Intel study reveals shortage of cybersecurity talent

A newly-released study from Intel Security, in partnership with the Washington, DC-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), points to a talent shortage crisis impacting the cybersecurity industry across both companies and nations.

The report, entitled ‘Hacking the Skills Shortage’, is based on independent research undertaken for Intel among IT decision-makers from major organisations involved in cybersecurity across the US (200), UK (100), France (100), Germany (100), Australia (75), Japan (75), Mexico (75) and Israel (50).

Among the findings, 82% of respondents admitted to a shortage of cybersecurity skills, with 71% citing it as responsible for direct and measurable damage to organizations whose lack of talent makes them more desirable hacking targets.

“A shortage of people with cybersecurity skills results in direct damage to companies, including the loss of proprietary data and intellectual property [IP],” said James A Lewis, senior vice president and director of the strategic technologies program at CSIS. “This is a global problem; a majority of respondents in all countries surveyed could link their workforce shortage to damage to their organisation.”

The report focuses on four main areas contributing to the cybersecurity talent shortage:

1. Cybersecurity spending: The size and growth of cybersecurity budgets reveals how countries and companies prioritise cybersecurity, with countries and industry sectors that spend more on cybersecurity better placed to deal with the workforce shortage, which according to 71% of respondents, has resulted in direct and measureable damage to their organisation’s security networks.
2. Education and training: Only 23% of respondents say education programmes are preparing students to enter the industry. The report finds that non-traditional methods of practical learning, such as hands-on training, gaming and technology exercises and hackathons, may be a more effective way to acquire and grow cybersecurity skills. More than half of respondents believe that the cybersecurity skills shortage is worse than talent deficits in other IT professions, placing an emphasis on continuous education and training opportunities.
3. Employer dynamics: While salary is the top motivating factor in recruitment, other incentives are important in recruiting and retaining top talent, such as training, growth opportunities and reputation of the employer’s IT department. Almost half of respondents cite lack of training or qualification sponsorship as common reasons for talent departure.
4. Government policies: Just over three in four respondents say their governments are not investing enough in building cybersecurity talent. This shortage has become a prominent political issue as heads of state in the US, UK, Israel and Australia have called for increased support for the cybersecurity workforce in the last year.

“The security industry has talked at length about how to address the storm of hacks and breaches, but government and the private sector haven’t brought enough urgency to solving the cybersecurity talent shortage,” said Chris Young, senior vice president and general manager of Intel Security Group.

“To address this workforce crisis, we need to foster new education models, accelerate the availability of training opportunities, and we need to deliver deeper automation so that talent is put to its best use on the front line. Finally, we absolutely must diversify our ranks.”

Michael Keegan, chair of Fujitsu UK & Ireland, commented: “Cybercrime is a recurring issue that every business faces, as it really is a case of ‘when, not if’ a breach will occur. Cybersecurity must be addressed at the highest level of the business, not left to the IT department.

“In short, the C-suite must take collective action. It is vital to upskill the existing IT team and educate the entire workforce on common cybercriminal tactics and the risks of using their own devices in the workplace. Human resources (HR) directors must also have a dedicated plan in place to attract and retain skilled staff.

“And finally, leaders should consider using a security operations centre (SOC) to identify and respond to threats. As cybercrime continues to grow in scale and sophistication, security must be embedded into company culture from the top down.”


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