We must overcome the talent shortage in cyberdefence

Journal du Net

While cyber defence jobs are meaningful, well-paid and the need for security in the digital world is growing, there is a shortage of professionals.

Current events show us that individuals, companies and states are under fire from cyber attacks.

First of all, individuals are being challenged on their freedom to be themselves, to maintain their digital privacy, not to be deceived in their social interactions, not to be lynched by social networks, to use their online bank accounts without being worried. Cybermalveillance.gouv.fr, in its activity report for 2021 notes, for individuals, a 200% increase in personal data breaches, 82% in phishing, 58% in online account hacking and 33% in cyber harassment!

Secondly, the prosperity of companies is also increasingly under attack: 41% increase in ransomware, 61% increase in online account hacks, 86% increase in phishing. Behind these figures, there are losses of industrial secrets, revelations of sensitive files (customers, employees, negotiation parameters, etc.) and damage to reputation.

Finally, the security of the State in its vital infrastructures (energy, finance, telecommunications, etc.) or in its military tools can also be challenged by cyber attacks. The cyber dimension of the war in Ukraine is in this respect very important, as shown by the Microsoft report on this subject.

Thus, we can see to what extent the cyber defence profession is meaningful: it corresponds to a real need for digital security for citizens, the economic fabric and the nation as a whole. If the cyber defender had to adopt a motto, it could be “Freedom, Prosperity, Security”.

Enhance the value of the profession, make women aware of it and offer retraining

The demand for cybersecurity is growing, but there are not enough experts in information systems security, which leads to an overbidding of salaries and an impressive turnover in companies.

The government has taken the subject in hand and announced in the French cybersecurity plan of February 18, 2021 the objective of increasing from 37,000 to 75,000 jobs in the cyber sector by 2025! At the military level, this plan is declined to show the ambition to go from 2,500 to 4,770 cybercombatants in three years.

This is a major challenge for the schools, because for these professions with high expertise, it is a question of increasing the volume of students without compromising on the quality of teaching. In addition, it is necessary to find specialists available to teach when they are already in great demand by companies.

To overcome the shortage of cyberdefenders, several levers can be activated. First of all, it is necessary to make the profession better known, including in computer science schools, by bringing in professionals capable of explaining its interest. Especially since this professional environment is particularly exciting: people are passionate about it, always ready to share good information or to take up challenges, and everyone knows each other.

We also have to convince women that they have a place in this profession, in which they represent barely more than 10% today.

Lastly, we can offer very good retraining in cyber to people already working in information technology or in technical professions such as, for example, automation specialists. We must not forget that, on the fringe, there are non-technical professions in cyber defence such as geopolitical analysts, legal experts, digital marketing experts, communicators, psychologists, information technology buyers, etc.

For the schools, the challenge is to give young people the desire to get involved, and to overcome the current shortage together, while having fulfilled cyber security professionals.