Cyberattacks hit record highs last year, with nearly 160,000 cyber incidents reported and seven billion records exposed in the first three quarters of 2017, according to Online Trust Alliance’s Cyber Incidents and Breaches Trends Report. With the ubiquity of cyberattacks comes a need for more professionals. However, skilled individuals who are not already in the field and who have an interest in cybersecurity careers remain scarce.
In June, the Center for Cyber Safety and Education and (ISC)² released the biennial Global Information Security Workforce study, which found that 66 percent of companies reported not having enough workers to address current threats. The workforce shortage may be inhibiting organizations from proactively preventing data breaches, further emphasizing the need for an inflow of skilled workers.
Despite focused efforts to strengthen the U.S. cybersecurity workforce, finding workers to fill that gap has proven difficult. A new national University of Phoenix survey found that 80 percent of U.S. adults have never considered a career in cybersecurity. When asked why, more than four in 10 said that they have no interest in the field.*
This seeming disinterest in cybersecurity careers could be the result of a lack of familiarity with the more technical jobs in the industry. According to the survey, only about one in 10 U.S. adults are very familiar with cybersecurity job titles such as penetration tester, information security analyst and chief information security officer. Up to 50 percent had never even heard of them.
To fix the shortage, clarification of what these roles entail and the necessary education to pursue them could help decrease the intimidation and potentially bridge the workforce gap. Many of these job titles may have become foreign concepts to adults outside of the field. The survey suggests that this could be because people don’t understand the roles or what is involved in the careers such as protecting vital infrastructure.
The survey could point toward how to better inform the workforce of the roles and responsibilities of cybersecurity professionals. University survey respondents said that they would need to have a better understanding of how to get started and relevant career information to assist their decision-making process.
The data suggests a silver lining. The talent pool of skills professionals could increase if U.S. adults who are interested in a cybersecurity career tap into some of the IT skills they already possess. More than a quarter of those surveyed said that they have some IT skills that are often required of professionals, like programming and data analytics. These skills could play a pivotal role in training them to combat malicious actors.
Cybercrime is only expected to increase, and organizations could quickly find themselves drowning if a solution is not found for the workforce shortage. Fixing the problem starts with improving awareness, inclusion and understanding of the field. Fear, intimidation and misunderstanding of these roles must be removed. Skilled professionals are right under our nose. They just don’t know it yet.
To access the full survey, visit https://www.phoenix.edu/about_us/media-center/news/uopx-survey-perceptions-cybersecurity.html.
About the Author: Dennis Bonilla is the Executive Dean at the College of Information Systems and Technology and School of Business, University of Phoenix. You can connect with him on Twitter here: @DennisBonillaIT.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.
*This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between April 26 and May 10, 2018, among 2,000 US adults aged 18 and older, who work full-time, part-time, are self-employed, are unemployed looking for work, students, or homemakers, of which 859 have been hacked in the past three years. Figures for number of employees were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Cooper Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.