At a glance

The new cybersecurity licensing proposal

Here's how the proposal would work

Q. What does this Senate cybersecurity proposal seek to do?

A. It would require that all government employees and contractors be certified and licensed if they provide cybersecurity services to an agency or for an information system the president designates as critical infrastructure.

Q. How many cybersecurity workers would be affected by the new requirement?

A. Certainly tens of thousands, though precise numbers are difficult to determine because the government does not have a separate job classification for cybersecurity workers.

Q. Is there a difference between certification and licensing?

A. IT certifications traditionally are created and administered by companies and nonprofit industry organizations. Licensing entails some government role in developing or approving the program.

Q. What kinds of training would be included in certification or licensing?

A. The Senate proposal does not state whether the government should use existing commercial programs or develop its own.

Q. Are there any similar requirements already in place in the government?

A. There are no governmentwide programs, but in 2004, the Defense Department started requiring certifications — but not licensing — for all workers who handle information assurance tasks. The requirement applies to 90,000 employees, but only about 30 percent of them have been certified through the program so far.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 Daniel Castro Washington, DC

If certification were a solution, we would have solved the cybersecurity challenge many years ago. Certainly more workforce training, while not a panacea, can help teach workers how to respond to known cybersecurity attacks. But workforce training is not certification, and organizations, not Congress, are in the best position to determine what the most appropriate and effective training is for their workers. Organizations know that simply getting their employees a certification will not solve their security challenges. Having certified employees does not mean firewalls will be configured securely, computers will have up-to-date patches, or employees won’t write passwords on the back of keyboards. Read my full analysis of this issue here:

Fri, Jun 26, 2009

Unfortuntately, certification and licensing process has become more about revenue generation than ensuring the individual is acqually qualified. In a few short years, training centers offering "Certification" training have sprung up all over. Even when sponsored by well meaning individuals, they quickly become more a status symbol for the holder and a source of revenue for the offeror.

When manadated, those offering the training will be jump the price to training, increasing the costs to the individual or their employeer who must now have the certification/license to be gainfully employeed.

Do hackers have to be licensed and certified. I would rather hire a very talanted individual then someone who has certifications and little or no experiance.

Worse, while we are all out working on our certifications to get our licenses, who is going to be minding the store.

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