Organizations with understaffed IT security teams face a double-whammy – not enough employees to bear the workload and a greater potential they will be hit with a cyberattack or data breach, a new survey found.
The Life and Times of Cyber Security Professionals report, which surveyed 343 global infosec workers, found 22% of respondents cite their IT security team as understaffed and that the shortage of people contributed to a security event at their organization in the past two years.
"The shortage is creating massive problems for businesses," says Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), which conducted the survey on behalf of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA).
Indeed. A total of 70% of survey respondents say the cybersecurity skills shortage, which is expected to create a deficit of 1.8 million infosec jobs by 2022, has an impact on organization.
The impact these organizations are facing: increased work among existing IT security staff (63%), the need to hire junior employees in the absence of enough available senior IT security workers (41%), and a work environment where infosec pros are constantly addressing high-alert threats, rather making long-range strategic security plans (41%).
Acute Shortage of Cybersecurity Skills
One-third of organizations say security analysis and investigations as well as application security both topped the list of IT security skills in acute shortage, followed by cloud security.
"I would focus on filling app security positions," says Candy Alexander, ISSA Cyber Security Career Lifecycle chief architect. "It's been an issue for a while and it isn't going away."
Security analysis investigation requires a special skillset, making it even more difficult to find such professionals in an already tight IT security market, she says.
In situations were certain job skills face an acute shortage, companies tend to poach another organization's IT security staff, or use an outsource service, Oltsik says.
Cybersecurity skills development is critical to keep team members sharp, 96% of survey participants agree. But 67% note that learning new skills is difficult to achieve given the heavy workload.
A lot of the headlines in the past decade have been about the cybersecurity staffing shortage, Alexander says, adding that there is not necessarily a staffing shortage but rather a problem of having a deficit of workers with the appropriate skills.
Businesses, she adds, tend to view training as sending employees to a class to listen to an instructor. But just-in-time training - where trainees get only they information they seek when they need it regarding risks they want to mitigate - is a better training method.
Just 38% of respondents say their employer provides the cybersecurity team with the right level of training to stay abreast of business and IT risks.
The vast majority of IT security pros are very satisfied, 40%, with their current job, or at least somewhat satisfied, 48%, the survey found.
Financial compensation topped the list of job satisfaction drivers, according to 42% of survey respondents. That was followed by support and financial incentives to advance IT security careers, 38%, and business management expressing a commitment to strong cybersecurity, 37%.
These job satisfaction drivers may be important to note for retention efforts, given nearly half of the survey respondents have been approached by cybersecurity recruiters at least once a week, the survey notes.
"For businesses this is bad because it can lead to a high level of attrition and inflated salaries," Oltsik warns.
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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio