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What is the Cybersecurity Skills Gap and Why is it a Problem?


The field of technology is constantly changing, and it’s important for cybersecurity professionals to be on top of the latest cybersecurity breach possibilities. This requires constant training and changing strategies to stay one step ahead of people working to steal valuable, protected information. Unfortunately, the inability to keep up causes what some have worryingly called a cybersecurity skills gap, which threatens data and the infrastructure of the internet. 

What is Cybersecurity?

According to Cisco, one of the industry leaders in technology, “Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks.” Cyber attacks on companies may work to extort money from the company, extract valuable data, access or destroy sensitive information, or otherwise put the company’s well-being at risk. 

A successful cybersecurity plan isn’t just about updating passwords and keeping protected information within company walls – it’s about creating a unified threat management system that uses cybersecurity technical skills to protect a company’s hardware, software, cloud-based data, and more. 

A solid cybersecurity plan also requires an educational component. Employees of a company need to understand their role in mitigating day to day threats when it comes to protecting company data. Companies can quickly fall victim to a data breach if a well-meaning employee unknowingly shares sensitive information, opens nefarious email attachments, or plugs in a flash drive that’s been loaded with data-stealing programs.

What’s the Cybersecurity Skills Gap?

Organizations around the world have found their data and systems are at risk due to a lack of cybersecurity. The cybersecurity skills gap refers to a modern problem: companies want to protect their data, but they don’t know-how. The longer a cybersecurity position stays open, the longer a company is at risk of a cybersecurity breach. 

Many professionals in the world of cybersecurity – nearly 70% – do not have a defined career plan, which may be a contributing factor to the cybersecurity skills gap. Part of the reason that it’s tough for cybersecurity professionals to break into the field is that many positions require prior experience as well as cybersecurity soft skills that are typically learned on-the-job. One of the best ways for cybersecurity professionals to overcome this issue is to get real-world experience – through an internship or other hands-on work – while going through college or graduate school

Some companies find that although they have a tech staff, the team is far too overworked to become properly trained – not to mention manage problems – leading to a cybersecurity technical skills shortage. Cybersecurity skills in demand include both hard skills and cybersecurity soft skills, including providing education to employees who could put the company at risk unintentionally. 

What Industries are at Risk?

Any industry that handles sensitive information is at risk for a cybersecurity attack. Financial industries, healthcare companies, government security firms, are all at risk. Any industry that stores customer credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information can also be vulnerable to a cyber attack. 

When a company experiences a data breach, the effects can last for years. Developing new systems that are better protected can be an especially long process, particularly if the company doesn’t have a cybersecurity professional on its staff. In addition to the hands-on work of rebuilding new systems that are better at keeping data safe, many companies suffer long-lasting effects after customers lose trust in their organization. Customers may be reluctant to make future purchases from the company, and may even discourage others from sharing their information with the company. 

What are the Skills Needed for Cybersecurity?

Budding cybersecurity professionals often wonder, “what skills do you need for cybersecurity?” Cybersecurity skills are necessary to keep companies safe change constantly. As technology gets smarter, so do people and programs working to steal protected information. Cybersecurity professionals need to be well-versed in fighting several issues, including:

  • Phishing – This cybersecurity threat sends emails to customers, employees, and others that seem like they’re from the company, even though they’re from another source. The goal of phishing is to gain access to sensitive information. 
  • Malware – This is a type of software designed to allow unauthorized users to gain access to hardware. 
  • Ransomware – This is a type of software that blocks a company’s access to files or other sensitive information until a fee – the “ransom” – is paid. Paying the ransom does not guarantee that access to files will be granted. 
  • Social engineering – This is a type of threat that works with ransomware, malware, and phishing to trick customers and/or employees of a company to click on links or otherwise provide access to sensitive information. Education from cybersecurity professionals is a key aspect of keeping an organization safe from social engineering threats.

Related:

50+ Resources for Cybersecurity Students

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Top 25 Free Online Security Courses


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