Main image of article Overcoming the Cybersecurity Labor Shortage

With more reports of data breaches this year than ever before, companies are recognizing the need to ramp up their cybersecurity efforts. But if you’re trying to build out a dedicated cybersecurity team, you’re probably coming up short.

If this is the case, you’re in the majority. According to ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2019 Report, 69 percent of organizations have understaffed cybersecurity teams. Meanwhile, cybercriminals are increasingly sophisticated, gaining access to major companies from Capital One to Facebook to Marriott in 2019 alone. It’s imperative to have the right people to proactively guard against attacks and respond to them when they occur. But when cybersecurity positions are unfilled, your staff will be stretched too thin to defend your business.

In a candidate-driven job market, you cannot count on finding expert new hires to fill every needed cybersecurity role. And unfortunately, you can’t count on retaining the experts already on your team; employees are lured away by better salaries, bonuses and benefits.

Tech decision-makers need new and better ways to stay ahead of the labor shortage that don’t deplete resources or drive employee burnout. While the skills gap may begin to narrow as more universities offer dedicated cybersecurity programs, employers should expect to struggle with keeping full teams in the immediate future.

Rather than boosting hiring and retention efforts, companies must therefore understand why cybersecurity expertise is in short supply—and what other solutions can help them address the labor shortage.

Why Is It So Hard to Find Cybersecurity Professionals?

It’s important to understand the factors behind the cybersecurity labor shortage in order to effectively respond to it. As the need for IT security within companies grows, the workforce supply hasn’t kept up. There are a few factors that likely contribute to this crisis.

First, very few colleges offer dedicated cybersecurity programs, with the first undergraduate honors program launched at University of Maryland in 2013. Even tech-focused schools generally don’t have defined security tracks, meaning that people who want to get into the field must tack extra certifications onto their more general tech degrees. Because tech degrees tend to be vocational, students aren’t given the option to explore cybersecurity as an interest while in traditional four-year degree programs. It seems the education sector sees the growing need for people skilled in security, and I expect schools will begin to build out security tracks more in the coming years.

Additionally, many students entering tech programs don’t naturally gravitate toward security. Within the tech community, people want to build things—whether that’s the next big app or a beautiful new website. Information security, by contrast, isn’t nearly as sexy. Add to this the fact that it’s seen as a tough gig that doesn’t allow for work-life balance (cybersecurity teams are on call 24-7, responding to data breaches whether it’s a holiday or 3 A.M.), and incentivizing students to enter the cybersecurity industry is a tough sell.

The inherent challenges of IT security will not disappear, and shifts within education systems take time to materialize, so we can expect to continue to struggle with the shortage. Tech leaders should use this as an incentive to seek help from trusted advisors to create a more secure, cost-effective strategy to protect their data.

How Can Businesses Respond to the Shortage?

Partnering with a trusted advisor to obtain reliable third-party experts enables your network engineers to refocus on other critical work, opening up resources to spark business growth while also ensuring your organization’s software and protection plan is always up-to-date.

Most organizations relying on staff members who are stretched too thin will only have one line of defense between their information and criminals. When that line fails, attackers are free to have a field day with your valuable data. This is where a trusted advisor can help. Trusted advisors will work with you to develop a layered approach to defense and connect you with MSSPs who provide the services you need.

In addition to building up walls to prevent attacks, trusted advisors can identify ways to preemptively protect your data for when an attack occurs. Having a solid disaster recovery plan is crucial in a digital landscape where data breaches are so common. When you are already equipped with these up-to-date tools, you’re able to respond to threats much more quickly than your own team can—especially when you’ve partnered with MSSPs who scour the web for threats and operate from 24/7 Security Operations Centers (SOCs).

Trusted advisors remove stressful and time-intensive tasks from your team’s workload that get in the way of important business operations. Once your IT and management teams are free to focus more on processes that directly impact your business, they’ll be more open to pursuing ideas that drive growth in your business.

Leveraging Third-Party Support

Organizations increasingly understand that partnering with trusted advisors and MSSPs helps them save money both before and during attacks and be more innovative with how time is used. Companies that fail to recognize the value of these third-party resources and instead focus on hiring and retention efforts tend to fall behind, often paying the highest premiums when walls inevitably break down.

Without a doubt, the cybersecurity labor shortage is challenging to navigate. But instead of competing with MSSPs and trusted advisors to find new staff members, empower your staff by partnering with these experts to ensure your cybersecurity is functioning at the highest level.

Ron Hayman is Chief Cloud Officer & COO of AVANT.