How Okta is helping society prepare for future cyberthreats

Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum shared its Global Risks Report outlining the top ten risks over the next decade. Amidst climate, societal, and geopolitical risk, the list also included “widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity.” Cybersecurity challenges are clearly some of the most critical issues of our time. Not only are they becoming more common, they are also becoming more sophisticated. 

Okta for Good, Okta’s social impact and sustainability arm, is focused on building a safely connected world where everyone can belong and thrive. Central to this mission is helping the social sector mitigate cyber threats and ensuring all sectors can find diverse, skilled cyber talent. Our $1M Nonprofit Cybersecurity Portfolio and recently announced Cybersecurity Workforce Development Initiative are two ways we bring this to life. 

This year, building off those initial investments, we announced an additional $100,000 grant to the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC) for their Cybersecurity Futures 2030 project - a global research initiative exploring how digital security could evolve by 2030. The goal of this project is to identify emerging cybersecurity trends and risks for government, industry and civil society and enable better collaboration in approaching these future challenges. The report was recently released, and we are excited to share some of its key findings, how it will inform our work moving forward, and how other tech companies can get involved to ensure a more secure future. 

Cybersecurity Futures 2030

Throughout this past year, the CLTC team held a series of workshops around the world, in five regions that will have different influences and perspectives on the digital security landscape of the next decade: Dubai, UAE; Washington, D.C.; Kigali, Rwanda; New Delhi, India; and Singapore. The team also hosted a virtual workshop with participants from multiple European countries and the U.K. Each workshop brought together a mix of participants from government, business, civil society, academia, and other areas. 

The workshops centred on four scenarios portraying diverse “cybersecurity futures” — all hypothetical but plausible — taking place in the year 2030. Designed to illustrate alternative futures in which the cybersecurity problems of today have changed in distinctive ways, the scenarios instigated dialogue on a wide range of topics including semiconductor technology, technology-driven economic displacement, election fraud, and advanced AI-driven medical research. Among the key findings detailed in the report, a few particularly stood out to us. 

Investing in cybersecurity talent and awareness 

Transformative investment in cybersecurity talent and training emerged as a priority objective. Regardless of technological advances, the importance of human capital for managing technology and cybersecurity is more critical than ever. An interesting dynamic that emerged was the competition for global talent. The bar for cybersecurity talent is heightening, and with automation and AI fulfilling entry-level technical jobs, there will be an increasing need and opportunity for people trained in cybersecurity and AI supervisory and policy roles. The demand for people who can design, build, and deploy secure machine learning and AI products is also skyrocketing.

Cyberthreats are growing, along with their complexity. And unfortunately, there aren’t enough people today to do the work of keeping us safe. Today there is a 3.4 million cybersecurity worker gap worldwide, with additional research indicating the broader tech talent gap at 40 million. The current economic climate makes it even more difficult for those looking to enter or make a career transition into tech or cyber. These career opportunities are also disproportionately out of reach for jobseekers from underrepresented communities. We see this challenge at Okta and across our customer ecosystem — it’s hard to find the right talent, and we are all fighting over the same small pool. We need to expand this rapidly. Okta is committed to finding and developing the best cybersecurity talent and providing equitable access to thriving careers in technology. In October, we launched a cybersecurity workforce development initiative to help close the tech and cybersecurity skills gap, including philanthropic investments in nonprofits focused on inclusive pathways into technology and educational grants to unemployed professionals looking to make a career transition to cybersecurity by growing their Okta skills. Rather than see the competition for global talent as a zero-sum game, we can invest in increasing the pool of talent, with a focus on those communities underrepresented in tech, bringing greater balance and diversity to the sector. 

Intersection of sustainability and evolving cybersecurity landscape 

Sustainability, climate change, and digital security goals are becoming more entangled. Technology advancements are causing major increases in energy demand. The construction of green energy infrastructure, such as electric vehicle charging and smart grid networks, is set to expand to the Internet of Things (IoT) — a notorious source of cyber insecurity in danger of being overlooked. There’s optimism about the potential of new technologies, particularly AI tools, to help with climate and energy solutions. Yet the digital infrastructure to support it needs continued focus and investment. Further, digital inclusion — the equitable and safe access to and use of digital technologies, is another critical area of focus, as it can accelerate the divides between haves and have-nots. 

"As the digital security landscape evolves, it is important for us to proactively anticipate and take action on impending cyber risks and opportunities, especially as they relate to our communities. We have an enduring responsibility to maximise benefits to society and the environment, with security, addressing the digital divide, and sustainability as some of our core areas of focus. We are excited by the insights and recommendations outlined in the Cybersecurity Futures 2030 report, which will ensure that we and other stakeholders can take informed, collaborative action to strengthen cybersecurity for all of us in the years ahead". 

Ben King, Vice President, Customer Trust 

Okta has outlined nine material ESG issues, including security, digital divide, and energy and climate. Further, through our philanthropy, we invest in digital inclusion efforts with partners like the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the Good Things Foundation

The power of public-private partnerships 

As the speed of technological innovation increases, so does the acceleration of cyberattacks. It is becoming more difficult yet imperative to ensure the trustworthiness of digital products and services. Digital security is, therefore, being reframed as enabling our ability to trust each other, our technology, and our institutions amid innovation. Public-private partnerships will be imperative to move the needle on protecting the confidentiality and availability of information, its integrity, and overall trust in our society. 

We believe strongly in this approach. Last year, our partners at NetHope launched the humanitarian Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (ISAC) — a collaboration between Nethope, Okta, USAID, and the CyberPeace Institute. This partnership has enabled coordinated, cross-sector support for the information security needs of the NetHope community of nonprofits — 60 of the largest humanitarian organisations who deliver the lionshare of aid globally. Additionally, we are excited by government-directed efforts to prioritise cybersecurity for the general population, such as the release of the White House National Cybersecurity Strategy. With an ever-expanding threat landscape, we need collaboration and commitment from every sector to bridge these gaps. 

How tech companies can help

Companies like Okta and our technology peers have a responsibility (and opportunity) to take these insights and invest in a more secure future for our society. This includes enabling nonprofit technology and security capacity and investing in cybersecurity talent and education. Here are a few ways tech companies can help. 

Understand the evolving cybersecurity landscape: Learn more about UC Berkeley’s Centre for Long-Term Cybersecurity and the Cybersecurity Futures 2030 report. Explore how you might leverage these insights to meet the growing needs and opportunities related to cybersecurity. 

Invest in cybersecurity talent: Support organisations like CodePath, Women in Cybersecurity, and NPower, who are training up the next generation of cyber talent. 

Support efforts to advance cybersecurity for society: Get involved in NetHope’s Humanitarian ISAC as a funder, supporter, or expert advisor. Join the CyberPeace Builders Program to offer expert cybersecurity assistance to civil society organisations.