In our increasingly digital world, a lack of cybersecurity professionals can be incredibly dangerous. And at this moment, that unwelcome scenario is our reality. There’s a global shortage of about 4 million cybersecurity workers, and the need for these professionals increases every day.


Once we acknowledge there is a gap, then the conversation turns to why we aren’t doing anything about it. To address that concern, we can start by looking at education. Learning institutions at all levels are struggling to supply the cybersecurity industry with professionals, and they have a hard time providing adequate training to those actively pursuing careers in this field.

 

Further, our education system doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what a cybersecurity professional is. The stereotype that typical coders are awkward “IT geeks” who wear hoodies, hunch over their computers, and avoid social interaction is perpetuated by almost every book, television show, and movie.

 

Similar to what happens with police dramas, popular media fails to provide a multidimensional representation of these professionals. Algorithm writers and data miners don’t lend well to the excitement that media consumers expect, which means we rarely see an accurate portrayal of their cybersecurity work.

 

That said, it’s up to educators as well as the private and public sectors to give everyone a better view of what cybersecurity entails. If we don’t do this work to broaden interest in the field, the threats presented by the skills gap will only continue to grow — creating dire consequences for individuals and businesses that fall victim to cyberattacks.

 

The Consequences of a Shortage of Cybersecurity Workers

 

If companies aren’t able to fill cybersecurity roles, they won’t have the necessary protections in place to carry out their mandated missions. Salaries for existing cybersecurity professionals will continue to balloon, but the quality of workers will decline as companies rush to fill vacant positions — a practice that will ultimately put them in an even worse situation as time goes on.

 

Businesses are already outsourcing workers overseas, which is unacceptable when we have the resources and knowledge to produce all of the cybersecurity professionals we need. But we aren’t using those resources well — or at all, in some cases.

 

In the short term, this problem puts companies at a standstill. Businesses will struggle to grow without the necessary number of cybersecurity professionals in place, and demand for their services will far outpace what they can supply. In the long term, companies will begin to go out of business as they face increased threats of hacking and data breaches.

 

Customer data will be in danger of being compromised, and they will likely make moves to stop sharing any personal information. Safeguards in the form of qualified, well-prepared cybersecurity professionals can help calm some of those nerves.

 

How to Fight Back Against Cyberattacks

 

Knowing all of this, what are the most crucial roles cybersecurity professionals need to fill? It starts with teaching, but not in the traditional sense. I’m talking about having companies pay their trained professionals to teach others the basics of cyber protection and share that knowledge with students in public schools.

 

This builds a strong and sustainable foundation for cybersecurity education. These cybersecurity workers won’t be trained schoolteachers, of course — there’s no way they’d be willing to take a massive pay cut to do that. But by making this sharing of knowledge and training a part of the job description, companies would create a stable platform for cybersecurity education that doesn’t take experts away from their crucial roles.

 

Before we can build this foundation, though, we must start by widely acknowledging the problem and having the desire to solve it. If we don’t, we won’t create the infrastructure and use the resources necessary to end the shortage.

 

We can’t afford to be playing from behind until a major catastrophe occurs. Now is the time to make cybersecurity education a key part of everything we do. To learn more about this pressing issue, click here for additional information from the National Cybersecurity Center Student Alliance.