The cyber-skills gap is something that continues to threaten the cybersecurity industry along with the organizations and environments that depend on the protection that industry provides. Given the breadth of industries that rely on cybersecurity (think everyone, everywhere), closing the skills gap is something that should be a concern for everyone, not just the cybersecurity community itself.
There isn’t an easy solution to solving this problem and with more than 2.72 million unfilled positions in the space, this is a great challenge to overcome and a great opportunity.
Below, we break down challenges facing the cybersecurity industry, and share elements that can help organizations begin the journey to closing the cyber-skills gap.
The United States continues to grow its cyber-talent, but the stark reality is that industry’s needs are dramatically outpacing the current talent pool. More nation-states and cyber-criminals are finding new ways to conduct cyber-attacks and are more likely to sabotage physical infrastructure, like what we saw with the attacks on Oldsmar's water treatment facility and the Colonial Pipeline incident. With these examples in mind, the talent picture is even bleaker in the highly specialized area of securing critical infrastructure.
To clarify—critical infrastructure makes up the systems that provide communities with electricity, clean drinking water, medical care, and many other essential services up and down the supply chain. Securing the industrial equipment that underpins critical-infrastructure operations requires specialized skills and capabilities to keep people safe. It is hardly an exaggeration to state that a focus on driving cyber-talent is important to overall national security and sustaining human life.
Closing the talent gap and increasing diversity go hand in hand. As of 2021, 24% of cybersecurity workers identify as women, 9% as Black and 4% as Hispanic. Tapping into underrepresented communities and helping to show that they have a career path in cybersecurity will be vital in closing the gap. And that effort needs to start even before talent hits the workforce, with schools and education dedicated to empowering a new generation of skilled professionals.
Thankfully, influential cybersecurity players are making a concerted effort to set the industry up for success down the line. A number of initiatives are sprouting up to help address this problem, such as the Coalition to Close the Cybersecurity Talent Gap, a campaign to raise $1 million to help fund one year of community-college courses for Bay Area students pursuing careers in cybersecurity.
The cybersecurity talent shortage is a problem for everyone, since cyber-threats affect all economic sectors and our national security. The Coalition, and similar progressive initiatives, demonstrate that the cyber-industry can come together to combat not one but two critical issues—filling the diversity gap and the skills gap—by sponsoring the next generation of cyber-talent.
Galina Antova is a co-founder of Claroty