Practically every week the news reports another cyber breach in a major organisation. To the average reader there’s a real feeling of crisis, a sense that they can no longer expect their data and identity to be safe in an environment that sometimes appears to have few safeguards. The cyber threat from a variety of actors may grab the headlines, but there’s another growing crisis in cyber security that may prove just as deadly in the long run; the lack of global talent.
The demand for cyber security professionals is expected to rise to six million worldwide by 2019 with an expected shortfall of 1.5 million, while one report put the current shortfall of vacancies as high as one million, according to figures from tech career website Dice.com. Such is the chronic shortage of talent it is now not uncommon for cyber security professionals to earn more than their department managers.
The drivers of the shortage are two-fold; an exponential growth in demand for talent as ICT becomes integrated into the very fabric of modern civilisation; and a shortfall in graduates. Despite the obvious job opportunities, too few graduates from good schools are entering the demanding disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), which provide building block disciplines for cyber security professionals. This means that if cyber security companies, and the countries in which they operate are to compete in the global market place, they need to have an aggressive strategy for attracting top talent and an open attitude to recruiting from anywhere in the world.
Nations need to make themselves attractive as places both to live and work, but also as platforms for starting high-tech businesses. The UAE is well placed; for decades both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been developing themselves as world destinations, embracing technological progress, and are strategically located. The UAE also offers something more; access to data. Through smart city initiatives, data is published in a machine readable format for business people to access.
This data accessibility not only promotes open government, but provides the raw information from which entrepreneurs can build new apps and platforms, and from which cyber security professionals can understand a nation’s vulnerabilities and develop solutions. A data-closed country, whatever its desirable elements, cannot hope to compete in the battle for talent. Add to it all the other ambitious initiatives that are taking place, including the UAE as a major destination for talent; initiatives like the country’s space programme; having 25 per cent of buildings in Dubai by 2030 constructed by 3D printing; and the development of laws regulating drones and autonomous vehicles. Such developments have the potential to attract talent to the country and region in order to participate in these ground breaking developments.
To fully meet the cyber security needs of the coming decades we have to educate our own young people. Working hand-in-hand, the public and private sectors need to sponsor university education programmes, structure work placements and spread the word that a career in cyber security can offer unparalleled employment opportunities and experiences.
It’s easy for CEOs to see human resources as a vital yet administrative function. However, if we’re going to win the war for cyber talent we need to place it front and centre of our business strategy. All the software and hardware in the world cannot protect the future if we don’t have capable people to design and manage it.