RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Cyber crime is a growing industry.

The recent data breaches at Equifax, Yahoo and the Democratic National Committee are just a few of the examples of massive losses of personal information to criminal hackers.

Experts predict it’s going to get worse, because there’s a huge shortage of cyber security personnel.

“We have so many cyber security jobs open in the U.S. today. There are about 300,000 job postings that go unfulfilled,” says Dennis Bonilla, executive dean of the College of Information System and Technology at The University Of Phoenix.

And he and others predict the lack of cyber security professionals is going to get worse making cyber attacks more prevalent.

“That number of 300,000 will grow to 3.5 million in the next five years so we’ll have a huge shortage of people to work at computers and prevent cyber-attacks from happening,” says Bonilla.

That 3.5 million figure comes from research by Cybersecurity Ventures, which can be found here.

And why the shortage in IT security experts? A new survey by the University of Phoenix says it’s not a field that attracts job applicants.

“Eighty percent of respondents said we have no interest in pursuing a career in cyber security,” said Bonilla.

Many Triangle-area residents apparently feel the same.

“I would say I feel less secure online,” said Jose Maturino.

“Personally, I feel less safe, but I try not to think about it,” said Nicola Emanuel. She says “all the hacking” is driving her fears.

In fact, the University Of Phoenix survey found there’s a huge difference between people’s perception of cyber security and the reality of the situation.

  • 45 percent of all Americans experienced a cyber security breach in the last 3 years
  • 61 percent believe technology is keeping them safe from cyber attacks
  • 80 percent believe companies are doing everything necessary to prevent cyber-attacks

“The reality is, the cyber attacks are increasing, are becoming more persistent, and actually causing more breaches,” said Bonilla.

One way to breach our security is through clever detective work by hackers.

For example, cyber criminals scan our social media feeds to guess our passwords.

“Don’t use simple passwords like your dogs or cats name birthdays or the high school you went to, Bonilla explains. “If you post a lot of information on social media sites they’ll utilize that.”

We’re not going to stop cyber attackers completely, but as smart consumers, we don’t have to make it easier for them either.

To learn More about the IT security gap, click here.