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Cybersecurity training can close skills gap for a safer digital world

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Cybersecurity creates jobs and facilitates secure growth in the wider economy. Image: Freepik.

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This article is part of: The Jobs Reset Summit
  • Online security breaches, ransomware attacks and phishing scams can have disastrous consequences for those affected.
  • There is huge global deficit of cybersecurity professionals to deal with the rising levels of cybercrime.
  • The Training Advancement Agenda strategy can help close this cyber skills gap by offering training for employees and individuals.

When someone considers a career in a "helping" profession, their thoughts naturally turn to doctors, nurses, teachers, and first responders like police officers or emergency medical technicians. These people devote their lives to helping to keep the world safe and healthy. And although a career in cybersecurity might not be the first job to come to mind, cybersecurity professionals protect the digital world from cybercrime much the same way that police officers protect neighbourhoods.

That’s not hyperbole. It's estimated that the digital economy is worth $11.5 trillion globally, equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP; it has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. And like death and taxes, unfortunately cybercrime has become a permanent fixture in our digital world. In the US, the FBI's 2020 Internet Crime Report reported 791,790 complaints, a 69.4% increase from 2019, with the top three reported digital crimes being phishing scams, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion.

Have you read?
  • We urgently need a new army of digital firefighters. Here's why
  • 8 steps to starting a cybersecurity virtuous cycle

Although keeping a business from suffering financial losses may seem abstract, the losses aren't just about money. Billion-dollar stats are startling, but they fail to show the impact of cybercrime on individuals. A successful ransomware attack can destroy a business and throw hundreds of people out of work. A successful phishing scam can rob someone of their life savings. In the past month, a ransomware attack on hospitals in Ireland led to some cancer patients losing access to treatment, demonstrating that the impact of a healthcare breach can put patients at risk. Experiences like these take a toll on both mental and physical health, which means you can feel good about your choice of occupation if your work prevents such things from happening. Plus, the advances in technology that have the potential to transform our economy, society, and environment can't happen without effective security.

That's why cyber training for employees and individuals looking to advance their skills or enter into the field is so important and enables them to be part of the cybersecurity success story. It's partly why Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) strategy is so important. At Fortinet, we’re working to close the cyber skills gap by offering training, connecting professionals to employers, and forging partnerships with organizations focused on women, minorities, and veterans. And we're providing curricula to almost 400 institutions in more than 85 different countries and territories. This approach is scalable and the example of industry-led cyber academies in countries like South Africa shows it can reliably bring people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds into permanent high-skilled work.

The number of security professionals required to fill that gap is still 3.12 million professionals,

Sandra Wheatley Smerdon.

Part of the urgency in this effort is that the global cybersecurity skills gap is leaving critical systems and infrastructures under-protected. And while that skills gap has declined since establishing our NSE Training Institute in 2015, the number of security professionals required to fill that gap is still 3.12 million professionals, according to an ISC report. That's larger than the populations of over 100 different countries around the world.

This challenge is also an opportunity for governments. Cybersecurity is an area that creates jobs and facilitates secure growth in the wider economy. To fill the cybersecurity skills gap we need to embed a new vision for education that brings diverse groups into the economic recovery. Countries that can scale reskilling and upskilling in areas like cybersecurity will have an advantage in the new labour market.

In addition to our NSE Training Institute and Security Academy Program, the TAA strategy includes keeping all of our self-paced cybersecurity courses available free of charge as part of the effort to continue developing the world’s cyber workforce. First introduced as a free resource in 2020, this cybersecurity training programme offers more than 30 self-paced courses on critical cybersecurity topics. To date, there have been more than 1,000,000 registrations for these free courses and over 500,000 certifications awarded. To ease a transition into a career in cybersecurity, education pathways help align training with work roles defined by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).


How is the Forum tackling global cybersecurity challenges?

Fortunately, there's never been a better time to get involved in the cybersecurity industry. According to Gartner, the global information security market is forecast to reach $170.4 billion in 2022. And thanks to the efforts of organizations like the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity, it's easier than ever to start on the path to a career in cybersecurity. Initiatives such as the Cybersecurity Learning Hub founded by Salesforce, Fortinet, the Global Cyber Alliance and the Forum,are democratizing access to cybersecurity knowledge by providing free training and resources for individuals to start on their cybersecurity career paths, as well as raise awareness about how to stay safe while participating in our digital world.

The future value of a career in cybersecurity looks strong, the Forum’s Global Future Council on Cybersecurity is developing recommendations on cybersecurity certification, due for release later in 2021, that put professional skills and people at the centre of an ecosystem of secure devices and services. Cyberskills will not be automated out of existence.


Why wait?

After major events such as a pandemic or loss of employment, people often make equally major life changes. We don’t know what the ripple effects of the pandemic may be yet, but we do know that after 9/11 many people changed careers. It's possible that being at home for more than a year will inspire people to make changes too – maybe something focused on helping others. The growth and diversification of the cybersecurity workforce benefits everyone, and increasing education can help improve the cyber awareness of people around the globe.

The cyber skills gap continues to threaten our digital world, and the industry needs more people to help stop cybercrime so we can all enjoy a safer and more secure digital world. Maybe one of those people is you.

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