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Exposing the UKs Cyber Security Services Skills Gap

As we move ever more surely and speedily into a future that is wholly interconnected, some will have you believe that we are headed towards a technological nirvana. However, from experience I can tell you that most of the time it’s more like a digital Wild West, with trojan-toting keyboard slingers and data-rustling hacktivists around every clump of tumbleweed. And, just like ‘them good ol’ days’, we need our own breed of brave lawmen and women to keep us all safe. Today, the private police of the commercial digital frontier are cybersecurity specialists, but the scary thing is that while the slingers and rustlers are increasing in sophistication and number, there’s an ever-growing cyber security services skills gap is opening up which threatens to leave us exposed to the lawlessness of the American yesteryear.

While the ramifications may be most acutely felt at an individual business level right now – as anyone who has suffered a security breach will attest to – the problem is international one and spans economic, privacy, and security dimensions.

The Extent of the Cyber Security Skills Shortage

Cyber Security Services Pull Quote 1To say that growth in the tech sector has been exponential in recent times is a serious understatement – with access to the Internet going from around 7% at the turn of the millennium to more than 50% today, smartphone use going from around 700m to 8bn in the same period and computer numbers around the world doubling to 2bn in the last decade. And, alongside this digital revolution, has come a heightened need for IT security as malicious actors, from lone wolves to state-sponsored entities, are constantly evolving and innovating, finding new ways to exploit weaknesses in our digital defences.

In this context, the UK is facing a significant challenge. The government’s ‘Cyber security skills in the UK labour market 2023’ report determined that a troubling 50% of all UK businesses have a cybersecurity skills gap. And, with a 30% year-on-year increase in IT security job postings, but no significant difference in the skills gap reported over the last few years, this shows that either, the market is near empty of these much-needed experts or companies are not doing enough to attract them into the positions they are advertising for. Either way, this indicates that UK businesses are reaching a precipice point where their vulnerability to digital security threats could be reaching dangerous levels.

If we investigate the reasons why there is a shortage in those skilled in cyber security services, we should look a little further back along the origin timeline:

  1. Could there be a lack of awareness from school leavers about IT security as a career path?
  2. Do the stereotypes of those in computer security persist, and is there enough messaging out there about the critical role these professionals play in today’s (and tomorrow’s) society?
  3. Or could the dynamic nature of the sector, with the rapidly evolving nature of cyber threats and the need for professionals in the field to continuously update their skills, actually put people off, sounding too much like hard work rather than an exciting challenge?

The identified skills shortage gap is more than a missed economic opportunity, it’s a chink in the armour businesses have created against an ever-growing world of cyber threats.

Impact on Organisations

Cyber Security Services Pull Quote 2I’m reminded of a movie I saw many years ago called Demolition Man. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it is quite apt for the problems we face today. Sly Stallone and Wesley Snipes were respectively a cop and a criminal, woken from their cryogenic prison sentences hundreds of years into the future. In that time all crime had been eradicated and the police and society as a whole had become ‘soft’, unprepared for the sort of threat that was common in Stallone and Snipes’ world of the 1990s. So, when Snipes escapes and starts his crime and destruction rampage nobody knew how to counter him and for a time, he ran amuck and unchallenged. Then they woke up Stallone and he brought his own flavour of 90s policing to bear on Snipes. A world of ever-evolving digital wisdom means peace and security for some, but for others it’s an opportunity to wreak chaos and, if we are not ready to counter that chaos, then the damage caused in the meantime could be severe.

Today’s cybersecurity skills gap is likely to have a very tangible impact on organisations across the UK, from data breaches and ransomware to sophisticated phishing attacks and corporate espionage. This vulnerability not only poses a risk to sensitive data but also to the organisation’s financial health and reputation, something we’ve expanded on a little below.

  • Increased Vulnerability: With IT security talent spread so thinly, organisations may find their defences lacking, should they be specifically or randomly targeted by cybercriminals.
  • Financial Implications: The cost of a data breach can be painfully high, not just in terms of the immediate financial loss but also in the long-term reputational damage it can do, and the ‘blood in the water’ impact which might bring others with malicious intent to your digital door.
  • Operational Strain: Even well-resourced IT and cybersecurity teams may find themselves overwhelmed in the face of a cyberattack and the resulting remedial work this will generate. Not only might this risk the burnout of the good members of your IT security services, it could weaken your defences just enough to allow in a follow-up incursion.

Solutions to a Cyber Security Services Shortfall

In the face of these challenges, organisations have two fundamental choices:

  1. Invest in a Stronger Cybersecurity Recruitment Strategy
    While there may be a shortage in the market there are cybersecurity professionals out there, ready to move to your business if only you could find the right incentives to attract them. Salary is a good starting point – are you offering enough, is it competitive or is it a competitor killer package? Determine your strategy from the outset, as to whether you are looking to take on fully fledged professionals or juniors full of promise that you can mould into your company’s defence force of the future. And, as you are in a super-competitive market, you’ll also need to consider how to make your company more attractive than the many others these IT security specialists might have interest or offers from – bonuses, benefits, the perceived work environment (brand, ethos, workplace) and career prospects.
  2. Instruct External Cyber Security Services
    To bolster your defences, you may choose to seek outside help. Services like ours offer expertise and resources that either may be lacking internally, or are extremely costly to employ in-house. External specialist help can provide cybersecurity services on demand with the knowledge and skills to enhance your company’s security posture, implementing more effective protection and providing strategic guidance beyond the mitigation of any immediate threat, so you can plan for your long-term cybersecurity resilience.

The Future Outlook

Cyber Security Services Pull Quote 3We need to see a shift in perspective, education and aspiration when it comes to cybersecurity. If we, as a country, are going to get our digital act together we need to have the skills to protect what’s ours from those who wish to tear it down. AI and machine learning offer both a potential solution and a possible ramping up of the threat as anything that can be used for good, can, in the wrong hands, also be used against us. But the true strength we have on our side is good old human innovation. Encouraging more people into the profession means more heads thinking through the problem, more potential to develop the cybersecurity talent of the future.

If you are responsible for the digital security of your organisation, you can also play your part, championing the need to have strong walls to protect what you’ve built, preparing today for the possible threats of tomorrow. Because while nobody can tell you if or when that attack may come, one thing we can say is that if it does and you are not ready, then you’ll wish you had been.

Moving Forward Together

While the cybersecurity gap seems like a formidable challenge, we are here to help you to identify the threats, build your defences and monitor them to keep your data and, therefore, your business, safe. So, if you would like to discuss how our cyber security services can supplement your teams to better protect your organisation, now and into the future, contact us today on 020 3795 6880.

For more information on Cyber Security Services contact Assembly Managed Services.

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