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How to Fill the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

Cyber-attacks on businesses and individuals are growing in frequency and impact. In 2016, Telstra reported that 60% of businesses had experienced at least one disruptive security breach per month, up from 23.7% the year before. Yet, despite the growing threat of cybersecurity breaches, there’s a significant lack of skilled professionals to address it.

This is a global issue. The Australian Cyber Security Growth Centre (AustCyber) has cited a critical shortage of skilled cybersecurity graduates, estimating that 11,000 professionals will be needed over the next decade to meet growing demand. In the US, employers posted nearly 314,000 job ads for cybersecurity professionals between September 2017 and August 2018. Also, a study by (ISC)2 – the world’s largest non-profit association of certified cybersecurity professionals – stated that there’s a gap of three million jobs worldwide.

The rising need for talented, passionate cybersecurity professionals presents a vital skills gap that needs to be addressed. So what can we do about it?

Upskill Our Existing Workforce
While cybersecurity is an extremely specialized area, requiring workers to have advanced knowledge of programming languages, systems and tools, formal training in the field is fairly new. Many cybersecurity professionals over the age of 30 today don’t hold a degree in cybersecurity, or even in computer science. Despite this, many of these experts are earning six-figure salaries due to the highly-skilled and in-demand nature of the field.

There’s no doubt that a skills shortage exists; with sufficient training and education now available, we can look to our current workforce for the solution. Existing IT and computer science professionals can be upskilled to meet the demand. By training employees who show an interest in the area of cybersecurity, we can fast-track industry growth and unleash a new wave of expertise into the market.

This means that IT and computer science professionals with the right set of skills may be able to help close the skills gap in cybersecurity.

There are certain top skills that cyber-professionals need to have in order to be successful.

Continuous Learning: Technologies, the internet and the world of cybersecurity are always changing. Cyber-attackers constantly find new, sophisticated ways to breach security systems and threaten businesses, governments and individuals. To stay on top of this fluctuating industry, cybersecurity professionals need to be regularly updating their knowledge to utilize new techniques for dealing with these threats. A love of learning will greatly help experts in this area grow and succeed.

Knowledge of the Current Threat Landscape: Cybersecurity professionals need to have a strong understanding of the current cyber-threat landscape, including how to detect potential threats and respond to them. Knowing not only what type of attacks are likely to occur, but how to counter them, sets cybersecurity experts apart.

It’s helpful to be able to think like a hacker or ‘black hat’ in order to anticipate attacks and develop contingency plans. Penetration testing is a useful method for doing this. Skills in business continuity and disaster recovery planning are also vital, and expertise in malware analysis can help professionals gain a competitive edge.

Passion for Developing Technical Skills: Cybersecurity is a highly technical field, and to be successful in it you need to have a strong passion for growing your technical skills, understanding programming languages such as C, C++, PHP, Perl and Java. There are also a variety of systems and tools that cybersecurity professionals need to utilize on a daily basis in order to do their jobs. To become a highly skilled specialist, you should be interested in developing your technical expertise and skills.

Further Education

With a global gap in skilled cybersecurity workers, it’s essential that we help assist existing professionals such as programmers, system administrators and network engineers enter the field. While cybersecurity has traditionally been a field that didn’t require specific training and qualifications, there are now plenty of education options available to facilitate this growth.

IT and computer science practitioners can upskill through self-directed learning, or by undertaking an online cybersecurity course such as a certificate, diploma or master’s degree. You can position yourself as a trusted expert and leader at the forefront of cybersecurity by studying a Master of Cyber Security, enabling you to build highly technical and hands-on skills that are immediately applicable to industry needs.

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