Cybersecurity: How closing the skills gap can improve resilience and support a workforce in transition

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Ken Xie, Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Fortinet

  • Cybersecurity is vital in an increasingly digitized and connected world, but there remains a global skills gap that urgently needs addressing.
  • More people need to understand that a cyber career is attainable for anyone, with the sector employing workers from a range of diverse backgrounds.
  • Eliminating the cybersecurity skills shortage, employers can improve the resilience and stability of both their organization and its workforce.

As 2023 begins, the world’s economy is under tremendous stress. Central banks are raising interest rates in an attempt to curb global inflation, and the biggest European war in 75 years has disrupted energy and food production and distribution.

And COVID-19 continues to affect workers three years on. Employees may not be able to work or have simply reevaluated their careers, leading to significant change across many sectors and organizations.

At the same time, because of the digitization of society, there is an increasing reliance on technology. Cybersecurity isn’t the first thing people think of when they talk about infrastructure like roads and bridges, but digital technology and networks are everywhere.

Even roads and bridges have sensors and everything from public transportation to utilities uses automation and networked systems to keep it all functioning. And because so much of what keeps the world operating is interconnected and digitally enabled, everything needs to be secured.

Cybersecurity teams across sectors often understaffed

The need for cybersecurity has never been greater but cyber teams in every region of the world are woefully understaffed.

In its 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, (ISC)2 found that 3.4 million more skilled cybersecurity professionals are currently needed globally. This skills gap has more than doubled since I wrote about it in 2019.

Alarmingly, these trends come as cyber criminals and nation-state actors launch increasingly frequent attacks. Ransomware continues to be lucrative for cybercriminals, so few experts were surprised when Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report found a nearly 13% increase in that tactic over a 12-month period.

Meanwhile, research from FortiGuard Labs also showed that new ransomware variants nearly doubled in six months. Cyber attackers introduced new strains by updating, enhancing, and reusing old ones.

In fact, the number of new ransomware variants identified in the first half of 2022 increased by nearly 100% compared to the previous six-month period. According to one estimate, the global cost of cybercrime will grow from $8.44 trillion in 2022 to $23.84 trillion in 2027.

One billion jobs set to be transformed by technology

Ongoing technological advances will radically transform one billion jobs in the coming decade, according to an estimate by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As such, many people will need to retool their skillsets in preparation for a new iteration of their current job or for an entirely new career. Coupled with the workers affected by current economic conditions, it is clear that training and upskilling needs will be immense in the near term.

For workers and job seekers facing the need or desire to train for a new type of work, cybersecurity offers a stable option with the opportunity for lifelong learning.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 report, 59% of business leaders and 64% of cyber leaders ranked talent recruitment and retention as a key challenge for managing cyber resilience.

Cybersecurity workers are sought after, and the fact that the field is continually evolving means that organizations must also provide regular continuing education and career growth opportunities.

Cybersecurity careers require a range of talents and skills

Anyone who opts for a career in cybersecurity will be in high demand for the foreseeable future. Although the words “cyber” and “security” may sound intimidating to someone exploring a brand-new career in technology, they don’t have to be.

Although highly-trained security architects and engineers are in demand, not every role requires extensive technical skills. A number of management roles require “soft skills” and less technical training.

Soft skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving are critical to teams because they help people work strategically and collaboratively to reduce risk and prevent exploits. These can be augmented with a range of beginner to advanced technical skills that can be obtained through specialized training or certifications.

Adversaries constantly develop new ways to attack legitimate organizations, so cybersecurity is never static. Accordingly, training programmes should focus on concepts that won’t become obsolete, rather than on specific tools and techniques.

In addition, employees with proven soft skills in other areas can be trained in basic cybersecurity concepts and organizational best practices. From there, hardworking professionals can succeed as they gain experience.

For example, Fortinet has pledged to train one million people in cybersecurity globally over five years through its Training Advancement Agenda initiatives and Training Institute programmes.

Eliminating cyber skills shortage vital for global economy

More workers need to understand that a cybersecurity career is attainable for almost anyone. The industry can employ people with diverse experiences and backgrounds, and being a part of such a workforce can bring professional resiliency and stability to their lives.


What is the World Economic Forum doing on cybersecurity?

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity drives global action to address systemic cybersecurity challenges and improve digital trust. It is an independent and impartial platform fostering collaboration on cybersecurity in the public and private sectors.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

At the same time, doing this type of work is vital to the health of the global economy. If we can work to eliminate the cybersecurity skills shortage, companies and governments would be safer, and cybercrime would be less lucrative for perpetrators – leading to a digital world you can trust.

As our society accelerates its dependence on technology, cybersecurity becomes even more mission-critical to ensure a sustainable future – which, in turn, could indeed help to change the world for the better.

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