Survey Connects Cybersecurity Skills Gap to Increase in Breaches

The skills gap in cybersecurity isn’t a new concern. But, new research revealed in Fortinet’s 2022 Cybersecurity Skills Gap report confirmed what many experts have assumed. The skills gap increased risk and was likely the direct cause of at least some breaches.

Data for the survey was collected from 1,223 IT decision-makers in countries across the globe. The majority of the respondents were C-level executives (34%) or directors (34%), with the remaining responses coming from a variety of positions, including owners, vice presidents and department heads.

Breaches Due to Skills Gap

The most surprising finding: 80% of respondents had at least one breach marked down to the lack of cybersecurity skills or awareness. In addition, 64% of the surveyed companies lost revenue or paid fines as a result of the breaches.

Overall, 67% of respondents agreed that the shortage of qualified cybersecurity candidates increases the risk. However, the report found that the concern level wasn’t equal. Leaders from France (81%), North America (77%) and Hong Kong (77%) showed the highest level of concern and believe that skills shortages pose extra risks.

Skills Gap Leads to Hiring and Retention Challenges

The skills gap showed up in both hiring and retaining talent, with 60% reporting that they struggle to recruit. Plus, 52% struggled to retain qualified workers. The most challenging positions to hire for due to the skills gap included cloud security (57%), security operations (50%) and network security (49%). Hiring new graduates showed the fewest problems, with only 24% struggling in this area.

However, the report also found some positives. Most notably, over the past three years, most (88%) of the surveyed organizations hired more female cybersecurity workers, and 67% hired more employees from minority groups. In addition, 53% sought out and hired more veterans.

Reducing the Impact of the Skills Gap

The skills gap is a complex problem. It doesn’t have a solution that works across the board. Organizations and the industry can help, though.

  1. Consider remote work when hiring for positions. Organizations used to be limited to hiring employees living within commuting distance from the office. Most companies now have remote working processes and tools. Carefully consider whether each open position — especially those that need highly specialized skills — could be a remote position. By removing location restrictions, you can access a much larger number of candidates for each position.
  2. Carefully evaluate degree standards. Many cybersecurity positions do not require college degrees, but employers limit their candidates by requiring them. Consider how certifications and digital badges can show real-world skills. These are often a better measure of expertise than more general degree programs.
  3. Increase internships and apprenticeships. The key to reducing the skills gap starts with hiring more younger workers. Internships or apprenticeships create a funnel of qualified applicants.

The cybersecurity skills gap can have a big impact on an organization through breaches and fines. By knowing how it works, businesses can make reducing the skills gap and filling open positions a high priority. The cybersecurity skills gap isn’t just a human resource issue, it should be an organization-wide concern.

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Author: Jennifer Gregory