Results of a survey of over 200 high ranking UK IT Security Professionals, commissioned by MWR InfoSecurity, reveals senior security figures see enticing staff from non-IT backgrounds and encouraging young people into the industry as the most important priorities in addressing the cyber skills shortage. Those polled felt the core skills needed in cyber security were curiosity (46%) or on-the-job experience (34%) with no respondents saying a university IT degree was crucial.
The research, carried out by RANT amongst its community of 2,500 cyber security professionals, was designed to quiz CISOs and similarly high ranking security professionals of mid to large businesses about their views on their roles and some of the key issues affecting their industry today.
The perception amongst security professionals is that young people would be more attracted to a career in cyber security if the industry’s image was improved. Interestingly, respondents did not see salary as a barrier to entry to the industry.
With experienced security professionals in as high demand as new joiners, attracting such staff is notoriously difficult. Company culture was ranked similarly to salary as the key criteria respondents would assess when choosing an employer (50% of respondents reporting salary and culture as very important or important). Flexible working and opportunities for progression were generally of middle importance to those surveyed whilst a network of peers and the opportunity to do their own research was generally less important to those surveyed (5% rated very important or important). However, 46% reported that keeping up to date with research in the field was how they kept their skills honed in an ever changing landscape.
Attitudes on Britain’s position in the global hierarchy of cyber security skills varied dramatically, with 49% putting the UK amongst the top 5 countries worldwide but 46% rating it as just ‘average’.
Commenting on the findings, Dave Chismon, Senior Researcher and Consultant at MWR InfoSecurity, adds: “With cyber security threat levels at an all-time high and a huge focus amongst both businesses and the government on protecting Britain’s industry from cyberattack, this survey offers insight into what those in charge of security at organisations believe will address the skills gap. As well as widening their applicant pools, companies looking to recruit top cyber security talent would do well to consider the importance of company culture in attracting new security recruits. As a consulting organisation that needs to attract and retain the best people, we understand only too well the importance of providing a stimulating, challenging and supportive environment for our staff as well as being a place that looks for candidates from all backgrounds and not just those with IT degrees.
Chris Batten, Managing Director of ACUMIN, the specialist cyber security recruitment company and an Industry Advisor to universities on cyber security degree content, echoes the sentiment: “It’s definitely a seller’s market right now and security positions can stay vacant for months, sometimes years, if the employer fails to attract the right candidate. Much of the historical failings of the Cyber Security profession lies in its inability to communicate the substantial risks posed by emerging threats and subsequently achieve consensus from stakeholders to deal with them. Those employers that are able to attract a wide-range of competences when building their Cyber Security teams are not only able to recruit and retain more easily but also, in marketing the profession and their business more broadly, they attract candidates from a diverse segment of the workforce to deal with this communication lag.”
About MWR InfoSecurity:
Established in 2003, MWR is an independent cyber security consultancy with research at the heart of what we do. We provide specialist advice and solutions in all areas of security, from professional and managed services, through to developing commercial and open source security tools. We focus on working with clients to develop and deliver security programs, tailored to meet the needs of each individual organization. In a rapidly changing technology landscape, innovation is essential and our ambition to push boundaries sets us apart. Evidence of this approach is well documented on our dedicated research and development platform, MWR Labs. Central to MWR’s philosophy is the desire to deliver high quality cyber security consulting services and unsurpassed levels of support to our clients.