The State of the Cybersecurity Skills Gap Heading Into 2020
by Arslan Hassan
As we dive deeper into a digital age, the rate of cybercrimes has escalated to newer heights. Not a day goes by where you don’t hear news of a data breach, company network getting compromised, phishing scams on the world wide web. Beyond commercial damages, cyberattacks are known to wreak havoc on personal lives, careers, and even customer relationship for businesses.
A while ago, most people believed that cybercrime could be prevented with a strong firewall, antivirus program, and encryption tools. However, in today’s increasingly risky digital world, this seems more and more unlikely and the lack of cybersecurity professionals is catching up to us. This has resulted in an amplified demand for cybersecurity expertise and knowledge all across the globe.
The downside is there are no skilled individuals to fill in these positions due to the skills gap in the cybersecurity field. Employers are facing millions of vacant cybersecurity positions in their companies and encountering obstacles that are taking a toll on their bottom line. Furthermore, the Annual Cybersecurity Jobs Report predicted that by 2021 there would be a total of 3.5 million unoccupied positions globally. Existing professionals are seen to be facing intense pressure due to the hoard of cyberattacks and crimes happening daily, while also working long hours to develop tools to keep virtual crimes at bay. This has led many cybersecurity experts to switch careers and permanently drop out of the field, thereby expanding the skills gap as we enter 2020.
Cybersecurity Skills Gap on the Rise
Unfortunately, the cybersecurity skills gap doesn’t seem to be deteriorating anytime soon. Whether it’s a lack of proper educational courses or training programs in the cybersecurity field, it is predicted that the gap is only going to significantly increase next year. It seems that universities and cybersecurity training organizations are not graduating competent students fast enough to suffice the demand for information security employees. Consequently, major companies across the globe blame this shortage as the cause of their technical vulnerabilities and declined security measures.
On top of that, cyberattacks are anticipated to become more complicated in the future, thereby pressurizing cybersecurity experts to heighten their cognitive computing skills to track down malicious software back to its owner.
Employers - Methods to Widen the Talent Pool
The reason behind the skills gap could be because employers are on the hunt for very particular contenders to join their teams.
Cybersecurity is a difficult field to break into and with the regular developments in technology; candidates often find themselves lacking certain skills. That coupled with the absence of experience in tackling cybercrimes or training has left several cybercrime experts to have limited skill sets. Hiring managers may be looking for candidates with a keyword filter and those who don’t make the cut don’t proceed any further in the hiring process.
This setback can be dealt with in two ways. Firstly, employers can work with educational institutes and universities to sponsor programs and offer internships to students so they can receive technical certification in cybersecurity. Moreover, institutes can reach out to a reputable software development company and have their cybersecurity experts hold a seminar or conference with students so they can understand and determine the importance of cybersecurity professionals in today’s world of smart technology. Once they’re aware of the strong value of cybersecurity degrees, they’ll actively work towards acquiring a robust skillset in the field.
Secondly, it is suggested that employers should reduce the strictness of requirements when scouting for applicants, thus making it easier for individuals to build a career in cybersecurity. This means that entry-level jobs should be willing to hire freshly graduates on-board and offer them adequate training so they’re able to work with other security teams. Although, this doesn’t imply that companies start hiring people with no technical background or knowledge, but they can search for capable candidates with progressive skillsets and technical literateness that can be advanced after thorough technology training.
Despite the fact that the required cybersecurity workforce won’t appear overnight, if local institutes and companies strive to identify future cybersecurity professionals, they can finally start filling up vacant positions.
AI Tools may Help Cybersecurity Workers
Due to the lack of experienced professionals in the field, employers are turning to artificial intelligence for a way to drive back cybercrimes and protect their customers. Companies are working to develop AI antiviruses, anti-phishing tools, and other cybercrime detection programs to reduce the amount of workload and strain on existing cybersecurity workers. While AI is known to be effective in pattern-finding and automation, it is yet to be identified how successful it could be in cybersecurity. Many cybersecurity specialists are uncertain of AI technology and oppose the idea of relying on digital tools to handle cybercrimes and attacks. Especially since technology is evolving at a fast pace and what’s relevant today may not be any good tomorrow.
On the other hand, major companies and businesses continue to invest in AI cybersecurity technology since there seems to be no other operative solution to counter the widening gap. The necessity of cybersecurity in this age can never be exaggerated and although not many place their confidence in this technology, it does hold the potential to minimize the pressure of the growing skill gap.
The Future of the Cybersecurity Skills Gap
There is an impending weight on in-house IT companies and cybersecurity professionals who are facing more and more cyber-attacks with increased frequency. Cyber attackers arm themselves with sophisticated technical skills and complex attack methods that catch IT teams off guard and cause serious damage. While there are no signs that this gap will begin to close in the coming years, if cybersecurity engineers and educational institutes can raise awareness regarding data protection, secure software development, and cognitive cybersecurity; we can warn organizations, reach a wider audience and bring compulsory exposure to this field. Hopefully, this can bring in a stream of talent who wish to pursue a career in cybersecurity and develop the essential skills required to mitigate the dangerous cyber activity.
About the Author
Arslan Hassan is an electrical engineer with a passion for writing, designing and anything tech-related. His educational background in the technical field has given him the edge to write on many topics. He occasionally writes blog articles for Dynamologic Solutions, A software house in Pakistan.