Perception of cyber security professionals is now overwhelmingly positive, finds (ISC)² study

Despite an increasing demand for cyber security workers amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and changing perceptions of employees towards cyber security professionals, not many are interested in switching to a cyber security career, according to cyber security training and certifications provider (ISC)².

One of the major findings of the firm's 2020 Cybersecurity Perception Study, which was published on Wednesday, is that the perception of cyber security professionals in the eyes of employees at other departments has changed remarkably from hostile to overwhelmingly positive, a factor that should further encourage increased interactions between cyber security workers and other employees.

(ISC)² said that even though cyber security professionals have traditionally been viewed through a negative lens as roadblocks to business efficiency, the new study has brought out a completely changed perception. As many as 71% of people the firm interviewed said they consider cybersecurity professionals to be smart and technically skilled, while 51% also described them as “the good guys fighting cybercrime.”

However, the changed perception was reflected more among Baby Boomers (78%) than Generation Z (Zoomers), only 58% of whom view cybersecurity professionals as smart and technically skilled and only 34% of Zoomers describe cyber security workers as “the good guys fighting cybercrime.”

Changing perception should facilitate increased interactions between departments

The changing perception towards cyber security professionals is a really positive development, considering that a majority of cyber security professionals are struggling due to a lack of support from business leaders, a lack of manpower, lack of funds, and lack of skills training.

At the same time, they have to shoulder a large number of responsibilities that include keeping up with security needs of new IT initiatives and shadow IT initiatives, educating employees about cyber risks, getting them to change their behaviour to reduce risks, and trying to get the business to better understand cyber risks. This has resulted in high-stress levels, burnouts, and tremendous job dissatisfaction. Greater support and trust from other departments could greatly reduce existing stress levels.

The lack of manpower in the cyber security industry is also a major factor why cyber security professionals are under so much stress, especially since the arrival of the GDPR. In November last year, (ISC)²'s Cybersecurity Workforce Study found that the shortage of cyber security professionals in the EMEA region touched 291,000 in 2019, up from 142,000 in 2018 as the increase in hiring demand was much higher than the number of skilled professionals available.

The study found that there are around 2.8 million cyber security workers in the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Mexico, with the United States accounting for 804,700 workers, the UK accounting for 289,000 workers, Mexico accounting for 341,000 workers and South Korea accounting for 201,000 workers. In Europe, the UK has more than twice as many cyber security professionals compared to France (121,000) and Germany (133,000).

Most people don't know enough about cyber security to choose it as a career path

However, (ISC)² says these many professionals are nowhere near adequate as there is a global shortage of 4.07 million cyber security workers that can only be filled through massive recruitment of new entrants who may not have considered the career before. However, despite their changed outlook towards cyber security professionals, not many are interested in switching to a cyber security career.

The new Cybersecurity Perception Study found that a majority of the 2,500 industry people in the US and the UK (ISC)² interviewed, are not interested in switching to a cyber security career even though 29% of them are looking for a career change.

"77% of respondents said cyber security was never offered as part of their formal educational curriculum at any point, making it difficult for most people to gain a solid understanding of what roles in the industry actually entail and how to pursue the career. The second factor that may be limiting interest is a pervasive belief that such roles would require very advanced skills development that would require time and resources to achieve," (ISC)² said.

It added that most people have formed perceptions about the cyber security industry and professionals either through portrayals in TV shows and movies or by news coverage of security incidents. At the same time, 61% of the respondents said they believe they would either need to go back to school, earn a certification, or teach themselves new skills in order to pursue a career in cybersecurity. These factors are holding them back from choosing a fresh career in cyber security.

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