Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Security Strategy, Plan, Budget, Distributed Workforce

AI gives security pros employment jitters, study says

(Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Cybersecurity, a notoriously shorthanded field, is expected to face a decrease in hiring for the first time since 2020, creating a record high IT security employment gap. Fears of reduced staff is also sparking cybersecurity jitters as IT companies grow a reliance on bleeding-edge implementations of artificial intelligence aimed to supplant the anticipated workforce deficit.  

These attitudes were surfaced in an Oct. 31 study that also found 92% of cybersecurity professionals responding that staff reductions create gaps in their organization's cyber defenses, increasing business risks. The study was conducted between April and May of 2023 by The International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ICS2) and reflects the opinions of 14,865 cybersecurity professionals.

Thirty-five percent of respondents listed security tied to cloud computing as the top skills gap at their organization, followed by artificial intelligence/machine learning at 32% and zero-trust implementation at 29%.

Over half of study participants (51%) said layoffs have occurred at their organizations. Headcount reductions have impacted skills gaps, according to the study. Thirty-nine percent of organizations told ICS2 their company has not had any layoffs. 

AI is a top workforce challenge

Nearly half of respondents, 45%, said artificial intelligence (AI) will be a top challenge over the next two years, with slightly more (47%) saying they have no or minimal technical knowledge of AI.

Respondents said they expect the combination of economic uncertainty, a workforce skills gap, fragmented regulations and emerging technology such as AI will lead to a decrease in cybersecurity hiring at their organizations.

Threat meter headed in the wrong direction

Given this set of challenges facing the industry, 75% of respondents said the current threat landscape is the most challenging it has been in the last five years, with only 52% saying their organization has adequate tools and people to respond to cyber incidents over the next two to three years.

“The pressure on the workforce is real, with our study finding a modest decrease in job satisfaction for the first time,” according to the study’s executive summary “Many professionals remain concerned that leadership in their organizations does not listen to their guidance, which creates additional risk.”

Record-breaking gap of 4M security pros looms

The bleak news for cybersecurity pros comes despite a global cybersecurity workforce ICS2 estimated at a record 5.5 million people, an 8.7% increase from 2022, representing 440,000 new jobs. At the same time, the cybersecurity workforce gap also reached a record high: 4 million professionals.

Despite that workforce gap, an uncertain economy is also challenging the cybersecurity field as 47% of respondents said their organizations have experienced cutbacks, including budget cuts, layoffs, and hiring and promotion freezes.

Budgets are affecting cybersecurity training programs, with over a third of respondents, 35%, saying training has been cut at their organizations. The cuts are negatively affecting productivity and morale, said two-thirds of participants.

Stephen Weigand

Stephen Weigand is managing editor and production manager for SC Media. He has worked for news media in Washington, D.C., covering military and defense issues, as well as federal IT. He is based in the Seattle area.

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