Cybersecurity workers are in high demand to stop hackers from infiltrating businesses

University of Tampa ramping up its program
Posted at 4:20 AM, May 31, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Cyber attacks can hit any business at any time, and the impact can be devastating. As a result, the state of Florida is seeing a huge demand for people trained in cybersecurity.

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The University of Tampa is ramping up its cybersecurity programs to ensure students are ready to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

University of Tampa Graduate Student Chloe Zabala was originally in school for business but got drawn in the field of cybersecurity.

"You have to learn something new every day, and it's never dull," Zabala said.

The University of Tampa is now preparing students to head into cybersecurity jobs, ready to work on day one. Their program is evolving to provide more hands-on experience.

Construction has also already started on a new six-story technology building that will host the university's technology programs, including those in computer science, business information technology, management information systems, cybersecurity, business analytics and SAP certification.

Dr. Alper Yayla, who serves as the university's director of cybersecurity programs, said while the programs are strong now, hackers have more opportunities than ever.

"We are not just using computers and servers, we are using our phones, we are using smart devices," Yayla said.

That's leaving businesses desperately in need of cybersecurity workers. Yayla says there are half a million of those jobs available in the United States, around 20,000 in Florida and 6,000 in the Tampa Bay area.

"I have been offered three positions so far," Zabala said. "So there are a lot of jobs out there."

But Zabala said her success as a cybersecurity analyst truly depends on all employees working together to protect themselves.

"Cybersecurity has to be a culture of the company to be successful," Zabala said. "That's going to require everyone's buy-in and everyone has to be on board with this to make it work. "

For companies big and small, both Zabala and Yayla say the best thing you can do is educate everyone to prevent a cyber attack.

"Even if you have the best cybersecurity personnel and the tools, your employees still can click on a link or keep the door open to a stranger," Yayla said.

This comes just days after ABC News obtained this notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, saying cyber actors are likely to "... continue exploiting vulnerabilities in water and wastewater systems networks."

Pinellas County faced its own cyberattack earlier this year. In February, a hacker got into the computer system at the Oldsmar water treatment plant for up to five minutes, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

That person tried to adjust levels of lye in the water, but an operator at the plant immediately saw the change and stopped any potential contamination.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said the public was never in any danger. Both the FBI and the secret service are still working on the investigation.