Cyber security skills shortage: Recession or stress?
The biggest challenge facing the cyber security profession right now is not the sudden loss of a job, but the long-term impact of skills shortages and stress, says Anna Collard, SVP content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa.
According to KnowBe4, the economic landscape has seen many technology companies lay off large numbers of employees, but for cyber security, the picture looks very different.
To date, across numerous organisations, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Dropbox and Zoom, there have been nearly 169 000 layoffs. Meta is expected to lay off 10 000 roles in the next few months and Disney 7 000.
In cyber security, there are still more jobs open than people to fill them, says Collard.
“The cyber security skills shortage has meant that fewer roles in this profession have been affected by the layoffs,” she says. “However, there is ongoing job security anxiety for people in the technology industry, regardless of their roles. Cyber security professionals are juggling high-demand jobs that are intensely stressful and they rarely switch off. Security is a 24/7 job where nobody notices the hard work done until something goes wrong.”
This fact is echoed by a recent report on the state of SecOps and automation, which found that 93% of security professionals said their alerts had doubled over the past five years. Fifty-six percent handle around 1 000 alerts a day, and 83% have alert fatigue.
Cyber security personnel are battling it out on a daily basis but, as Collard points out, the moment they slip up, it becomes a blame game, which can make this an intensely toxic environment.
Cyber security professionals are juggling high-demand jobs that are intensely stressful and they rarely switch off. Security is a 24/7 job where nobody notices the hard work done until something goes wrong.Anna Collard, SVP content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa.
This is reflected in the Tines State of Mental Health in Cybersecurity 2022 report, which stated that around 27% of professionals believed their mental health had declined over the past year, 66% experience stress at work, 64% say their work affects their mental health and 58% are on medication to manage their mental well-being. Only half are in good physical health, with a mere 42% getting a much-needed eight hours of sleep a night.
“This shifts the conversation from plugging the gaps to making cyber security significantly healthier for those entering into the profession,” says Collard. “The holes left by limited access to skilled people are not going to be filled if security remains a space where stress goes to thrive. Amid the recession and the economic crisis, cyber security roles remain empty, which says that the problem may not be exclusively lack of skills development.”
The Tines survey found that nearly 30% of cyber security professionals believed their mental health was getting worse.
“Cyber security is fun,” says Collard. “It is interesting and dynamic. But these benefits are often overshadowed by that sense of dread that something is about to go horribly wrong. Incidents are unexpected, stressful and often leave teams exhausted, and there is no time to rest before the next incident hits. Cyber criminals are very well rewarded for their diligence when it comes to exploiting every vulnerability they can find. Cyber security teams have to chase these vulnerabilities and threats to ensure nothing is left to chance.”
To minimise the risk of losing talented security people, companies need to look beyond the gaps and skills and into providing truly holistic support to their security professionals. This goes beyond upskilling. Now, security teams need mental wellness support that kicks the toxic blame-game dynamic out of the door.
“If you want to attract more people into cyber security, you need to put controls in place that minimise the stress and emphasise the value of your people,” concludes Collard.