- The cybersecurity workforce has exploded to more 3.5 million professionals around the world, according to a report from (ISC)2. The 2020 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, based on data from 3,790 professionals during the height of the pandemic from late April to mid-June, shows the pandemic placed huge demands on companies around the world.
- The global cybersecurity workforce increased by 25%, or roughly 700,000 workers, compared with year-ago levels, due to heightened demand for cybersecurity experts, (ISC)2 said. The rapid growth helped mitigate a long-standing shortage of qualified workers, as the global shortfall fell from 4.1 million workers in 2019 to 3.1 million this year.
- Cybersecurity professionals in some cases faced incredible pressure to reconfigure their internal operations, with 30% of respondents saying they were given a day or less to transform their respective workforces to remote operations, according to the report.
The pandemic has forced most of the world's leading companies to completely restructure their workforces to remote operations, forcing IT workers to implement almost overnight changes to safely operate in a virtual environment.
The cybersecurity industry has shown an ongoing issue with finding enough qualified workers, and the pandemic placed additional strain on corporate spending. The need to switch to remote work placed additional pressure on existing cybersecurity staffers to manage the transition from a centralized office environment to remote operations.
"While our research doesn't quantify exactly how the pandemic has impacted demand, we do know that the spending freezes most organizations instituted during the first half of 2020 have negatively impacted the hiring outlook," Clar Rosso, CEO of (ISC)2 said in an email.
The report indicates filling the talent gap is an ongoing need, as the U.S. still needs to grow cybersecurity employment levels by 41% and globally the industry needs to grow employment by 89% to fill an ongoing talent gap.
Companies are finding new cybersecurity personnel from a wide variety of sources, including recent university graduates, outside consultants and contractors and workers from other departments within the company, according to the report.
The study shows that the highest level of professionals in three years of research expect either no change, or a decrease, in cybersecurity staffing levels over the next 12 months. The report also shows that 54% of cybersecurity practitioners are concerned about spending on personnel as a result of lost revenue related to COVID-19.
The industry continues to struggle with diversity issues, as cybersecurity departments have long standing issues with hiring more women and people of color, according to Rosso.
"We need to be pulling talent from a much broader pool of professionals and from a wide variety of backgrounds who have the core competencies that can be developed into strong cybersecurity skills," Rosso said. "This will allow us to better address the gap and bring more balance to cybersecurity teams as we work to collectively inspire a safe and secure cyber world."
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect the cybersecurity workforce growth was part of a longer trend, not solely driven by COVID-19 demand.