People 'n' Issues

Cyber security skills shortage leads to deep damage

August 18th, 2016
A crisis in cybersecurity skills is resulting in direct damage to organisations whose lack of talent makes them more desirable hacking targets.
hacking

This has emerged from a new Intel Security study called Hacking the Talent Shortage, a global report outlining the talent shortage crisis impacting the cybersecurity industry across both companies and nations. A vast majority (82 percent) of respondents admitting to a shortage of cybersecurity skills throughout the field.

The findings reinforce a recent study by World Wide Worx and VMware, which showed a gap between the threat being faced by South African corporations and their skills to counter the threat.

In 2015, 209,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled in the United States alone.  Despite one in four respondents to the Intel survey confirming their organisations have lost proprietary data as a result of their cybersecurity skills gap, there are no signs of this workforce shortage abating in the near-term. Respondents surveyed estimate an average of 15 percent of cybersecurity positions in their company will go unfilled by 2020. With the increase in cloud, mobile computing and the Internet of Things, as well as advanced targeted cyberattacks and cyberterrorism across the globe, the need for a stronger cybersecurity workforce is critical.

“The security industry has talked at length about how to address the barrage of hacks and breaches, but government and the private sector haven’t brought enough urgency to solving the cybersecurity talent shortage” said Chris Young, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel Security Group. “Welcoming non-traditional sources of education, providing training opportunities, evolving skills for automation and diversifying the industry are all critical next steps to address this workforce crisis.”

The demand for cybersecurity professionals is outpacing the supply of qualified workers, with highly technical skills the most in need across all countries surveyed. In fact, skills such as intrusion detection, secure software development and attack mitigation were found to be far more valued than softer skills including collaboration, leadership and effective communication.

This report studies four dimensions that comprise the cybersecurity talent shortage, which include:

1.         Cybersecurity Spending: The size and growth of cybersecurity budgets reveals how countries and companies prioritize cybersecurity. Unsurprisingly, countries and industry sectors that spend more on cybersecurity are better placed to deal with the workforce shortage, which according to 71 percent of respondents, has resulted in direct and measureable damage to their organization’s security networks.

2.         Education and Training: Only 23 percent of respondents say education programs are preparing students to enter the industry. This report reveals non-traditional methods of practical learning, such as hands-on training, gaming and technology exercises and hackathons, may be a more effective way to acquire and grow cybersecurity skills. More than half of respondents believe that the cybersecurity skills shortage is worse than talent deficits in other IT professions, placing an emphasis on continuous education and training opportunities.

3.         Employer Dynamics: While salary is unsurprisingly the top motivating factor in recruitment, other incentives are important in recruiting and retaining top talent, such as training, growth opportunities and reputation of the employer’s IT department. Almost half of respondents cite lack of training or qualification sponsorship as common reasons for talent departure.

4.         Government Policies: More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents say their governments are not investing enough in building cybersecurity talent. This shortage has become a prominent political issue as heads of state in the U.S., UK, Israel and Australia have called for increased support for the cybersecurity workforce in this past year.

Closing the gap in this global shortage of cybersecurity talent requires countries and organizations to develop critical technical skills, increase cybersecurity budgets, cultivate a larger and more diverse workforce and reform education and training programs to include more hands-on learning opportunities, especially in areas such as the  automation of security networks.

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