Building a cybersecurity workforce in the face of rising demand

Feb 16, 2024 | Insights

Today’s digital threat landscape is evolving at an alarming rate, which means most businesses are rapidly recognising the need for robust cybersecurity measures. Cybersecurity cannot be the responsibility of a small, isolated team. Instead, there’s an urgent need for a broad understanding across the board. Every employee, from the C-suite to the frontline, must possess at least a foundational understanding of the cyber risks they face daily.

The problem is that the reality is stark. Across the globe, and specifically in South Africa, the cybersecurity sector is grappling with severe skills shortages. There’s a large—and growing—gap between the demand for cybersecurity experts and the available talent pool. So, how can businesses address this issue and strengthen their defences?

Put people first

First, it’s important to recognise the situation. A robust cybersecurity strategy, backed by adequate budget, cannot be overstated. A single breach can lead to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and regulatory penalties. With the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and increased connectivity, the potential attack surface for malicious actors has expanded exponentially.

Once a business appreciates the severity of the situation, it all comes down to people and how to get the rights skills into the right positions to protect the organisation. Given the scarcity of external talent, there is huge value in looking inward and upskilling. Offering training programs, workshops, and certifications for existing staff is a great way to address a skills shortage that will only continue to grow. Employees also value upskilling opportunities, which means these types of initiatives can serve the dual purpose of staff retention and skill augmentation (and in an age of automation, fine-tuning human skills is a must-have).

However, as critical as future-focused upskilling is, it doesn’t address the current talent gap. Fortunately, on-demand IT resourcing solutions have emerged to address this challenge. These solutions, often powered by sophisticated platforms, connect businesses with contractual cybersecurity experts on an as-needed basis. This approach provides flexibility, allowing businesses to scale their cybersecurity efforts up or down based on the current threat landscape and project requirements.

Beyond just on-demand resourcing, augmenting staff solutions is about integrating external experts into your existing teams. This not only plugs the skill gap but also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and best practices. External experts can bring fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and experience from diverse sectors, effectively enriching your cybersecurity posture.

Create a cyber awareness culture

While not everyone needs to be a cybersecurity expert, everyone should be cyber-aware. Regular workshops, simulations, and awareness campaigns can ensure that all employees understand the basics of cybersecurity, the common threats they might face, and the best practices to avoid them.

Cybersecurity also is not just an IT concern; it impacts every facet of an organisation. Engaging departments such as HR, legal, marketing, and operations in cybersecurity conversations ensures a holistic approach to security. Cross-functional collaboration can also help in identifying hidden vulnerabilities and blind spots.

Remember, the threat landscape is not static; new challenges emerge daily. Businesses should adopt a dynamic approach, regularly assessing their cybersecurity stance and evolving accordingly. Periodic audits, penetration testing, and threat modelling can provide insights into potential vulnerabilities and areas of improvement. Ensuring that employees responsible for cybersecurity are at the top of their game and are regularly educating their colleagues and employees across the business is paramount to a strong, successful cyber culture.

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