Further exit of skills possible

Issue 1 2021 Information Security

While the lifting of international travel restrictions, put in place in early 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19, would be great news for the travel industry and the wider economy, the move would likely further exacerbate the already critical shortage of cybersecurity skills in South Africa.

While the skills dearth in the local cybersecurity space is nothing new, the lockdown and the subsequent adoption of work-from-home (WFH), as well as the acceleration of digital transformation driven by the pandemic, are putting additional pressure on a very limited skills pool.

As international travel bans lift, it could well result in a mass exodus of cybersecurity skills as these professionals are likely to seek ‘greener pastures’ in more mature markets that also need to fill their own security skills gaps. Currently, the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 is the only thing that is preventing our cybersecurity skills from being further depleted.

South Africa’s chronic lack of cybersecurity skills is also as result of a lack of dedicated educational programmes at tertiary education level, where this type of specialisation is simply not offered. To become a cybersecurity specialist, graduates must complete generic courses offered by industry bodies, or similar organisations, but only after attaining a solid base of IT skills, for example in the areas of basic infrastructure, networking or operating systems.

No specific certification

This adversely affects the influx of cybersecurity skills within the IT industry, as it limits security specialisation to those who have built some knowledge and experience in another field of IT. The challenge here is that there isn’t a specific certification or educational programme or single skill that covers all aspects of cybersecurity. Hence, these skills need to be developed over time and with practical experience.

Another key consideration is that the cybersecurity landscape is extremely dynamic, with new technologies, exploits, techniques and trends coming to the fore every 12 to 18 months. Individuals entering this field are challenged to not only learn basics of cybersecurity, but to also keep up with the rapidly changing technologies and evolving threats. Thus it requires a significant investment to develop those skills and maintain them.

However, this isn’t solely a local trend. Internationally, the cybersecurity skills gap is such that organisations are poaching skills from less mature markets and developing countries, often with the lure of more money. We are at risk of bleeding skills to First World countries as people often seize these opportunities without giving due consideration to the cost of living or amount of work expected of them in their new role.

Simeon Tassev.

Hindering internships

From a local skills development perspective, the pandemic also scuppered many companies’ internship programmes, which saw junior resources being trained and mentored by experienced cybersecurity specialists. With the WFH trend, this has become too challenging and inefficient in many instances, and the current increased security demands mean that companies would rather hire a senior specialist who can deliver from day one.

All these factors have a severely compounded effect on an already critical skills shortage in cybersecurity, as demand for these expertise has increased fivefold overnight due to the ongoing pandemic. At the same time, financial pressure has seen many companies do away with annual bonuses, while increasing employees’ workloads, triggering the natural human response of wanting to seek greener pastures.

With a bigger shortage of cybersecurity skills, South African companies are likely to look to outsourcing or outsourced managed services to fill the gap. There are various geographies geared for this type of demand, with India being a primary country to supply cybersecurity skills. Alternatively, South African companies will look to the few skills in Africa and attract them to the local market.

To stave off an even greater challenge in future, the local IT industry should look at forming communities that will encourage the younger generation to enter the field. A greater understanding of cybersecurity must be fostered, as well as a culture that supports local employment opportunities to show that the grass is not always greener on the other side. This might not be enough to solve the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Deception technology crucial to unmasking data theft
Information Security Security Services & Risk Management
The ‘silent theft’ of data is an increasingly prevalent cyber threat to businesses, driving the ongoing leakage of personal information in the public domain through undetected attacks that cannot even be policed by data privacy legislation.

Data security and privacy in global mobility
Security Services & Risk Management Information Security
Data security and privacy in today’s interconnected world is of paramount importance. In the realm of global mobility, where individuals and organisations traverse borders for various reasons, safeguarding sensitive information becomes an even more critical imperative.

Sophos celebrates partners and cybersecurity innovation at annual conference
News & Events Information Security
[Sponsored] Sun City hosted Sophos' annual partner event this year, which took place from 12 to 14 March. Sophos’ South African cybersecurity distributors and resellers gathered for an engaging two-day conference.

The CIPC hack has potentially serious consequences
Editor's Choice Information Security
A cyber breach at the South African Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) has put millions of companies at risk. The organisation holds a vast database of registration details, including sensitive data like ID numbers, addresses, and contact information.

Navigating South Africa's cybersecurity regulations
Sophos Information Security Infrastructure
[Sponsored] Data privacy and compliance are not just buzzwords; they are essential components of a robust cybersecurity strategy that cannot be ignored. Understanding and adhering to local data protection laws and regulations becomes paramount.

AI augmentation in security software and the resistance to IT
Security Services & Risk Management Information Security
The integration of AI technology into security software has been met with resistance. In this, the first in a series of two articles, Paul Meyer explores the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome to empower AI-enabled, human-centric decision-making.

Milestone Systems joins CVE programme
Milestone Systems News & Events Information Security
Milestone Systems has partnered with the Common Vulnerability and Exposures (CVE) Programme as a CVE Numbering Authority (CNA), to assist the programme to find, describe, and catalogue known cybersecurity issues.

Access & identity expectations for 2024
Technews Publishing IDEMIA ZKTeco Gallagher Salto Systems Africa Regal Distributors SA Reditron Editor's Choice Access Control & Identity Management Information Security AI & Data Analytics
What does 2024 have in store for the access and identity industry? SMART Security Solutions asked several industry players for their brief thoughts on what they expect this year.

Prepare for cyber-physical attacks
Gallagher Information Security Access Control & Identity Management
As the security landscape continues to evolve, organisations must fortify their security solutions to embrace the changing needs of the security and technology industries. Nowhere is this more present than with regard to cybersecurity.

Zero Trust and user fatigue
Access Control & Identity Management Information Security
Paul Meyer, Security Solutions Executive, iOCO OpenText, says implementing Zero Trust and enforcing it can create user fatigue, which only leads to carelessness and a couldn’t care attitude.