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Bridging the Cybersecurity Skills Gap: Effective Strategies for Developing Talent

May 22, 2024
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The cybersecurity skills gap is a pressing issue that has garnered significant attention in recent years. As cyber threats evolve in complexity and scale, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is outpacing the supply.

According to the (ISC)² 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, the global cybersecurity workforce gap has increased by 26.2%, with 3.4 million more workers needed to secure assets effectively. This shortage is particularly concerning, given the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats.

A competent workforce is indispensable for the effective operation of cybersecurity ecosystems. Every cybersecurity aspect depends on a skilled workforce, from responding to incidents and prosecuting cybercrime to protecting critical infrastructure. As the repercussions of cybersecurity incidents continue to escalate, the urgency of investing in developing cybersecurity skills is becoming more critical. Currently, the yearly expenses associated with cybersecurity incidents account for approximately 6% of the global GDP.

Hence, numerous organizations worldwide are progressively prioritizing the importance of bridging the cybersecurity skills gap.

Top reasons for the increasing cybersecurity talent gap

Several factors have caused the cybersecurity skills shortage to continue increasing. Here are the primary five reasons:

1.    A continuously rising demand for a skilled workforce

The need for cybersecurity expertise is on a constant rise. Almost every organization is now entirely reliant on technology, and the complexity of technology continues to grow. As a result, protecting current systems, networks, and data from cyber threats has become more challenging than ever, necessitating more security technologies and procedures to work together.

Therefore, organizations require their cybersecurity teams to be more extensive and possess broader skills.

2.    Gender imbalance in the cybersecurity talent pool

The diversity within the cybersecurity talent pool is insufficient. A recent workforce survey by ISC2 revealed that around 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce comprises women. A different ISC2 study suggested that while diversity within cybersecurity teams gradually increases, the pace is slow. The study found that among cybersecurity workers aged 60 and above, 70% are white men, 13% are white women, 15% are men of color, and 2% are women of color.

3.    Organizations setting unrealistic expectations

Employers often set the bar too high. Job descriptions for cybersecurity roles frequently demand academic degrees, certifications, and extensive experience in various security fields.

Many potential candidates, who could be valuable to organizations, refrain from applying for these positions, assuming that the listed requirements are necessities. Some candidates do apply but don’t receive any response due to their lack of a degree or adequate practical experience.

4.    Employees fail to update their skills

Workforce members often fail to keep their skills current. The issues employers must address evolve, including the growing dependence on cloud security and the changing threats to essential systems and data. However, employees are frequently so burdened with work that they seldom have the chance to acquire new skills, participate in training, enroll in online courses, or earn new certifications. And it’s not just about technical skills—interpersonal skills such as communication are also essential.

5.    Many cybersecurity experts are changing their professions

Cybersecurity experts are exiting the field. A recent survey sponsored by Trellix alarmingly revealed that more than a third of the cybersecurity workforce is contemplating a career shift. There’s a significant issue with employee retention, primarily attributed to persistent staffing deficits and the immense stress associated with many cybersecurity roles. As individuals depart from the field, the shortages exacerbate, leading to more people leaving the profession.


Outsourcing Cybersecurity to Address Talent Shortage

The Rise of Outsourcing in Cybersecurity

Outsourcing has become a popular strategy for businesses actively seeking solutions to the cybersecurity talent shortage. According to a survey by Deloitte, almost all organizations (99%) have outsourced at least some of their cybersecurity operations. Outsourcing allows businesses to leverage the expertise of external cybersecurity firms, thereby enhancing their security posture without the need to recruit and train in-house teams.

The survey also revealed that nearly half of the surveyed executives (44%) reported that their organizations outsourced about a quarter to a third of their cybersecurity operations. This level of outsourcing strikes a balance, allowing organizations to benefit from external expertise while maintaining control over critical aspects of their cybersecurity strategy. Outsourcing is a strategic response to the cybersecurity talent shortage. It enables businesses to access essential cybersecurity services and navigate the complex cybersecurity landscape more effectively.

Outsourcing cybersecurity operations carries substantial economic implications. A MarketsandMarkets report predicts that the global expenditure on managed security services will experience an annual growth rate of 11.5%, exceeding $52.9 billion by 2028. This surge in spending is a response to the escalating number of cyber threats and their increasing sophistication. Businesses worldwide are recognizing the economic viability of outsourcing, investing in managed security services to safeguard their digital assets and infrastructure. This trend underscores the strategic role of outsourcing in cybersecurity, providing a cost-effective solution to combat the ever-evolving cyber threats.

