By Graham Bushkes
October is Cyber Security Awareness month, when the federal government – and the cybersecurity sector – try to increase awareness of the perils of cyberattacks. For those in cybersecurity, one of the most impactful threats remains the persistent skills gap.
According to the (ISC)2 2021 Cyber Workforce Report, the cybersecurity workforce must expand by 65 per cent to keep up with network growth and the pace of cyberattacks. Numbers are trending positively, with unfilled cybersecurity jobs down by 400,000 in 2021. Yet, there are still 2.72 million positions unfilled. Critical security roles can go unfilled with limited access to skilled cybersecurity professionals, leaving organizations at risk to a growing cybercriminal underworld.
The lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals has a real impact on organizational preparedness. Fortinet’s recent 2022 Cybersecurity Skills Gap Report found that for the organizations surveyed, 80 per cent of the breaches they experienced could be attributed to the cybersecurity skills gap. Finding people with the right skillsets is challenging for many organizations, leading to staffing shortages that leave cybersecurity teams stretched thin.
CISOs can take action to help their cybersecurity teams keep their heads above water and stay on top of cybercriminal activity by focusing on these three areas:
Invest in the People You Have
Providing employees with continuing education opportunities offers an effective way to address the cybersecurity skills gap while keeping valued employees engaged. According to Fortinet’s skills gap report, 95 per cent of organizations surveyed believe technology-focused certifications have a positive impact, and 91 per cent were willing to pay for an employee to obtain one.
Training is readily available – Fortinet has pledged to train a million people by 2026 through its Fortinet Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and Training Institute programs. Programs like this can help address the cybersecurity skills gap and build tomorrow’s cybersecurity workforce. Organizations that train their employees and have an integrated approach to network and security are best equipped to identify, thwart or respond to cyber threats.
Support the SOC Team
An effective cybersecurity strategy starts with a robust security operations center (SOC). Given the skills gap, CISOs can help their cybersecurity team stay competitive against sophisticated adversaries by improving defensive cybersecurity processes and managing the high number of alerts. A SOC that can detect, investigate, and respond to incidents quickly is a critical component of any security efforts.
In addition, investing in an approach that reduces complexity by consolidating and integrating point products will give the SOC team the best visibility across the expanded network environment while also enabling effective use of solutions with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that can help alleviate high alert loads. Using network detection and response (NDR) with self-learning AI can help teams better detect intrusions and action them quickly.
Employee Awareness Training
Cybersecurity awareness starts with the individual. Cybersecurity awareness training for every end user is necessary if organizations hope to protect against ever-evolving cyberthreats, especially phishing. It only takes one employee to click on a link in a phishing email or unknowingly initiate an online drive-by download or unwittingly grant a cybercriminal access. That mistake could result in an attack costing millions of dollars and reputational harm.
Savvy CISOs view their employees as a strong line of defence, not a liability. They ensure each employee understands threat actors’ methods through ongoing cybersecurity awareness training that stresses each employee’s responsibility to secure their organization’s information and assets.
An end-user awareness training program is an initiative that any organization can implement. Some may design their program or might engage with a cybersecurity vendor. The vendor method allows organizations’ security teams to stay focused on their core work while taking advantage of the vendor’s years of experience. Fortinet offers an awareness training service that ensures every employee understands the threat landscape and actions that could make the organization vulnerable, and a guide for organizations that want to go it alone.
Whatever approach organizations choose to take, it is essential that the training cover some of the most prevalent risks for end users, including phishing attacks, social engineering, internet and email use, mobile device security, ransomware, and more.
Combatting the risks caused by the skills gap requires CISOs to think differently about their approach to cybersecurity. CISOs must invest in their skilled workers, as retention in a high-demand market is a concern. They must invest in the technologies that will allow for streamlined visibility across the network and support the SOC as they defend against increasing attacks. Finally, CISOs should not discount the larger pool of end-users who, with the proper training, could become the first line of defence against cyberattacks.
Graham Bushkes is Vice President Sales Canada, Public Sector and Channels at Fortinet.