31.03.2021 The rising cost of cyber security expertise

by Andrew Milne

Closing the cyber skills gap without breaking the bank.

Cyber attacks show no signs of slowing down, and yet jobs for cyber security professionals are left unfilled — why? The short answer is that in-house cyber security expertise can be costly — but the long answer takes a bit more unpacking.

Making sure your company can access the cyber security resources it needs to defend its IT infrastructure can be costly. Finding experienced personnel to manage your cyber security strategy can be a challenging process.

What’s more, cyber security is itself a complex science; threat detection alone requires multiple roles and skill sets coupled with years of experience analyzing threat behavior. Managing all this, along with the growing complexity of tech stacks, means that expertise comes at a premium.

Let’s take a closer look at how businesses are responding to the rising costs of cyber security expertise, what’s behind it, and how you can access the resources necessary for continued peace of mind.

Why is cyber security expertise so expensive?

Once upon a time, securing a company meant investing in an antivirus license, putting up a firewall, and telling staff to use strong passwords. Cyber security was frequently delegated to a company’s IT team, who in turn would handle common issues as part of the regular workday.

These days, it’s not so simple.

Cyber security now requires far more specialized technology to better defend modern businesses. Antivirus software is rarely on the radar as companies turn to advanced tools to secure every aspect of their IT infrastructure, including endpoints, cloud services, and networks.

These defences rely on continuous, end-to-end monitoring, which in turn requires cyber security professionals to develop and refine software and technologies to gather and analyze threat data from multiple sources to spot suspicious activity.

Though a lot of this expertise can be developed in a classroom, the rate at which cyber attacks evolve and change means that a lot of learning still takes place on-the-job. Security teams need to be able to recognize and understand real-world threat activity in order to analyze and respond to threats quickly and effectively if an incident occurs. Because of how quickly threats and attack techniques change, there will always be an element of on-the-job learning.

In response to this, many post-secondary cyber security education programs have invested in realistic training environments to deliver real-world scenarios to their students. These training environments, or cyber ranges, help students build their skillset before entering the workforce, letting them experience authentic conditions and challenges that they’ll deal with on the job.

It’s a demanding job that requires staff to be at the top of their game, and hiring an internal security team may require more IT budget than a small or mid-size business (SMB) may be prepared to spend.

Even if you have budget capacity for cyber security staff, the demand for cyber security talent is far greater than the supply. One study found that while the global cyber security workforce grew by about 25% from 2019 to 2020, there is still a significant skills gap. In many cases, building an internal security team may simply not be feasible without adequate budget.

There are no two ways about it: security resources are expensive — but that doesn’t mean effective security is out of your reach.

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How companies are addressing the growing cost of expertise

These rising costs are a challenge for businesses of all sizes and sectors, and they’re exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies everywhere have felt impacts from ongoing lockdowns and sudden changes to the business landscape. Some organizations have been forced to lay off workforces, in some cases scaling back their security budget and staff.

We polled over 500 individuals from our professional networks and found that companies are split fairly evenly in terms of how they’re addressing rising costs. 27% of respondents said they are looking to outsource some or all of their cyber security operations, with 24% investing in ongoing cyber education and only 23% increasing their IT or security budget.

In fact, one report found that 16% of companies plan to downsize security teams as a result of the ongoing pandemic, even in the midst of growing attacks and threats.

But it’s not all negative — there are plenty of steps companies can take to bridge the cyber skills and salary gap and secure their operations.

Rethink the approach to cyber security

Not every organization has the resources to hire and manage a full-time security team — it’s expensive, time-consuming, and stressful.

Instead, you could consider working with a third-party security provider. These third parties are dedicated to cyber security and give companies access to the expertise necessary for a robust security program.

But even with the right provider, cyber security can no longer be considered the responsibility of a single department. Investing in education and training at all levels of an organization can help create a security-first culture where all staff have buy-in and can transfer knowledge and skills to new hires.

Leverage third-party experts and holistic solutions

To solve for this skills and expenses gap, consider outsourcing some or all aspects of your cyber security defences. By relying on an experienced cyber expert and vendor or a managed service provider (or a combination of both), you can effectively close the gap and access the expertise you need to ensure your operations stay secure.

When choosing outsourcing options, look for one that brings deep cyber security experience and experience in software development and management. And, of course, your chosen solution vendor or MSP should take a holistic approach with any solution they maintain, addressing all aspects of your IT infrastructure without creating silos.

Outsourcing also helps solve the cyber security salary challenge. Working with a third party means the salary question is one they need to respond to — you’re simply hiring the company for professional services.

Invest in cyber security training

One of the biggest challenges in developing cyber security expertise is ensuring staff receive effective, realistic training that tests threat analysis and response. What’s more, this training needs to be delivered efficiently and within budget, ideally without significant staff time. The day’s already busy enough; between the demands of daily tasks and urgent requests, there may be little time to actually take a proactive approach to education.

That’s where cyber ranges come into play.

Good cyber ranges give companies a single, flexible platform to deliver realistic security education and training, allowing you to deploy scenarios to meet your training needs. This allows you to track learning outcomes while giving users a hands-on way to build their skill set, which will help better retain the knowledge.

Cyber security expertise continues to be a critical, but costly need for organizations of every size, but that doesn’t mean it’s outside your grasp. Building this expertise takes time, and it won’t happen overnight, but by rethinking how your company can access these resources, you can take advantage of industry-leading knowledge without having to increase your IT budget.

Discover what other costs you should consider when planning or evaluating your cyber security budget in our latest eBook, The True Cost of Cyber Security: Key Insights for Managing Your Budget.

 

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