Staffing industry poised to address surging demand for cybersecurity professionals

By Neal England
Managing Director and HRM Practice Leader

As the United States moved rapidly into a work-from-home model due to the coronavirus pandemic, cyber criminals wasted no time in exploiting online security weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

The sharp rise in cybercrimes — hacked Zoom meetings, crippling ransomware attacks and a massive increase in phishing attacks — underscores the country’s cybersecurity skills gap and the demand for cybersecurity professionals.

Barracuda Networks, which provides network security to thousands of corporate customers, said coronavirus-related email attacks surged in March as the coronavirus ramped up in the United States and elsewhere, rising 667% from February.

The recent surge in cybercrimes puts a spotlight on the need for more cybersecurity professionals to help defend against intellectual data loss and network corruption. Should telecommuting become more widespread and ingrained as the pandemic eventually wanes, the cybersecurity skills gap could widen even further.

These statistics illustrate the demand:

  • Nearly 805,000 cybersecurity professionals are working in the U.S., but the U.S. cybersecurity workforce gap is nearly 500,000, according to a 2019 study from (ISC)2, an association of cybersecurity professionals. The sector’s workforce needs to grow by about 62% to meet the current business demands, (ISC)2
  • The number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs is expected to grow by 350%, from 1 million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021, and of the candidates who are applying for these positions, fewer than one in four are qualified, according to Cybercrime Magazine.

Impact on staffing

All IT positions are essentially cybersecurity positions in our current environment. This means all technology employees should be trained and prepared to help protect against a host of potential cybercrimes.

On the other hand, the cybersecurity sector’s combination of high demand and hard to find people creates an attractive market opportunity for the staffing industry.

Staffing firms that can successfully cater to this highly specialized niche market will be well situated to capitalize on this insatiable talent demand, potentially for many years to come.

The high-profile incidents that have occurred during the pandemic illustrate what’s at stake. For startup, Zoom, it has meant that over two dozen attorneys general have raised questions about privacy issues on the platform, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. Zoom said it is cooperating with authorities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning in March about videoconference hijacking, spurred in part by “Zoombombing” incidents where a hijacker gains access and disrupts zoom meetings.

Ransomware attacks, meanwhile, have targeted medical facilities, banks, governments and even IT companies.

Experience and knowledge

A variety of entities are working to narrow the cybersecurity skills gap.

In 2018, a public-private coalition of education and industry partners created Cyber NYC to create 10,000 cyber jobs, help fuel new startups and protect New York’s anchor employers.

The effort includes bridging the talent gap by drawing on the city’s diverse talent pool and connecting people to a variety of training and education programs.

This demand for cybersecurity skills presents a unique opportunity for students from underserved/underrepresented communities to enter into a rapidly growing technology career, according to Cyber NYC.

The cybersecurity market is sophisticated and ever-changing. Staffing firms interested in expanding into this arena must tread carefully, with a laser focus on hiring professionals who possess a cyber technology background and subject matter expertise that will contribute to the cybercrime defenses of an enterprise.

There is too much at stake for CIOs and hiring decision-makers to risk their infrastructure safety by hiring non-specialized recruiting firms. Additionally, proven cybersecurity professionals will not typically spend time interacting with recruiters who do not understand the technology nuances or project scopes for contract or direct hire opportunities.

Even without the coronavirus, cybersecurity staffing demands are outstripping supply. Staffing firms that are able to capitalize on this phenomenon are poised for exciting new growth.

Capital Alliance Corporation is a Dallas-based investment banking firm with a four-decade history and deep operational and M&A experience across many sectors, including human resource management, upstream energy and energy infrastructure, among others. Capital Alliance is affiliated with Oaklins International, the world’s most experienced mid-market M&A advisor, with 800 professionals globally and dedicated industry teams in 40 countries worldwide. We have closed over 1,500 transactions in the past five years.