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Almost two-thirds of CISOs see cybersecurity skills gap getting worse

18 Feb 2020

Marlin Hawk surveyed 500 CISOs around the world about industry challenges such as the ‘dramatic global talent shortage’.

A new report from executive search firm Marlin Hawk has shown that 62pc of chief information security officers (CISOs) believe the global cybersecurity talent shortage will get worse over the next five years.

The CISO in 2020 report is based on a survey of 500 cybersecurity professionals from companies with more than 500 employees in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions. The research, carried out by Vanson Bourne, delves into the roles and demographics of CISOs and the challenges they face in this evolving sector.

It also features interviews with CISOs from such companies as Mastercard, Zalando and Boeing. Mastercard CSO Ron Green, for example, highlighted the importance of machine learning and automation for the future of risk management.

“Machine learning and automation are going to be really helpful to current and future CISOs,” he said. “Businesses are still going to need smart humans on security, but already the humans that are in our security operations centres are being overwhelmed with things they have to monitor, and you can’t simply keep putting in more people because there aren’t enough people already.”

CISO: a new but precarious position

The CISO is a relatively new role in organisations and, as indicated in the report, it has evolved in response to information security growing beyond purely technical problems. Marlin Hawk said that it now “blends risk, strategic vision and knowledge of the threat landscape with people and data management”.

The survey found that 85pc of CISOs would seriously consider a new job if the offer came up and, due to the rarity of a clear upwards progression trajectory, CISOs typically leave their job after four years, on average.

Marlin Hawk also cited the difficulty in finding people with sufficient technical expertise and experience for the ever-changing nature of the industry as an issue in recruitment and job progression.

According to the report, almost three-quarters of respondents said they were under the age of 45.

‘Navigating a dramatic global talent shortage’

Overall, the study found that the global cybersecurity talent shortage is a cause for concern. With two-thirds of participants reporting struggles to recruit senior people, the report cited a lack of people having the right skills in this field.

Global managing partner at Marlin Hawk, John-Claude Hesketh, said: “As the need to protect customer data grows, business leaders have been attempting to work out how best to respond to this new reality and, most importantly, whose responsibility it should be.

“The constant cyber threat has completely changed the way boards around the world approach risk, and it’s an issue that every business leadership team has had to respond to.

“The challenge now is for board directors to work out how to value these senior cybersecurity professionals and integrate them into strategic business decisions, whilst navigating a dramatic global talent shortage.”

Marlin Hawk CEO David Holloway added: “Cybersecurity threats are real and the size of the challenges to come are large.

“From the 1980s when technology began replacing open-outcry trading floors to the advance of e-commerce in today’s world, cyber poses possibly the biggest risk to human and financial security now and in the future.”

Marlin Hawk has plans for the annual report to track the evolution of the role of the CISO over the next 10 years.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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