Growing threats: what’s the future of cyber security?

Rebekah Valero-Lee IT


Over the past decade, hacking scandals have littered our newspaper headlines. From Yahoo’s recent significant data breach to claims of interference with the 2016 US election, cyber security is quickly becoming one of the most important issues for organisations all over the world.

It’s not surprising therefore, that the cyber security industry as a whole is expanding. A survey of UK businesses last year revealed that 59% of employers expect to see a rise in the amount of cyber security incidents in the future. With the average cost of a data breach setting large businesses back between £1.46 million – £3.14 million, cyber security specialists are certainly in high demand – but are there enough to go around? As the sector’s skills gap continues to widen, the future of cyber security is looking increasingly uncertain.

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Cyber security’s growing skills gap

An industry which requires a range of highly skilled professionals to operate in a vast number of top level organisations, businesses are starting to struggle to find the right personnel for the job. Due to the ever-increasing rate of innovation in recent years, the online landscape has accelerated faster than the rate of which new professionals have entered the industry. According to a recent study by Intel Security, 82% of businesses reported a shortage of cyber security skills in their organisation, and with cybercrime on the rise, the hole in our online defences is beginning to widen.

As such, the cyber security industry has been left with an aging workforce, with an average age of 42 and a lack of new talent entering the discipline. It’s been estimated that it could take up to 20 years to meet the skills gap here in the UK, but with technology evolving at its current rate, it’s clear further action needs to be taken to increase the amount of professionals entering the industry.

The future of cyber security careers

So, what can be done? Many businesses argue that the government needs to take a more active role in funding and training new cyber security specialists, with 76% of employers claiming that their government isn’t investing enough in building cyber security talent.

Here in the UK, the government recently launched their National Cyber Security Strategy 2016-2021, outlining the steps they’re planning to take in order to tackle the nation’s growing cyber security skills gap. During the course of their five-year strategy, the government has pledged to invest £1.9 billion in defending the UK’s systems and infrastructure, addressing everything from basic cyber hygiene to the most sophisticated deterrence response.

However, despite the government’s investment, businesses will also have to play a role in seeking out and training up fresh talent. In a specialist industry such as cyber security, organisations need to move away from exclusively hiring experienced professionals and start to consider younger individuals as well. Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Humanities at the University of Greenwich, Liz Bacon recently commented on the cyber security skills shortage, highlighting:

“Organisations need to focus on bringing new blood into the profession and stop the endless poaching cycle. They also need to do more to encourage women to enter the profession and provide a work culture that encourages them to remain in the industry. If there were as many women as men in cyber security, there would not be a skills shortage.”

With 90% of large UK organisations and 74% of small organisations having experienced a security breach, it’s clear that the issue of the industry’s skills gap needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Before then, however, it’s likely we’ll see a few more hacking scandals making the headlines.

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