The Cybersecurity Talent Shortage: Challenges and Opportunities

We use networked databases in nearly every aspect of our daily lives, usually without even thinking about it. We book flights, check our medical records, post photos of our children, apply for credit, research our genetics, and even find dates online. When we log into our accounts, we’re welcomed back like old friends. All of that information (including everything a hacker needs to steal our identity) is stored somewhere, and it’s all vulnerable to attack. 

Take, for example, the 2019 breach of Capital One’s servers, exposing an estimated 100 million credit card applications, 140,000 social security numbers, and 80,000 bank account numbers. What’s even more troubling as these breaches continue to proliferate at an increasing rate is the widespread cybersecurity talent shortage. Not all companies are taking these threats as seriously as they should. But those that are simply can’t find enough trained cybersecurity professionals properly to hire.

For every problem, there is a solution, and the best solutions typically translate into great opportunities for those who have the right skills, training, and mindset. Here we’ll discuss the global cybersecurity talent shortage, the challenges this poses for organizations, and how technology professionals can turn this crisis into a bright future.

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Help Wanted: Nearly Three Million Cybersecurity Positions

The 2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study by (ISC)²® suggests there’s a need for roughly 2.8 million cybersecurity professionals, which is relatively unchanged from the organization’s 2018 survey. In fact, the global cybersecurity workforce will have to grow by 145 percent to meet demand. The 2019 survey also concluded that mobile malware attacks doubled from the previous year and that attacks on municipalities have increased substantially. This means it’s a moving target as the problem continues to grow. 

Based on the 2019 survey, regional job openings are as follows:

  • North America: Nearly 500,000
  • Europe, the Middle East, and Africa: More than 140,000 
  • Asia Pacific: More than 2,000,000
  • Latin America: More than 130,000

While some companies (mostly larger organizations) are using artificial intelligence (AI) to search for anomalies in the network to neutralize threats, the paradox is that you still need humans to implement such a system properly. Additionally, AI also has its limitations and can be easily fooled by more sophisticated attacks that don’t appear as anomalies (such as business email compromise, or BEC, attacks, in which fraudsters use social engineering as a means of entry). 

What companies of all sizes need to get a handle on these threats are insightful, proactive, and well-trained professionals. While AI requires large amounts of data to be effective and can only detect that which looks different from the ordinary, humans trained in the various methods “black hat” hackers use to compromise networks are able to think like the bad guys and dig deeper than a program ever could.

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How Companies are Coping with the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

As the talent shortage remains relatively unabated, companies have employed various stop-gap tactics in an effort to stem the tide of attacks. As we’ve already mentioned, many organizations have turned to AI. The problem is that as companies are desperate for protection from cyber attacks, they leave themselves vulnerable to half-baked solutions pushed by opportunistic vendors. Security is still considered as an afterthought as opposed to a critical function in many organizations.

And while cybersecurity professionals can potentially earn high salaries, the pay scale is all over the map and companies haven’t done a great job of recruiting and retaining the right people, according to a Forrester report stating that many hiring managers “expect to hire MacGyver but pay like McDonald’s.” 

Some companies aren’t doing much of anything to address cybersecurity, especially those that haven’t experienced a severe attack. If people are still using their products or services and the money’s again coming in, then the potential for an attack may be a blind spot in the organization. The reality is that data breaches can cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention the trust of customers and partners, and frequently lead to bankruptcy.

Another approach is to use professionals trained in other disciplines to handle security operations. They may be very good at their core competencies—and indeed, everyone in an organization has a role to play in keeping data secure—but having dedicated cybersecurity professionals is critical and becoming even more so.

Meeting the Cybersecurity Needs of the Twenty-First Century

The depth and make-up of an organization’s cybersecurity operations will depend on several factors, including the size and industry sector of the organization and, ultimately, its exposure to threats. Companies will need to do a better job assessing the potential cost of a “worst-case scenario” and plan accordingly.

For instance, any company that has an online presence faces the prospect of a data breach exposing credit card accounts. But banks, in particular, attract a disproportionate amount of attention from those wishing to siphon funds or steal personal identifying data such as Social Security numbers. Some types of businesses may be more concerned about their users’ privacy and the threat of blackmail, as we witnessed with the breach of the dating site Ashley Madison (which was positioned as a forum for those wishing to have an extramarital affair). 

Cybersecurity staffing needs differ by organization, but here are some of the most in-demand positions:

  1. Lead Software Security Engineer: They analyze software to spot any security vulnerabilities and play an important role in software deployment
  2. Chief Security Officer (CSO): This is an executive role that oversees an organization’s cybersecurity efforts
  3. Security Consultant: Individuals in this role test an organization’s vulnerability to network attacks, reporting on any weaknesses and suggesting solutions
  4. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): This is also an executive role that focuses on an organization’s IT/network security
  5. Director of Security: This individual maintains an organization’s cybersecurity policies, including the authentication of employees and safe management of physical assets (such as laptops and smartphones)
  6. Lead Security Engineer: Individuals in this role make sure an organization’s many operating environments are secure, such as video conferencing, software, and hardware
  7. Cybersecurity Engineer: They collaborate with others in the organization to ensure cybersecurity compliance and protect against both internal and external threats

Keep in mind that organizations may have different titles for some of the roles mentioned above. Others, particularly smaller organizations, tend to combine roles when hiring cybersecurity talent. 

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Help Relieve the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage: Get Trained Today!

Since those who wish to compromise networks for nefarious gain are constantly innovating new ways to breach security systems, the skills needed for cybersecurity professionals are constantly changing. Even if you’re fresh out of college with an IT or engineering degree, you’ll probably need to update your security knowledge and skills to specialize in cybersecurity. Whether your employer actively invests in your professional development or you choose to do it on your own, Simplilearn offers a compelling range of options for current and prospective cybersecurity professionals.

Simplilearn’s courses, employing our unique Blended Learning approach that combines live online classrooms with self-guided videos, are widely recognized throughout the industry and offer job-ready certifications. The following are just a few of our cybersecurity offerings:

Whatever strikes your fancy, cybersecurity is a booming field that desperately needs motivated individuals to take the lead. Take the first step toward a lucrative and in-demand career today!

About the Author

Steve TannerSteve Tanner

Steve has worked as a reporter, editor, researcher, and web content writer for more than 20 years, covering law, business, technology, and finance. His career spans journalism, online content, and marketing. A lifelong learner, Steve enjoys reading and honing his skills as a cook and homebrewer.

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