HELP WANTED: SHORTAGE OF CYBERSECURITY EXPERTS POSES CHALLENGES AND RISKS
Certification Consortium (ISC2) concluded that a “shortage in the global cybersecurity workforce continues to be a problem for companies in all industries and of all sizes.” In the United States, for example, there is a shortage of 500,000 cybersecurity workers. To meet this demand, the United States cybersecurity workforce would need to grow by 62% and the global cybersecurity workforce needs to expand by 145%.
This lack of qualified talent is the top concern among cybersecurity professionals. This gap exposes governments and businesses to substantial risks as threats from bad actors continue to grow. Although it is not clear why this gap has grown so large and quickly, there are several theories behind this phenomenon:
- It’s possible that the pace of technological advancement in cybersecurity and computer systems is simply outpacing the human capital available to service these critical functions. As systems become more robust and sophisticated, this creates tremendous demands on the need to service them and stay up to date. This results in human capital consistently trying to play “catch-up” to the ever-increasing and expanding nature of cybersecurity systems. This deficit is also likely compounded by the relative lack of women traditionally interested in cybersecurity careers. As ISC2 notes in its study, cybersecurity professionals are twice as likely to be male.
- Cybersecurity jobs are generally not high-profile and are rarely touted in the press as important or critical. Often management and executives either do not fully understand or value the critical role that cybersecurity professionals play in protecting infrastructure. Cybersecurity professionals quietly toil away in front of screens and in server rooms, not on an organization’s front lines. Despite this critical importance, they generally lack visibility and acknowledgment in organizations due to the nature of their jobs. A good day for a cybersecurity professional is when nothing bad happens.
- Information technology/security has often been outsourced to outside vendors and IT firms. However, businesses of all sizes are beginning to recognize the need and importance of having in-house IT and cybersecurity. Therefore, businesses are beginning to recruit, train, and retain their own talent. This shift toward a more in-house model has resulted in a sharp demand which the current workforce cannot meet.
So, what do we do to address this workforce gap? First, we should continue to encourage girls and women to explore education and career opportunities in STEM and computer science. This will serve two important goals: it would expand the pool of available talent interested in cybersecurity and it would diversify a workforce that has traditionally been viewed as male-dominant.
Second, ISC2 recommends that businesses ensure that they appeal to cybersecurity professionals. This includes valuing IT/cybersecurity professionals and giving them management (not just service) roles, highlighting the opportunities for growth within the organization, and paying for needed or desired cybersecurity certifications. And, organizations should recognize the critical importance of these professionals by paying market rates for talent. (ISC2 notes that the average North American cybersecurity professional earned $91,000 in 2019.)
Next, ISC2 suggests that organizations consider hiring recent college graduates for basic or entry-level positions who lack cybersecurity certifications. Instead, these workers could then obtain any necessary certifications while they grow and learn on the job. This would expand the pool of available talent and create an organizational culture of growth, loyalty, and advancement from within. Companies should therefore be cautious when drafting job descriptions and be thoughtful as to whether specific certifications are really needed to perform entry- or low-level job tasks.
Finally, organizations should still continue to recruit from within when appropriate. As ISC2 notes, many human resource, legal, and finance professionals have transferable skills (such as problem-solving and crisis management) that would lend themselves well to a cybersecurity role. As these traditional in-house functions are commoditized or outsourced overseas, companies could use this dynamic to their advantage by retaining and repurposing talented in-house workers who may be interested in a career change or new challenge.
For more information, please contact PLDO Partner Brian J. Lamoureux at 401-824-5155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Attorney Lamoureux is a member of the firm’s litigation, corporate, employment, and cybersecurity teams.
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