The widening cybersecurity skills gap comes as no surprise. Government agencies and private enterprises have been trying for years to bridge the chasm and shore up security teams before the problem hits critical mass.
According to Information Age, the U.K. skills shortage is now putting companies in the hot seat with employer demand for talented security professionals outpacing candidate interest by a factor of 3 to 1. Is this the start of a complete cybersecurity meltdown?
The UK Skills Shortage: A Numbers Game
Cybersecurity incidents are on the rise. What’s more, cybercriminals aren’t satisfied with simply cracking company servers. As noted by Silicon Republic, they’re now targeting specialized systems, such as industrial control systems, with recent data showing a 656 percent jump in these attacks since 2010.
ComputerWeekly, meanwhile, noted that IT skills gaps are increasing around the world. The gap in the U.K. shot up 5 percent in just two years, beaten only by larger gaps in Brazil and Canada. Searches conducted by potential candidates only reached 31.6 percent of the jobs on offer, so it’s no surprise that 75 percent of IT professionals in the U.K. reported that there’s now a cybersecurity talent shortage in the country.
In fact, 32 percent of enterprises reported that they were “unable to maintain an adequate staff of cybersecurity professionals.” What’s more, nearly a quarter of companies consider themselves prime targets for cybercriminals as a result of shrinking security coverage.
Some countries are closing the gap. Ireland’s top-tier technology market, for example, attracted enough interested candidates to reduce the country’s skills shortage by 14 percent. Most nations are following trend of the U.K. skills shortage, however.
As noted by Infosecurity Magazine, a recent U.S. presidential commission suggested that the incoming administration should train 100,000 new cybersecurity professionals by 2020. This would be an impressive feat, since current estimates put the number of new IT security grads at just over 10,000 per year.
This speaks to the larger concern with the emerging skills gap: root causes. Companies are familiar with the outcome — fewer cybersecurity professionals available for an increasing number of mission-critical positions — and many agencies attribute the problem to the natural impact of greater cybercriminal activity worldwide. But the beginnings are more complex, tied to both limited employee interest and a lack of hard-and-fast rules when it comes to cybersecurity.
Sounding the Bellwether
As Silicon Republic noted, many enterprises and prospective technology workers view cybersecurity as something “slightly nebulous,” leading employees to steer clear of these careers and companies to underestimate the amount of time and effort required to shore up digital defenses.
According to the Infosecurity Magazine article, meanwhile, the lack of accreditation, cybersecurity standards and a generalized training path for new workers muddies the water even as organizations advertise more skill-specific positions.
Simply put, this U.K. skills shortage sounds the bellwether. Companies are in the hot seat without enough security professionals to meet increasing demands and protect corporate networks. Avoiding the meltdown requires an uptick in security-minded staffers, which demands a new approach to training and standardization. Candidates need a clear career path bounded by marketable, transferable security training.