Cyber Security Skills: part one

Unknown unknowns are a fundamental part of cyber security. Attribution of attacks, the scale of the problem, the amount of data and money lost and stolen: the list of things we don’t know is long and unlikely to shorten anytime soon. However, we can be certain of the demand our industry faces, the vacancies we need to fill and the variety of skills we need to better-meet our challenges.

In 2004, the global cyber security market was worth $3.5 billion; by 2017 it will be worth $120 billion. By 2019, the industry is set to offer over 4.5 million more jobs worldwide. Pretty much every company I know is recruiting. We need to hire more people. We also need to get better at attracting more women. Only 11% of the industry are women and so we are largely neglecting to hire 50% of the population. Over the last few years, the industry has also woken up to the fact that this is not a wholly technical subject and we need to hire people with more diverse backgrounds and experience.

Amidst all of this, awareness of cyber security has never been higher. Data breaches and cyber attacks are in the news on a seemingly daily basis. Thanks to shows like Mr Robot, CSI Cyber and even dramas such as The Good Wife, cyber security is increasingly in our living rooms as entertainment as well as news.

One of the biggest issues facing the skills gap is the lack of clear pathways into the industry. There are a variety of certifications, training courses and an ‘alphabet soup’ (to quote George Osbourne) of agencies and organisations involved. This is a confusing situation if you’re within the industry, but if you’re just starting out it must be pretty overwhelming. One of the best ways to move ahead is to get talking with people who are more established and seek their advice. Another is to determine which aspects of cyber security interest you the most.

It is for these reasons that initiatives such as TeenTech and the Cyber Security Challenge are so valuable. By taking part in a TeenTech Cyber day or a Cyber Security Challenge event, you’ll meet leaders in the industry, listen to how their careers have developed and seek their advice. You’ll be able to test existing skills and be guided in developing new ones. Importantly, you’ll also have fun and meet like-minded people.

If the thought of putting yourself forward freaks you out, that’s normal. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how many people in this industry (probably many that you admire) suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’. Please don’t let it hold you back. If you want, contact me and I’ll answer any questions I can, or will find people who can answer your questions if I can’t. I’ll also do my best to convince you to feel the fear and do it anyway. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Take a look at this video to find out more about TeenTech. And, don’t miss the opportunity to take part in the Cyber Security Challenge European Competition.

By Dr Jessica Barker