Cyber security has a comms problem, and it’s hurting recruitment

“Go into a growing industry,” one CFO told the audience at a university careers fair I attended in 2018. Logical advice, and one thing is certain about cyber security in 2020: it’s growing. IDC predicts worldwide spending on security-related hardware, software, and services will hit $125.2 billion by the end of 2020. Yet, despite exponential expansion and vertiginous salaries, organisations are struggling to fill their cyber security ranks.

According to ISACA’s 2020 global report, 57% of organisations have unfilled positions in their security teams – astonishing considering the current state of the jobs market.

The principal reasons behind cyber security’s recruitment problem can arguably be split into two categories:

  • A lack of the right skills: those who want to go into the industry, but don’t have adequate training
  • An absence of interest: there aren’t enough people pursuing paths that lead to jobs in the field

Considering the above, I think there’s a case that communications can help close the gap.

Stepping away from stereotypes

If you type ‘cyber security’ into Google images, the images that appear are still faceless hoodies surrounded by holographic lines of code. It’s scary and unappealing, and for me, embodies one of the main reasons behind the ‘absence of interest’ problem.

How we perceive a job is paramount to our interest in doing it. But depictions of cyber security in popular culture, in the main, continue to be inaccurate. The industry is about so much more than people hunched over in dark rooms. Because the importance of security is growing, the people practising it are more seen and recognised than ever. We must portray the industry accurately. We must show it’s not only about technology too. It’s about diplomacy, geo-politics, crisis communications, risk management, and much more. If we want to fuel interest, we must paint every corner of the canvas.

Challenging understanding

An absence of interest can often be the result of a lack of understanding. The threats we face from cyberattacks can, after all, seem abstract. But every day their impact becomes clearer to us all.

In September, a woman died in Düsseldorf, after a hospital was left unable to treat her due to a ‘denial of service’ attack. Many students have been affected this year when cyber attacks forced educational establishments to postpone the start of term.

Hackers continue to pose similar, and in some cases highly dangerous, threats to the fields of energy, transport, retail, and healthcare. These perils will only grow as criminals and states across the world realise cyber warfare’s potential. We need people there to stop them.

It’s the responsibility of brands and the media to explore new ways of engaging interest. By starting open discussions that don’t require arcane knowledge to participate, new talent will feel more open to participating.

Creating impact

For many people today, doing something that makes a difference is an important deciding factor when considering a profession.

Once people see the tangible consequences of cyber threats, they will also recognise the impact a career in security can have. We must extoll the importance of such work and support the growth of aspirational figures in the industry for others to look up to.

Cyber security might have a recruitment problem, but it’s clear that image plays a big part. As comms professionals, it’s our job to present a more accurate image to the world and convince people security matters.

Written by our Business & Technology team.

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Emily Reid