Understanding the Cyber Skills Shortage

The low availability of professionals with specialized cyber skills is one of the biggest issues facing organizations looking to defend their core business systems against cyberattacks. A recent report from Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), titled “The Growing Cybersecurity Skills Crisis,” estimated that there are as many as 1 million unfilled security jobs worldwide, as shown below.

Figure 1: Cybersecurity Skills Shortage (Source:
Business Wire)

This study, conducted late last year, revealed that 1 in 5 IT security professionals claimed their enterprise has been the target of an advanced persistent threat (APT). Despite this, some 62 percent of organizations have not increased their security training. That leads to a sizable and growing gap between formal education and real-world needs. This cyber skills shortage requires immediate attention so the industry can get better at understanding, detecting and mitigating cyberthreats and cybercrime.

IBM and the University of Warwick Join Forces to Deliver Cybersecurity Skills of the Future

IBM and WMG Cyber Security Centre team addressed this head on by building a business-focused, weeklong postgraduate module in enterprise cybersecurity aimed at boosting the cyber skills of the students. The pilot module was delivered in June as part of the University of Warwick MSc in cybersecurity and management. This builds upon a long-term arrangement where IBM professionals deliver guest lectures at the university, allowing industry experts to work hand-in-hand with academia to enrich the student’s learning experience.

A unifying theme of IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative was used to ensure business relevance and continuity through the week, and a number of specialist topics were developed and delivered by IBM practitioners working in the cybersecurity field. The topics included:

Figure 2: Sample Topics

The topics were delivered in a variety of formats, ranging from traditional lectures through hands-on workshops on ethical hacking to an interactive game to address securing systems of engagement. The game involved splitting the students into two teams. One team focused on the design of cyber defense mechanisms for a cloud-based city command system, which was needed to monitor a terrorist threat ahead of a major financial summit hosted in the city. The other team designed cyber disruption methods against the summit. Both sides presented their ideas to an assessment panel and were subjected to evaluation questions.

A Successful Endeavor

Student engagement was excellent throughout, and the university appreciated the IBM module delivery. One member of the university’s academic staff commented:

Figure 3: University of Warwick Quote

The IBM team is looking forward to delivering the module again next year at the University of Warwick and is currently exploring how the content can be used more creatively and more widely with the goal of further boosting cyber skills availability.

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