The Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage: Causes and Solutions

November 30, 2023 - Emily Newton

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Many industries are grappling with labor shortages today. While the problem is near-universal, it’s a bigger issue in some sectors than others. The cybersecurity workforce shortage is more pressing than most.

Cybercrime is skyrocketing as digitization increases, so it’s never been more important for businesses to improve their security. At the same time, many of these companies struggle to hire and retain enough security personnel to meet that demand.

How Bad Is the Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage?

The global cybersecurity workforce needs another 3.4 million workers to meet current demands. While there are plenty of people entering the industry — more than 464,000 people joined it in 2022 — the talent gap is growing twice as quickly.

This cybersecurity workforce shortage has dire consequences, too. In that same survey, over half of all security pros said the gap puts their companies at higher risk of a cyberattack. One in five said it puts them at “severe risk.” Without more people to take on growing security workloads, teams struggle to address all their organization’s vulnerabilities.

As businesses rely more on digital technologies, this problem could worsen. More devices or online services mean bigger attack surfaces. If the talent gap persists, that’ll make it even harder for busy security teams to take care of every issue.

Why Is There a Security Talent Gap?

There are several causes behind this labor shortage. Part of the reason is a general one affecting all industries. The older generations leaving the workforce are larger than the ones replacing them. The rising gig economy also makes it easier than ever for people to succeed in self-employment. As a result, there are more open jobs than unemployed people in the U.S.

It’s important to recognize some industry-specific challenges, too. Businesses have embraced digital technologies rapidly, creating astronomical demand for workers who can secure them. But cybersecurity is a highly technical skill set, one that takes time to learn. Consequently, the need for security workers is growing faster than people can get the necessary education and experience.

As the shortage grows, it fosters a vicious cycle of stress and turnover. Sky-high security demands create alert fatigue and other stressors for cybersecurity workers. As they become more stressed and overworked, some leave the industry. That worsens the gap, leading to more work and stress for the remaining workers, starting the cycle over.

How to Overcome the Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage

Addressing the cybersecurity workforce shortage won’t be easy, but it’s essential. Businesses must adapt along several fronts to maintain high security standards despite the talent gap. 

Automate Repetitive Security Tasks

The first and perhaps most obvious strategy to overcome the shortage is to automate. There’s a lot to do and not enough workers to do it, so automation will play a crucial role in decreasing workloads and maintaining efficiency.

Human cybersecurity employees are still essential, but artificial intelligence (AI) can handle the more tedious, time-consuming work. That includes monitoring for breaches, prioritizing alerts, reporting and scanning. If companies automate these tasks, they’ll significantly reduce security workloads. Cybersecurity pros will feel less stressed and be able to accomplish more as a result.

Workforce shortages aside, AI and automation are crucial because they enable faster, more effective responses to breaches. Companies using these technologies save $1.76 million on average thanks to being able to tackle vulnerabilities faster and more accurately. Those savings will offset AI’s high upfront costs, making it all the more important an investment.

Emphasize Training for All Employees

Businesses also need to address the human side of the cybersecurity workforce shortage. That includes more than just security employees. Organizations must minimize vulnerabilities in the first place to mitigate the shortage’s impact, and human error is one of the biggest areas to manage.

Up to 95% of cybersecurity problems involve human error in some capacity. That’s concerning, but it also presents an opportunity. It means businesses can reduce their most significant security risk without highly technical fixes requiring more security staff. It’s largely a matter of training.

Businesses must require all employees — regardless of access level or department — to undergo cybersecurity training. This training should cover password management, identifying phishing attempts and company-specific security protocols. By holding all workers to a higher standard, organizations will lower the workload for their understaffed security departments.

Rethink Hiring Practices

Naturally, addressing the security talent gap also means thinking of how the company approaches recruitment. Hiring cybersecurity talent can be challenging because of the skyrocketing demand, but businesses can manage this competition by rethinking what they look for.

Seasoned security veterans with years of experience and many technical certifications will be hard to come by. Instead of targeting these established professionals, companies can look for potential in newer members of the workforce. Look for soft skills like attention to detail and a willingness to engage in ongoing learning. These are crucial skills for cybersecurity but may go overlooked by other companies.

An organization’s current security staff and career development courses can offer more technical training. This shift in focus will help businesses acquire and grow top talent without competing against larger companies for workers with more conventional credentials.

Foster Talent From Within

Similarly, businesses should look within their existing workforce for potential talent. There aren’t enough security pros to go around, but virtually any technical skill can be learned. If companies upskilled current workers to move them to security teams, they could fill the gap without expensive, highly competitive hiring processes.

Provide employees with access to cybersecurity training courses and related professional development opportunities. If any workers already have IT credentials or relevant soft skills, encourage them to pursue these options.

Growing talent from within instead of relying on outside hires has several advantages. First, it removes competition with other businesses from the equation. Secondly, existing employees will likely perform better in these roles and take less onboarding time because they’re already familiar with the company and how it operates.

Businesses Must Address the Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

The cybersecurity workforce shortage is troubling, but it’s possible to come through it unscathed. If organizations rethink conventional hiring practices, address their human vulnerabilities and automate wherever possible, they can stay safe despite the talent gap.

It all starts with recognizing the severity of the shortage. Solutions are possible, but only if companies act quickly before they become the next victim of a cyberattack.

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.


Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a technology and industrial journalist and the Editor in Chief of Revolutionized. She manages the sites publishing schedule, SEO optimization and content strategy. Emily enjoys writing and researching articles about how technology is changing every industry. When she isn't working, Emily enjoys playing video games or curling up with a good book.

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