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"The risk is too high" | Cybersecurity experts warn more people needed in their field

Cybersecurity experts said they need more people in their field as technology expands its reach, and a community college is working to train future professionals.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Cybersecurity may not be the flashiest field to get into, and it may not be the easiest. But experts say it's one of the most important industries and the need for more people is growing.

"The need for this is increasing, it's not going to slow down, it's probably going to speed up," said Bridgitte Mase, the vice president of cyber solutions at Boston Government Services which provides cybersecurity services/

Without cybersecurity workers, experts warn about cyberattacks similar to the one in late April that led to gas shortages. More people are using technology to accomplish vital tasks, and Mase warned that could mean more vulnerabilities appearing.

"Everybody's online all the time," she said. "And so, as a result of that, we're in a constant state of a threat, really."

She specifically said cybersecurity experts are needed to protect critical infrastructures such as financial services, electricity services, water supplies and natural gas services. 

But many jobs in the cybersecurity field are vacant. Pellissippi State Community College is hoping to change that with a state-of-the-art cyber defense program.

"We're looking at bringing more and more students in — providing them with the knowledge, abilities and skills that they need to be successful in tomorrow's workforce," said Dr. Tammie Bolling, a professor at the school.

The program is 61 hours long, including in-class learning. There is also a chance for students to get hands-on experience and go into the field with professionals through an internship component.

"The risk of not being able to fill these positions and not being able to address the effects of all of the increased threat vectors — it's just not acceptable," Mase said.