As the threat of cyberattacks grows, so does the demand for cybersecurity professionals. But there’s a shortage of these in-demand workers, and it’s leading to an intense talent war between government agencies.
During last month’s FedTalks Tech Conference, André Mendes, the Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Commerce Department admitted that his agency has been forced to poach cybersecurity employees from other agencies in the federal government.
“We’re stealing people from each other, that’s what it’s come down to…It’s a very, very tough situation with cybersecurity hiring. It’s extremely difficult getting the right people with the right skills right now,” said Mendes.
The Cybersecurity Talent War
The skills shortage in cybersecurity talent is not only causing disputes within the government but is also a major concern for the private sector.
CyberSeek, a government-sponsored recruiting website estimates there are approximately 716,548 cybersecurity job openings nationwide, including opportunities in the public and private sectors.
The demand for cybersecurity professionals far exceeds the current supply, which has resulted in high salaries and job openings that are difficult to fill.
These hiring challenges are primarily due to a tight labor market and a severe shortage of qualified cybersecurity engineers and analysts.
Another issue that compounds the problem is the long-overdrawn hiring process.
Although the federal government is the biggest employer of cybersecurity professionals in the country, it’s also one of the slowest to hire. That leaves many qualified candidates scooped up by private sector firms that can move more quickly.
And it’s not just speed that’s an issue. Private sector companies can offer better pay and working conditions than many government agencies. This means that even when government agencies do manage to hire cybersecurity talent, they often lose them to the private sector soon after.
Experts Say Government Efforts Are Not Enough
Despite the challenges, André Mendes assures the crowd that the government is working to increase the pipeline of cybersecurity talent by investing in training and education programs.
One of the major initiatives done last year was the launch of the Cybersecurity Talent Management System (CTMS), a new system to recruit, develop, and retain cybersecurity professionals in the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security hopes the new system will help them find and keep talent for mission-critical cybersecurity roles.
But experts say government efforts in cybersecurity are severely lacking.
Research from cybersecurity firm McAfee found that 76 percent of cybersecurity workers believe their government is not investing enough in cybersecurity talent, and the same percentage said the laws and regulations for cybersecurity in their country are insufficient.
Sam Bocetta, a U.S. diplomacy, and national security journalist argues that treating cybersecurity as a social problem, rather than a technical problem is a more effective way for the government to handle cybercrime.
He writes, “At the broadest level, governments should aim to change the way that people act online…[sic] the early 21st century requires that we all learn new ways of behaving.”
Until then, we all must rely on the skills of cybersecurity professionals to mitigate risks and cyberattacks.
The Impact of the Shortage: What Does It Mean for Businesses and Consumers?
The talent war between agencies is also having a ripple effect on businesses and consumers. The agencies are competing for a limited pool of qualified candidates, which drives up the cost of cybersecurity services.
This cost is eventually passed on to businesses and consumers in the form of higher prices for products and services.
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that global cybercrime costs will increase by 15 percent per year for the following 3 years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
These costs include damage and destruction of data, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, stolen money, post-attack disruption for businesses, restoration and deletion of hacked data systems, and reputational harm.
The lack of skilled cyber professionals is also hindering the ability of many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. This shortage creates a vicious cycle that leaves businesses and consumers vulnerable to attack.
As the number of cyberattacks increases and the skills needed to defend against them grows more sophisticated, the cybersecurity workforce is struggling to keep up.
The cybersecurity talent shortage has created a battle between federal agencies and the private sector for the limited pool of qualified workers.
It is a complex problem that will take time and effort to solve but until then, organizations must take steps to ensure their critical infrastructure is protected against increasingly sophisticated threats.
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