Struggling With The Cyber Security Skills Shortage

Nearly three out of four organisations are struggling with a gap in security skills.  While non-IT professionals  consider cyber security professionals in a positive light, few of them are interested a career in IT. In fact, 68% of all IT and security professionals say they have to work on advancing their cyber skills on their own time.

New research shows how security skills are lacking across multiple IT disciplines,  including network engineers, systems administrators and cloud developers. 

According to new data from Cybrary, 46% of organisations do not confirm new-hires' skills for specific roles and 40% rarely or never assess the skills of newly on-boarded team members. IT and security professionals are avidly working to improve their skills on their own personal time, even while reporting cost and lack of time as significant barriers. Respondents overwhelmingly preferred online learning for job-related skills (62%) including online courses, virtual labs, and web-based media to help them gain new skills for improving current job performance and advancing their careers. 

According to survey respondents, IT and security professionals want to improve their job skills with 40% spending time every day, while another 38% at least once a week. Nearly half (48%) invest their own time before and after work, or on weekends (20%) to improve their skills. However, cost (33%) and lack of time (28%) are the main barriers preventing IT and security professionals from getting the skills development training they need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Even more disturbing, 40% say these barriers have a major/severe impact on developing their skills. 

Another report by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) professionals reveal that cyber security skills continue to deteriorate for the fourth year in a row. This situation has affected over 70% of organisations putting their operations at risk. 

The data uncovered in this research year over year also demonstrates that there are multiple issues contributing to the problem of “a cybersecurity skills gap.” 

This includes the problem that businesses don’t understand the role of information security and there is no clear and agreed upon career map within our profession, and cyber security professionals are under constant stress of attempting to improve collaboration efforts with IT. 

Respondents clearly indicated a preference for learning through online, self-paced courses (38%) along with online virtual labs (17%). Their motivation appears to focus on improving their current job performance (25%) or advancing their careers (29%), rather than pursuing a new career path (13%). 

IT and security team members are not getting the full support they need to improve skills since about half of organisations have either decreased their training budgets (22%) or kept them the same (25%) this past year. Even more disturbing, 16% of respondents report their organisations do not have any training budget at all. 

The studies show that the lack of a well-defined career path for cyber security professionals was mainly to blame for the cyber security skills gap. 

About 68% of the professionals interviewed did not have a defined career path. Additionally, historical solutions implemented to address the problem only made it worse. The fundamental causes for the skill gap are myriad, starting with a lack of training and career-development opportunities. About 68 percent of the cyber security professionals surveyed said they don’t have a well-defined career path. They say they don’t have basic growth activities, such as finding mentor, getting basic cyber security certifications, taking on cyber security internships and joining a professional organisation, are missing steps in their endeavors.

The survey also found that many professionals start out in IT, and find themselves working in cyber security without a complete skill set. 

A full 63 percent of respondents in the survey said they’ve worked in cyber security for less than three years, with 76 percent starting as IT professionals before switching their career to cyber security. All of this comes as cyber-attacks continue to ramp up. Survey respondents were asked to compare the status of cyber-adversaries with that of cyber-defenders, and 67 percent of respondents said they believe that cyber adversaries have a big advantage.

ISSA:   CPO Magazine:   Infosecurity Magazine:   Threatpost:     Dark Reading:

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