The worldwide cybersecurity skills gap continues to present a significant challenge, with 59 percent of information security professionals reporting unfilled cyber/information security positions within their organization, according to ISACA’s new cybersecurity workforce research.
The research is the result of polling 2,300+ cybersecurity professionals who hold ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and/or Cybersecurity Nexus Practitioner (CSXP).
Among the concerning trends revealed in part 1 of the ISACA State of Cybersecurity 2018 Report, released today at the RSA Conference 2018 in San Francisco:
- High likelihood of cyberattack continues. Four in five security professionals (81 percent) surveyed indicated that their enterprise is likely or very likely to experience a cyberattack this year, while 50 percent of respondents indicate that their organization has already experienced an increase in attacks over the previous 12 months.
- Nearly 1 in 3 organizations (31 percent) say their board has not adequately prioritized enterprise security.
- Men tend to think women have equal career advancement in security, while women say that’s not the case. A 31-point perception gap exists between male and female respondents, with 82 percent of male respondents saying men and women are offered the same opportunities for career advancement in cybersecurity, compared to just 51 percent of female respondents. Of those surveyed, about half (51 percent) of respondents report having diversity programs in place to support women cybersecurity professionals.
- Individual contributors with strong technical skills continue to be in high demand and short supply. More than 7 in 10 respondents say their organizations are seeking this kind of candidate.
Some promising results
Yet, there are several positive and promising insights in the ISACA data:
- Time to fill open cybersecurity positions has decreased slightly. This year, 54 percent of respondents say filling open positions takes at least three months, compared to last year’s 62 percent.
- Gender disparity exists but can be mitigated through effective diversity programs. Diversity programs clearly have an impact. In organizations that have one, men and women are much more likely to agree that men and women have the same career advancement opportunities. Eighty-seven percent of men say they have the same opportunities, as compared to 77 percent of women. While a perception gap remains, it is significantly smaller than the 37-point gap among men and women in organizations without diversity programs (73 percent of men in organizations without diversity programs say advancement opportunities are equal, compared to 36 percent of women).
- Security managers are seeing a slight improvement in number of qualified candidates. Last year, 37 percent of security professionals said fewer than 25 percent of candidates for security positions were sufficiently qualified. This year, that number dropped to 30 percent.
- Budgets are increasing. Sixty-four percent of respondents indicate that security budgets will increase this year, compared to 50 percent last year.
“This research suggests that the persistent cybersecurity staffing problem is not a financial one. Even though enterprises have more budget than ever to hire, the available workforce lacks the skills organizations critically need,” said ISACA CEO Matt Loeb, CGEIT, CAE. “More of those dollars will need to be invested in technical cybersecurity training, along with effective retention programs. Practitioners who acquire and demonstrate hands-on technical cybersecurity skills will find themselves in significant demand.”
Closing the cybersecurity skills gap
ISACA recommendations that can help enterprises address the skills gap and bolster security programs include:
- Develop a strong diversity program to improve recruitment, advancement and retention of qualified individuals.
- Invest in the talent you have, to develop the skills you need. The skills organizations need are in short supply, so organizations will need to close the gap through training and retention programs.
- Implement objective, consistent and actionable reporting to the board about security concerns. If the enterprises measure and track risk systemically and holistically, board prioritization of security is likely to improve.