Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the internet has been a force for good allowing people to stay connected during extended periods of isolation and keeping business operations afloat.
In this new normal, many people continue to rely on the internet to work, shop, and keep boredom at bay.
Hence, as internet usage increases, so have the online threats consumers are exposed to. Online bad actors are taking advantage of the pandemic to exploit remote working setups and new digital services for evil gains.
Alarmingly, cyber attacks, breaches, fraud, hacks, and phishing have increased in sophistication, focus and strength, and scope. Threats loom everywhere; every front is vulnerable, and every corner at risk. Even worse, the skills required to help organizations combat these malevolent forces are not only rare but expensive and hard to find.
Going by the ESG report ‘The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals 2020′, as well as other surveys and analyses conducted, the cybersecurity skills shortage is worsening.
According to Anna Collard, SVP of Content Strategy and Evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, now is not the time for organizations to downplay the seriousness of cybersecurity or spend more money on that skilled and expensive individual on their radar.
Instead, she opines that this is the time to engage in local skills development that can make a long-term difference to both economy and skills availability.
“Organisations across Africa must care about skills development to overcome the skills shortage predicament,”she urges. “This is the time to invest into initiatives like GovX or Cyber Heroines that actively encourage people to become part of the cybersecurity industry, and that help to develop their skills.
This is one career that is set to grow and evolve over the next few years, and we need to inspire people to recognize it as such”, she adds.
More women are needed in cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is widely regarded as a progressive and forward-thinking industry, however, to a large extent, it is a male-dominated profession. With the present shortage of skills in the sector, there is a pressing need to empower and onboard more women within the cybersecurity space.
The gender gap is apparently an issue in cybersecurity, what’s new?
Globally, the average ratio of women in the cybersecurity industry is 20%. In Africa, it is only 9%; and in executive management positions, women only take up 1% of the roles according to Nir Kshetri, professor of management at the University of North Carolina.
Regardless of the stereotypic view that cybersecurity is a profession best suited for males, the industry could benefit from diversity. Creating a space that is attractive to women would not only be advantageous for the sector in terms of adding fresh perspectives to security thinking and approaches but could significantly address some of the urgent issues around women’s rights that have arisen during the pandemic.
About this, Collard says, “there is a growing body of research that points to how women have been set back by decades thanks to the global pandemic. This makes the connection between empowering women and connecting them to an industry that sorely needs their talent even more relevant.”
Women are in danger of being left behind and considering that the current cybersecurity skills shortage is sitting at 3.12 million, companies should consider new ways of attracting women to join the industry.
She argues that organizations should double down on their efforts to fight inequality while espousing skills diversity; in effect, hitting two targets with one arrow. “It is never going to be a quick fix, but it is an intelligent one”, she adds.
Does one have to be a math genius or a technology wizard to thrive in security? The short answer, no! She describes the cyber space as “a fascinating industry to be in that requires the ability to think laterally, to collaborate and to be willing to learn. Cybersecurity is not a flash in the pan career, it is here for the long haul, and now is the time to inspire people to join.”
With this statement, Collard advocates for more projects and initiatives like GovX and Cyber Heroines that are designed to motivate and inspire students, especially girls to join the cybersecurity industry. Through these, students will have the opportunity to develop relevant life skills that will position them for excellent careers in the future.
Featured Image: Anna Collard, SVP of Content Strategy and Evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa