The global shortage of cybersecurity experts has reached 2.93 million, posing a growing risk to businesses worldwide struggling to find, hire, and retain skilled employees to maximize their defenses.
According to the new (ISC)² 2018 Cybersecurity Workforce Study published today, the shortage is greatest in Asia Pacific, which lacks 2.14M security workers, followed by North America (498K), Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (142K), and Latin America (136K). Researchers calculated the percentage of businesses with open roles, businesses' estimated growth and future hiring needs, and estimates of entrants into the security field to come up with the numbers.
More than 63% of respondents report a lack of staff dedicated to security, and nearly 60% say the issue puts them at moderate or extreme risk. For 37%, the workforce gap is their top concern, outranking lack of resources (29%), inadequate budget (28%), and lack of time (27%).
For current security employees, part of the challenge is balancing a wealth of responsibilities. Respondents claim they want to do fewer time-consuming tasks like security administration, incident response, and endpoint security management. They'd rather spend more time on high-value tasks like threat intelligence analysis, penetration testing, and forensics.
There are several challenges preventing their focus on key security projects, and 24% say a lack of skilled employees is the problem. But how should companies add to their security staff? What skills should they be looking for? And how can aspiring pros acquire those skills?
Infosec Hiring Challenges
John McCumber, director of cybersecurity advocacy at (ISC)², says part of the problem is in the hiring process. Companies know they need to hire more people – 48% expect to increase security staff within the next year – but they don't seem to know the best way to do it.
While he agrees the skills gap exists, McCumber says "the numbers don't tell the whole story." Yes, the industry needs more security pros, but it also needs better methods for finding them.
A problem exists when businesses hiring security pros lack clarity to make effective hiring decisions, which he says happens often. Hiring managers need to better understand which skills people need to be effective in their roles, and they need to effectively describe the skills, abilities, and knowledge they need to strengthen their security posture.
"There's this disconnect between what people can put in a job description, and what people respond with in their resumes." He calls it the "paperwork gap." Some companies want a new hire, fresh out of college, with expertise of a senior security expert and pay level of an intern. But those employees don't exist, leaving businesses unsure of which skills to look for.
Part of the challenge is keeping up with new technologies and how cyberattacks are evolving to hit targets like the IoT, for example. "I think we have a large vulnerability in that there are a lot of technical positions out there that contribute to the security posture of an organization," says (ISC)² CEO David Shearer. Employee skillsets need to match the threats their companies face.
However, not all cybersecurity skills are technical in nature.
McCumber points out how major tech companies are now wrestling with ethical and moral dilemmas related to the data they gather, use, share, and protect. Now they're forced to address related ethical issues. Having the right people in those roles, and having an ethical culture throughout the organization, is becoming critical.
"Those are the issues a lot of organizations face," he adds. "You're not going to solve them with technology … we have an ethics element to what we do."
The Future of Tech Education
"We need to do a better job in educating people," says Shearer.
The educational system is struggling to keep up with the demand for skilled tech experts, and it's driving a divide between technology and traditional education, McCumber continues. You don't need a four-year degree from a traditional university to qualify for a technical role. Internships and training programs can provide the necessary expertise in shorter timeframes.
Thirty-five percent of respondents say face-to-face, instructor-led training is most valuable but only 27% say their company offers it. Internet-based training, the most popular offered among businesses (38%), is considered most valuable by 31% of respondents. Other valuable resources include conferences (28%), personal study review (26%), and virtual classrooms (25%).
Respondents say the following areas of security expertise are critical: security awareness (58%), risk analysis and management (58%), security administration (53%), network monitoring (52%), incident investigation and response (52%), intrusion detection (51%), cloud computing and security (51%), and security engineering (51%). Cloud, pentesting, threat intelligence analysis, and forensics are areas where expertise is low now, but high demand is expected in the future.
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