Outsourcing cybersecurity operations presents several advantages that help tackle the cybersecurity talent shortage:

  • Cost Efficiency: Maintaining an in-house cybersecurity team can be expensive. It involves not only salaries but also the costs of continuous training and updating security tools. Outsourcing to a cybersecurity firm can provide businesses with access to top-tier security resources and expertise at a fraction of the cost, allowing companies to allocate their resources more efficiently.
  • Access to Expertise: Cybersecurity is a complex field that is constantly evolving. Keeping up with the latest threats and security measures requires high expertise. Cybersecurity firms specialize in this area and have the knowledge and tools to protect businesses against the latest cyber threats. By outsourcing, companies can leverage this expertise.
  • 24/7 Protection: Cyber threats can occur anytime, and timely response is crucial in minimizing damage. Cybersecurity firms offer round-the-clock monitoring of systems, ensuring that potential threats are identified and addressed promptly. This constant vigilance provides an extra layer of security that can be difficult to achieve with an in-house team.
  • Scalability: As businesses grow, their cybersecurity needs can change. An in-house team might struggle to scale its operations quickly in response to this growth. In contrast, cybersecurity firms can easily adjust the level of service provided, allowing businesses to scale their security practices based on their current needs.
  • Diversity: Cybersecurity benefits from a variety of perspectives. Different backgrounds can bring new ideas and approaches to security challenges. Outsourcing can provide access to a diverse range of cybersecurity professionals, enhancing the ability to solve problems and innovate. This diversity can strengthen a business’s cybersecurity posture.


Strategies for Bridging the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

1.    Education and Training Initiatives

Education and training initiatives are pivotal in addressing the skills gap. Universities worldwide are developing programs to equip the future workforce with the necessary cybersecurity skills. For instance, Middlesex University Dubai has joined forces with Fortinet to deliver Fortinet’s training and certifications to students. This partnership exemplifies how academia and industry can collaborate to prepare students for the challenges of the cybersecurity landscape. Online platforms are also crucial in offering cybersecurity training courses and providing accessible learning opportunities for individuals globally.

2.    Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling existing employees is another effective strategy for closing the skills gap. Organizations can identify skills needs and close the gap by hiring new team members or training existing ones. Training can be accomplished through several methods, including instructor training, online courses, mentoring, peer learning, webinars, and job shadowing/job sharing. By investing in upskilling and reskilling, organizations can ensure their workforce is equipped with the latest cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

3.    Enhancing Diversity in Cybersecurity Workforce

Diversity in the cybersecurity workforce is not just a matter of fairness or representation; it is a critical factor in the effectiveness of cybersecurity defenses. A diverse workforce brings a broader range of experiences and perspectives, leading to more innovative problem-solving and decision-making.

Initiatives like CyberBase and #MakingSpace from the R Street Institute aim to boost diversity at cybersecurity events. The Women in Security and Privacy scholarship fund is working to eliminate financial barriers to cybersecurity training.


Addressing the skills shortage with Pulsar Security

In the face of the growing cybersecurity talent shortage, businesses are exploring various strategies. One practical approach is to leverage the expertise of specialized firms in cybersecurity.

A notable example in this space is Pulsar Security. They offer various services, including penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, dark web assessments, phishing simulations, and red teaming. Their Pulsar Cyber Shield service is a comprehensive solution that includes annual external vulnerability and dark web assessments, 24/7/365 wireless monitoring, alerts, on-demand consulting, a customer portal, quarterly threat review sessions, and a best practices library.

Leveraging the expertise of cybersecurity firms like Pulsar Security can be an effective strategy for businesses to navigate the complex cybersecurity landscape and bridge the talent shortage.

In addition, partnering with Pulsar Security can significantly enhance an organization’s cybersecurity posture. With their comprehensive suite of services and round-the-clock monitoring, organizations can ensure that their digital assets are protected against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

Moreover, Pulsar Security’s scalable solutions mean that its cybersecurity measures can grow as an organization grows. This partnership addresses the immediate concern of the cybersecurity talent shortage and builds a robust foundation for the organization’s long-term cybersecurity strategy. It’s a strategic move combining immediate problem-solving with future-proofing, ensuring the organization is well-equipped to handle current and future cybersecurity challenges.

Peyton Somerville

Peyton Somerville

Peyton is a Security Engineer at Pulsar Security. He is the technical contact for our customers - managing all Cyber Shield Vulnerability and Dark Web Assessments, and is on the Red Team. He has software development experience with Python, JavaScript, C, C++. He has earned his Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Network+ and Security+ certifications. Peyton first started with Pulsar as a intern while attending the University of Massachusetts - Lowell as a Computer Science major. He now leads the Pulsar Explore Internship Program ensuring all interns engage in hands-on learning, interactive mentorship, and learn about cyber career opportunities. Fun Fact: Peyton loves to snowboard, and even knows how to juggle.