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UK business at risk as cyber skills gap reaches breaking point

UK business at risk as cyber skills gap reaches breaking point

  • Date27 November 2019

A new, in-depth piece of research conducted with UK CIOs and senior IT professionals has revealed that the cybersecurity skills gap has reached a crisis point, putting British business on the backfoot in the ongoing war against online fraud and cybercrime.

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This cybersecurity industry study from digital resilience experts RedSeal, unearthed major concerns about business’ ability to develop, attract and retain personnel with the right skillset to stand up against an ever growing threat landscape.

An enormous 87% of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and senior IT professionals reported they are struggling to find cybersecurity professionals with the expertise needed to combat serious and organised online crime. Almost three quarters (73%) went on to say that uncertainty around Brexit is a huge concern when it comes to hiring security professionals from outside the UK.

A further 95% specified that Brexit will in fact widen the current skills gap, since many IT security professionals currently within British business are from outside the UK – due to the lack of advanced cybersecurity education provided locally.

Why aren’t cybersecurity training opportunities being made a priority by the Government?

It has been just over a year since Parliament's Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, a cross-party group that works across both the Commons and Lords, published a report exposing the UK's chronic lack of digital skills, even within some of its own security agencies. Published in July 2018, the report revealed that ‘although the UK has one of the most vibrant digital economies in the world, there is not currently the cyber security skills base to match, with both the Government and private sector affected by the shortage in skills.’ Authors of the report, titled Cyber Security Skills and the UK's Critical National Infrastructure, voiced huge concerns around the Government’s apparent lack of urgency in addressing the cybersecurity skills gap in relation to Critical National Infrastructure.

Cybercrime is a real and present problem for UK business at a time of continued uncertainty

Further questioning within the RedSeal research also demonstrated that cybercrime and its impact on UK business continues to grow, with 81 percent reporting that they have suffered a cybersecurity breach in the last 12 months. The lack of skills has also contributed to a lack of proper response planning and almost half (40 percent) of senior IT pros stating that their business doesn’t have a plan in place to respond to a security breach.

RedSeal urges the UK government to create a more robust education policy that will deliver the skills needed in the future.

Dr Mike Lloyd, CTO at RedSeal and expert in the study of the spread of malware, commented on the new research: “Across the industry, we have drained the talent pool for security professionals. There’s a global shortage of about 4 million cybersecurity pros, up from just over 3 million last year**.  

"The UK’s education system can help, but not quickly – professionals agree that it takes about 10 years of real-world experience to develop the skills needed to combat today’s threats, so we’re facing a sustained drought for talent. Automation can help but cannot replace human intuition and insight. 

"We have to build hybrid teams, combining computers for all the drudge work so that the few human analysts can focus on the security tasks that matter.”

Professor Peter Komisarczuk, Head of Department Information Security at Royal Holloway, University of London, added: “Further and higher education in cybersecurity needs continuing support in order to keep pace with the ever changing threat landscape that UK business is facing right now.

"There is a shortage of professionals with cyber security skills in the UK which means that engaging young people and mid-career changers in developing skills and knowledge through high level technical and computing education is more important than ever before.”

He continued: “There are significant career opportunities in cybersecurity - the average annual salary for jobs in cybersecurity is £72,500 and we are seeing our graduates getting significantly more that the average graduate salary of £23,000 on leaving with their degree. Moreover, the potential to contribute to economic growth is huge, as well as support UK business against a very real cyber threat.

“There are some great schemes encouraging younger people to pursue a career in Information Security such as CyberFirst which provides excellent opportunities for 11 to 17 year-olds to develop skills and knowledge as well as a bursary scheme for undergraduate students.”

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