How much is the infosec skills shortage to blame for breaches?

The latest Global Information Workforce Survey starkly predicted that a shortfall of one and a half million security professionals will exist by 2020. This gap has already been cited, by more than 50% of the sector, to be one of the main reasons for security breaches. A lack of skilled staff in the industry is believed to be impacting on organisations’ ability to respond to such attacks, damaging relationships with customers.

Just 42% of respondents believed they could recover from a breach within one to five days, with a similar number (45%) blaming a lack of staff with strong qualifications. Of some concern is the fact that one in five stated that recovery could take up to eight weeks.

The shortage of qualified staff is resulting in at least 25% of companies expecting to increase their use of outsourcing. Many firms are already utilising cloud-based solutions or consultancies as an alternative to internal staffing.

Rising pay and gender divide

As a result of shortages, more skilled professionals are being headhunted and given significant salaries. With cuts across the public sector, such individuals are out of the budget for most government departments. Such is the demand for suitable staff that a number of universities are seeing their students being approached for employment before they have completed their courses.

The report also identified the striking gender divide in the sector, with 94% of workers being male.

Education is the key for the future

In order to fill the gap, education must keep up with the exponential demand for cyber security professionals. At the moment, general sector awareness is virtually non-existent and the graduates of the future are unaware of careers in the industry. Even at university level, IT and computer science courses barely cover this critical sector, with most of them not including cyber security as a key component. Those courses that do cover this critical area account for less than 5%.

One university lecturer is quoted as saying:

“Aspiring cyber security professionals need to quickly learn […] skills [that] must include understanding how hackers think, being able to assess the risks and understand how staff will respond to new IT and security systems, not just implementing the latest technology.

“Curriculum changes may address this long term, but the only immediate solution is to provide the right training to equip people to meet today’s threat sooner rather than later.”

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