Nightly News   |  February 02, 2013

Cyber watchdogs worry about worker shortage

As hackers present a growing threat to institutions across the U.S. – most recently The New York Times – cyber watchdog firms worry that there may not be enough people who can effectively monitor systems. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> the social media giant twitter says it has become the latest victim in a string of sophisticated hacking attacks aimed at exposing users' private information. experts believe the attack, which follows others launched against three of this country's largest newspapers, is the latest illustration of a dire need for more experts with the training to prevent them. nbc's justice correspondent pete williams has more tonight.

>> reporter: at the offices of cyber watch dog mandiant security computer consultant for "the washington post " and "new york times" a constant vigil keeps watch for signs of attack on them and other clients. the company also devises ways to stay a step ahead to block attempted intrusions from succeeding.

>> there is always going to be some kind of gap attackers can exploit and very often we see companies haven't invested in responding to the fact that they will sustain a breach and many times they're caught flat footed when it occurs.

>> reporter: with cyber attacks on the rise against banks, news organizations, social media , and the systems that keep the country going, there's a growing worry that the u.s. faces a serious shortage of people who know how to respond.

>> it takes a thousand hours of hands on work just like a pilot. you can't be a good pilot unless you've actually flown an airplane under pressure. you can't be a good cyber person unless you've actually fought in cyber space either in a simulator or in the real world .

>> reporter: the need is exploding. the pentagon's u.s. cyber command is drawing up plans to bring 4,000 new computer security experts onboard. homeland security secretary janet napolitano warns that the lack of experts nationwide is critical.

>> it should be encrypted here and is not.

>> reporter: the university of southern california is among a handful of the nation's colleges answering the call, preparing to offer a degree in cyber security .

>> for whatever type of system that i'm going to develop for somebody i want to make sure that it's secure.

>> in the past if your computer got attacked maybe you were worried about slow start up speeds. now they can actually affect your livelihood.

>> reporter: educators say it's essential to start building the cyber work force earlier in schools and colleges , preparing for one part of the economy everyone agrees is expanding as the cyber threat spreads. pete williams , nbc news, washington.