By Ger Daly
While emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, intelligent automation and the internet of things are helping to unlock value for public sector organizations, they’re also exposing new security threats and cyber-security talent gaps.
As we enter October and National Cyber-Security Awareness month, it’s concerning that many organizations feel that they are as vulnerable as ever. This is partly because, despite increased cyber-security spending in recent years, the “threat gap”—the disparity between current investments in technology, people and processes and what’s needed to mitigate evolving cyber-threats—continues to widen.
One of the main challenges for public sector agencies is ensuring that they have skilled security professionals in place who understand the importance of developing and deploying new digital technologies securely, as well as the need to protect their organizational data and infrastructure from security threats and breaches.
A recent Accenture study into the state of cyber-security across the public and private sectors found that 42 percent of security professionals believe they have inadequate budgets or resources to hire or train the right security talent. Moreover, 31 percent see this lack of training or staffing budget as their single biggest inhibitor to cyber-security readiness.
The Cyber-Security Skills Shortage
Finding, inspiring and hiring the right security professionals is challenging for government agencies. In a separate Accenture research study, 51 percent of the public sector agencies surveyed said they look to hire talent from the private sector when deploying technologies across their organizations. In fact, the federal government is hosting its first ever cyber-recruitment event this November, where it hopes to fill hundreds of technology and cyber-security roles across multiple agencies.
However, they face competition from a wide range of organizations for an extremely limited pool of skilled candidates. The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently reported that there could be as many as two million unfilled cyber-security roles globally by 2019.
This means that the public sector must be flexible—and many are looking to adjacent disciplines for talent. For government agencies, the term “security” doesn’t apply solely to cyber-security: It also applies to functional security providers, such as the intelligence community, border agencies and police forces. As such, public service agencies are increasingly looking to recruit talent from these functional security agencies and apply their intelligence skills and expertise to the challenges of cyber-security across the public sector.
Public-private partnerships are another important part of the solution. By working together with universities, corporations and other organizations to develop a skills-ready workforce, government agencies will be better prepared to confront evolving digital threats and take a more proactive stance on threat prevention.
Retaining Talent and Engaging Employees
While functional security services represent a good source of potential talent, recruiting talent is only half the battle: Retention of personnel is equally vital.
In today’s “sellers’ market”, skilled cyber-security professionals will not stay long in roles that are unrewarding or do not meet their expectations. Therefore, as public sector agencies look to leverage talent from the private sector and functional security agencies, employee engagement is critical.
Interestingly, the same technologies that are driving the need for cyber-security skills also allow for greater employee engagement. By mechanizing repetitive and low-level tasks, artificial intelligence and intelligent automation allow cyber-security professionals to focus on higher-level activities, which are generally more interesting and rewarding.