A specialist cybersecurity recruiter has warned that UK businesses and Government departments must urgently address the massive shortfall in the country’s cybersecurity skills if major cybercrime is to be averted in 2017.

Writing for ITProPortal, an online news and information source for IT professionals, Jonathan Martin (Cybersecurity and Cloud Department Manager of the specialist IT recruitment company Networkers) cites the Science and Technology Committee Report 2016, which estimated that British employers will need an additional 745,000 professionals with digital skills in 2017. Without these workers, the UK economy stands to lose £63bn every year, the Committee calculated.

Mr Martin believes that the cybersecurity skills deficit brings a unique set of risks. He writes: “Without the right skills and measures in place to combat cyber security threats, the UK leaves itself exposed. This has a knock on effect on our global competitiveness as weak defences could deter other countries from trading with us. A substandard defence strategy also creates fear amongst businesses and the public which is never a good sign for the economy.”

Businesses face consequences similar to those of the country as a whole in the absence of a robust cybersecurity strategy. These include a heightened exposure to cybercrime, a resultant loss of competitiveness and an increased probability of reputational damage, should these companies be successfully targeted by cybercrooks.

UK businesses also face the danger of enormous fines if they fail to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

One implication of Mr Martin’s observation is that Umbrella Company Employees and other contracting professionals with cybersecurity expertise in their skillsets will be in enormous demand in 2017. But, given the massive shortfall in these coveted skills, additional measures will need to be adopted – specialist contractors alone are not sufficiently numerous to plug this huge digital deficit.

Mr Martin notes that while security remains a niche sector, the IT discipline in its entirety encompasses a diverse range of roles. Employers struggling to source the security experts whom they require should, he says, hire IT pros with non-security backgrounds such as network/system/exchange administration. All IT professionals are equipped with the ability to problem-solve, and those with second- and third-line support will, he emphasises, have skills that are transferable, and which could prove fundamental for addressing the security skills gap.

An open-minded approach to recruitment, coupled with a willingness to upskill IT professionals with security expertise and offer new educational opportunities to engage young people in the discipline will help avert a major crisis, he concludes.

In the meantime, IT contractors with the requisite skills may find their telephones ringing incessantly in 2017.

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