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Congresswomen Advocate for Cybersecurity Jobs for Formerly Incarcerated

While reintegration of formerly incarcerated people into the workforce is important, the government should be cautious about what positions those with a criminal history are put into.

Two democratic Congresswomen have introduced new legislation to promote cybersecurity education and jobs to “underrepresented” and “disadvantaged” people, including those who may be fresh out of prison.

Shontel Brown (OH-11) and Haley Stevens (MI-11) introduced the new Diverse Cybersecurity Workforce Act (H.R.8469), which is currently supported by 32 other cosponsors. Under the initiative, the US cybersecurity agency (CISA) will be tasked with expanding education and outreach activities and promoting cybersecurity careers to disadvantaged communities.

Supporters of the bill believe the cybersecurity field should be promoted more to ethnic and racial minorities, women, older individuals, people with disabilities, geographically and socioeconomically diverse communities, veterans, individuals from nontraditional educational paths, and individuals who were formerly incarcerated.

While reintegration of formerly incarcerated people into the workforce is important, the government needs be cautious about what positions those with a criminal history are put into. 

Allowing formerly incarcerated individuals into roles related to national security poses increased risks, primarily due to the heightened possibility of insider threats. With a history of criminal behavior or association with illicit activities, this group is likely more susceptible to coercion or manipulation by adversaries.

The potential for these individuals to misuse their access to sensitive information or critical infrastructure for personal gain or under external pressure presents a substantial risk, which the Congresswomen have not mentioned in the proposed bill.

According to CyberSeek, more than 400,000 cybersecurity positions need to be filled in the US, but these jobs can take much longer to fill, with one reason the Congresswomen being the lack of a diverse workforce.

The Diverse Cybersecurity Workforce Act mandates that CISA will establish a program to promote the cybersecurity field to the mentioned communities as part of its Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program.

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The proposed program should be established six months after the legislation is enacted and would be followed by CISA promoting cybersecurity employment awareness to educators, schools, chambers of commerce, unions, workforce development officers, and other institutions.

If enacted, DHS would receive $20 million annually through 2030 to carry out the program and CISA will have to report to Congress annually on the efficacy of the program.

GovTrack, which tracks activities of the United States Congress, currently suggests that the bill has a 4% chance of being enacted.

Related: House Passes Reauthorization of Key US Surveillance Program After Days of Upheaval Over Changes

Related: House Passes Bill Barring Sale of Personal Information to Foreign Adversaries

Related: Maryland Governor Signs Online Data Privacy Bills

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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