberattacks it analyzed through late 2019 and 2020 targeted local governments, schools, libraries, courts and other such organizations.

The Pisces program gives local governments access to cybersecurity technology and expertise they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

How It Started

Before he was Critical Insight’s co-founder, Mike Hamilton was the CISO of the City of Seattle from 2006 to 2013. In that job and his previous one as Managing Consultant for VeriSign Global Security working with Fortune 500 corporations, it became clear to him local government (cities, counties, ports, etc.) provides critical services yet are highly vulnerable. Specifically, network monitoring for cybersecurity threats was not commonly conducted.

Mike realized the underlying problem is the lack of qualified personnel willing to work in the public sector. According to CNN Business, there is a staggering number of open cybersecurity jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “information security analyst” is the 10th fastest growing occupation in the United States. Local governments cannot attract and retain these resources in such a seller’s market.

The Beginning of PISCES

Mike decided to help fix the problem and requested grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security to create a regional cybersecurity monitoring system, which could be provided at no charge to local governments in the Puget Sound area. At its peak, the PRISEM (Public Regional Information Security Event Monitoring) system was helping nine cities and counties, six maritime ports on Puget Sound, a hospital, and two energy utilities. PRISEM was successful as the only regional monitoring system ever deployed.

Mike saw another problem: needing to train Analysts straight from college. He and a colleague converted PRISEM to PISCES integrating the monitoring program with curriculum developed and curated by Western Washington University to teach operational experience to Analysts-in-training. The PISCES curriculum is now being delivered at five universities, with two more being added in Winter 2021.

PISCES is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization and training program that solves two problems at once by:

  • Training students to be cybersecurity analysts using “live-fire” events directed at critical infrastructure.
  • Providing free threat monitoring for small city and county government agencies.

Training to be Cybersecurity Analysts

The students also interact with Hamilton and other Critical Insight staff, allowing us to create a pipeline of cybersecurity talent like no other.

Critical Insight Analyst Champagne Ryder was a PISCES student and is now one of Critical Insight’s star analysts. He relayed this story from his time as a student:

“When you’re on the line, looking at government data, you’re like, ‘hey, I know that City and this is going on on their network,’ you take it personally. There’s a ticket I did, I can’t remember the exploit, but I felt super great when Mike Hamilton came in and said, ‘whoa, we should send this to the client’ it gives you a badge of confidence. Look at me, I’m a student who FOUND something. That gave me the confidence to be an analyst.”

In a June article published on Government Technology, Darrick Teller, a student at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, talked about being part of the PISCES program and how he and his team were able to stop a Russian hacking attempt by bringing the suspicious activity to the attention of the IT Director.

Now to that 97.5% Retention Rate

The PISCES program is very much aligned with Critical Insight’s mission to protect and defend critical services through local infrastructure protection, workforce development, and cybersecurity research. The program trains many new analysts, and CI only hires a small percentage, the rest go on to help other places, filling a largely unmet need in the market.

Critical Insight customers can rest easy knowing the analysts watching their networks come with the strong PISCES training before going through Critical Insight SOC training. When looking to hire a cybersecurity vendor, organizations should always ask the question, “where do you find your employees?”

As an added benefit to Critical Insight customers, our attrition and turnover is far below industry averages with a 97.5% annual retention rate in technical roles. That means the people who know your environment will be defending you year over year.

More about PISCES

Anyone wishing to learn more about the PISCES program can connect with Mike Hamilton or Critical Insight on LinkedIn.