Diversifying cyber teams to tackle complex threats

Technologies such as GenAI, ML and IoT are giving threat actors new tools that make it easier to target consumers and organizations. From Savvy Seahorse which lures victims into investment scams, to a self-replicating AI worm that uses the likes of ChatGPT to infect computers and read emails, new cyber threats are emerging almost daily. We’re at a point now where an individual doesn’t even need to do anything (such as clicking on a link) to become a victim of an attack.

diverse workforce

This continuously evolving cyber threat landscape puts intense pressure on cybersecurity teams, demanding a 24/7 defense. As cyber threats evolve and increase in volume, traditional approaches for stymieing cyber threats are no longer sufficient. Creating a fully charged cybersecurity workforce is vital but, crucially, employees shouldn’t come from the same talent pool.

CISOs must prioritize diversity in their teams to counter evolving threats. Here’s why:

Diverse thinking and problem-solving

The cybersecurity sector has barely changed in 20+ years. I know, because I have lived it. The main challenge is that people fear change, even if it is for the better. They want to keep doing things the same way – recruiting from the same pool of people who have the same background and qualifications. But organizations can’t continue in this vein. They must act now to create a diverse and inclusive workforce.  

Traditional cyber security teams – generally a very male, white and middle-class environment – present a significant vulnerability to organizations. When every person on a team approaches problems from the same perspective, blind spots are more likely to emerge. Diversity allows valuable viewpoints to be seen. Individuals from different backgrounds bring unique experiences, thought processes, and problem-solving approaches to the table. These wider perspectives allow teams to identify vulnerabilities from different angles, stay one step ahead of attackers, and develop more complex defense strategies.

A more diverse workforce makes business sense. Diversity should incorporate background, experiences and characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality, education and socio-economic background.

Lowering the barrier to entry with cyber talent

Having a wider pool of talent to hire from has also other benefits. Firstly, it will help solve the problem we have in the UK of a deficiency in cyber skills. Building a diverse workforce isn’t just about the here and now. It’s about nurturing a future pipeline of skilled talent. CISOs can play a vital role in championing diversity by strategically incorporating security talent into their teams.

These individuals may not have specific certifications, but will have useful skills and experiences that will suit the role’s requirements and – most importantly – will be willing to learn. Deploying future talent will help solve the short-term skills gap to support teams and alleviate immediate pressures.

Onboarding security talent allows CISOs to invest in and shape the future talent pool. By providing mentorship and training opportunities, they can cultivate a diverse group of professionals who are well-equipped to tackle future threats. This proactive approach helps bridge the cyber security skills gap and ensures a sustainable talent pool enriched by diverse backgrounds.

Secondly, with more people brought into the workforce, who are at different ages and stages of life, it brings more balance to the workforce too. This makes work-life balance the norm and reduces the likelihood of burnout.

Attracting future talent through representation

To make a significant change and deliver a more diverse cyber workforce, we need to focus on leadership and change our language and processes for recruitment. This takes courage and is the biggest challenge organizations face.

Having a diverse team helps others see it is a place for them. It isn’t just about attracting talent; it’s also about openness and retaining talent. Organizations need to help individuals from diverse backgrounds to see themselves as role models who need to be out shouting about the opportunities within the sector.

Diversity fosters a sense of belonging and inclusivity making the cybersecurity field more attractive to a wider range of individuals. When potential recruits see relatable role models within a team, it breaks down the traditional and somewhat homogenous perception of cybersecurity. This inclusivity is crucial for attracting talent from underrepresented groups, particularly women and minority groups, who may not have traditionally seen themselves in cybersecurity roles.

A diverse team with strong role models creates a positive feedback loop. Seeing successful individuals from similar backgrounds can inspire others to pursue careers in cybersecurity. This not only widens the talent pool but also fosters a culture of mentorship within the team, further accelerating the development of a diverse and robust cybersecurity workforce.

Changing your business outlook

The changing cyber threat landscape means that businesses need to change their outlook. While increasing the size of the cybersecurity workforce is vital, resilience depends on diversity. By recruiting and deploying individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, CISOs can empower their teams to counter threats.

Integrating security talent creates a diverse talent pipeline, and promoting role models within businesses creates a sense of inclusivity that attracts future cybersecurity professionals. With the cybersecurity sector only set to become more complicated, building diverse talent is not just an advantage; it’s a necessity.

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