3 ways to bridge the cybersecurity skills gap

Find yourself falling behind? Here are three ways for individuals to close the skills gap in cybersecurity. Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

By U2B Staff 

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The cybersecurity skills gap remains vast, and this is still an issue even in developed countries. 

According to Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA)’s third annual global survey of IT professionals, the cybersecurity skills gap continues to grow year on year and has impacted nearly 74% of organisations.

The report also identified that this skills shortage is still the root cause of increasing security incidents, as  “organisations remain plagued by a lack of end-user cybersecurity awareness and the inability to keep up with the growing cybersecurity workload.”

48% of the survey respondents reported experiencing at least one cybersecurity incident within the last years. These had serious consequences within organisations that included “lost productivity, significant resources for remediation, disruption of business processes and systems, and breaches of confidential data.”

Cybersecurity is important now more than ever, as billions of users around the world are now heavily utilising online tools and platforms to carry out business operations. 

cybersecurity skills gap
A screen displays an example of targets for hackers as Geoffrey Wood from auto cybersecurity firm Harman International speaks during the “Securing Mobility Summit” on the sidelines of the 2019 LS Auto Show on November 18, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

A recent example is how the popular video conferencing platform Zoom — which saw a 225% usage jump in March alone — recently came under fire for its security issues involving so-called Zoombombings, purported data leaks, and alleged lack of end-to-end encryption. 

Kyum Kim, head of US operations at Blind, told Techrepublic, “There were a lot of Zoom meetings and passwords on the web that were compromised, which means anyone can come into your Zoom meeting and just into what you’re talking about.

“And a lot of times these meetings are really private, internal meetings for companies. That’s what people are most concerned about right now.”

There’s a need in the market for skilled individuals working in cybersecurity, and right now there are ample organisations out there looking for candidates who can protect companies from malicious attacks, data breaches and other unauthorised activities.

Whether you want to pivot into a new career path or are currently working in IT and want to improve your skillset, here are three ways to sharpen your cybersecurity skills:

Enrol in an online executive education course

Are you currently on lockdown? Honestly, there’s no time like the present to sign up for an online executive education course in cybersecurity that will bring you up to speed on the latest threats and solutions.

There are thousands of online executive education courses that you can explore in cybersecurity, including some that are currently being offered for free or at reduced costs.

You can even enrol in a course from an Ivy League university such as the Cybersecurity: Managing Risk in the Information Age currently offered for free by Harvard.

There are also some platforms where you can get a free trial for a limited time, like this IT Fundamentals for Cybersecurity Specialisation course by IBM.

Courses go from the basics to short-term courses for those already working in the industry who are looking to develop managerial skills in areas that include project management, leadership and even interpersonal skills. Those who need to equip themselves with specific IT and cybersecurity skills like cloud computing infrastructure and dealing with securing IoT applications can also find relevant courses that can be found entirely online. 

These courses are often flexible and self-paced: you can study part-time without having to give up your full-time job or sacrifice family commitments. 


Seek mentors or join mentorship programmes

Some companies have mentorship programmes where you can learn the tricks of the trade and work towards narrowing your skills gap from senior cybersecurity experts.

If you’re self-employed or your company doesn’t have such a programme, look for your own mentor, depending on the skills you hope to gain.

Kevin Beaver, an Independent Information Security Consultant, wrote on Security Intelligence that he discovered midway in his career that he could not figure everything out by himself and started consulting with others who were older and wise than himself for guidance.

He said, “I didn’t necessarily seek out all the mentors who helped me; many just happened to appear in my life. I met them through networking events, friends and my personal hobby of racing cars.

“I approached these people as I would a parent, sibling or close friend and simply asked them what I need to do to accomplish certain goals in my work. They told me exactly what I needed to do — no fluff, no hype and, thankfully, no sales motivations on their part. It was just raw advice being handed down from a wiser professional to me.”

Fostering a mentor-mentee relationship is not easy, nor are the answers always obvious and will require time and effort on your part, but it will pay off.  Remember to show your appreciation for those who have helped you along the way, and pay it forward when you progress in your career. 

Join a professional organisation 

Another great way to bridge the skills gap is to join one of the many professional organisations in cybersecurity out there where you can meet like-minded professionals, such as the SANS Institute and Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS). 

As these types of organisations aim at fostering individual growth, you’ll get to make networking connections, share knowledge, and help you stay informed of the latest industry trends. Some organisations also hold webinars and offer online training for members. 

You may need to pay a membership fee to join certain organisations but you’ll reap the benefits as you advance in your career in cybersecurity.