The latest Global Skills Index (GSI) report from the online learning platform Coursera highlights cybersecurity skills as among the most in-demand in the labor market today.
The shortage of cybersecurity skills prior to the Covid-19 pandemic was well known, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the surge in cyberattacks during the pandemic has seen the demand for cybersecurity skills continue to grow.
The GSI report highlights that cybercrime is the fastest-growing crime, and is expected to cost the world $6 trillion per year by 2021. This is seeing growth in the need for cybersecurity skills, not just among dedicated security professionals, but also among software engineers and IT managers, all of whom are having increased involvement in security matters.
The rise in demand has also been fueled by growth in technologies such as the Internet of Things, cloud computing, and smartphones. These have created a new breed of cybersecurity threats, which in turn have placed cybersecurity top of mind for many consumers. The report cites data showing that 87% of consumers say they will take their business elsewhere if they aren’t able to trust the company to manage their data securely and responsibly.
An ever-evolving field
The rapid pace of development means that both the threat landscape and the skills required to tackle those threads will evolve at a rapid pace. Skills like machine learning will be increasingly important as organizations grapple with a growing array of internal and external threats.
For instance, the report highlights that the recovery in manufacturing is likely to have cybersecurity at its core. The adoption of digitization and automation throughout the supply chain will create new demands for security professionals in industries that might not previously have deployed these skills.
"As people move to home, there are way more points of intrusions possible, so we're seeing companies become more interested in cybersecurity as the vulnerability has gone."Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera
"We've just launched the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate, which is an entry-level gateway program that is fully online and requires no qualifications to enroll, and we've already got over 10,000 people signed up, which shows at both the corporate and individual level there's a real interest in cybersecurity," Maggioncalda says.
A persistent skill shortage
Such is the chronic shortage of cybersecurity skills that there are also moves to provide a greater foundation at an earlier age, and the European Commission has urged education authorities to make cybersecurity education a part of the curriculum for primary and secondary schoolchildren.
A successful pilot project was initiated in Germany last year, with this being developed into a blended learning program across the European Union from December 2020. The Commission states that children are using digital media from an early age, with over half of eight-year-olds using the internet. Despite this apparent familiarity, they believe that many are unaware of the risks they face, nor how they can successfully mitigate those risks.
What’s more, a laissez-faire attitude among many children leaves them uniquely vulnerable to attack. The Commission believes this vulnerability means that cybersecurity should be included alongside media education at an early stage so that safe habits and behaviors emerge early on.
The German pilot project helped to inform various concepts that will be integrated into both classroom training and a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The pilot provided key lessons on how they can integrate cybersecurity into the classroom, thus providing young people with the skills they need to function safely in the digital world.
The blended learning program will be launched initially in German before being rolled out across Europe, with physical, on-site classes planned in France, Hungary, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
The goal is to have 3,000 teachers trained up to teach cybersecurity basics to their students.
Similar efforts have seen Google work with the online learning platform FutureLearn to create a MOOC to provide secondary school teachers with the skills they need to teach cybersecurity effectively. The course aims to provide teachers with an understanding of the different attacks that devices and individuals are vulnerable to, and how these attacks can be prevented.
The students will explore malicious bots, malware, SQL injections and a range of other common forms of cyberattack, while also building their knowledge of the various tools and methods they can use to protect their data.
While such courses aren’t going to provide the kind of high-level skills that are highlighted in the Coursera report, they will nonetheless provide a solid foundation upon which people can develop those skills, while also helping to mitigate some of the risks they face when entering the workplace. By spreading the number of digital hygiene skills we have across our workforces, that will inevitably make the work of cybersecurity professionals that bit easier.