The normalisation of remote working and increased business adoption of cloud technologies have significantly increased the cyberattack surface putting every company at risk of compromise.
With more than 10% of Internet user computers worldwide experiencing at least one malware-class attack last year and Kaspersky solutions blocking over 665 million attacks launched from online resources in various countries, cybersecurity skills are now more in demand than ever.
However, the continuously evolving regulatory framework across the world means companies must not only focus on keeping their infrastructure and systems safe, but data security has become one of the most significant priority areas.
For instance, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) in South Africa finally kicks off on 1 July, the culmination of a process that began in 2013. Companies who do not comply face significant penalties that include fines and even the potential of jail time for executives.
Data, data, data
This signifies the growing importance of data in business. In fact, it would not be too far-fetched to say that the digital transformation taking place has transformed every company into a data-driven one in its pursuit to remain competitive, deliver growth, and meet evolving customer expectations.
“Two of the most critical components in an organisation’s journey to become digitally transformed are data and analytics. With the focus now being on the importance of thinking digitally and its impact on changing traditional roles and responsibilities within the organisation, companies must become more adept at leveraging information as a critical asset that delivers business value,” says Andreas Bartsch, Head of Service Delivery at PBT Group.
This means that data specialists who can architect, design, and model a data platform for a more agile environment have become as crucial as cybersecurity experts who ensure that the entire environment remains as safe as possible. Both sets of skills also rely on an understanding of capitalising on the high-performance computing capabilities delivered through the cloud.
“The nature of jobs in not only South Africa but the rest of the world will evolve to reflect this digitally-driven and data-rich landscape. Companies can ill afford to ignore how to better understand their business, market, and customers. This talks directly to the importance of experts who can derive strategic meaning from data. As such, data analytics that accesses vast data volumes instantaneously regardless of their geographic location will add to the companies’ competitive advantage,” says Bartsch.
Protecting the data
But it is in this accessing and analyses of data where some of the most sophisticated threats lie. In fact, filling specialist roles within data and cybersecurity are the most difficult to come by skills in the world today. For instance, expertise in cyber threat intelligence has become indispensable for organisations looking to pro-actively safeguard their footprint across infrastructure and data.
“Even though having access to these cybersecurity skills are critical for digital success, research has found that more than 80% of cyber-incidents are caused by human error. Companies must therefore manage a careful balancing act – between putting in place cybersecurity skills to counteract the growing threat landscape and ensuring employees across locations have access to the required security awareness training to mitigate the risk of compromise from happening,” says the Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa, Bethwel Opil.
This training must incorporate the likes of digital forensics, malware analysis, and even incident response. Of course, not every employee needs the same level of training, but there must be at least basic knowledge of the cyberthreat landscape, the risk of compromise on data, and the impact this could have on the organisation.
When the focus turns to specialist cybersecurity skills, selecting the right focus area and skills to develop will give a person an earning edge and greater choice among employers.
“We have identified several areas where skill shortages are most pronounced. These include the ability to be equally skilled in technology and legal considering the impact compliance will have on data protection. Furthermore, having the ability to detect anomalies in the sheer amount of data available becomes critical. With big data analysis becoming integral to the modern organisation, having an analyst that can build mathematical models to detect anomalies will be significant,” says Opil.
Most critically, tying all this together is threat intelligence that tracks, analyses, interprets, and mitigates evolving cyberthreats. It is about providing the organisation with the intelligence needed to mitigate these threats and leveraging technology to understand where the most significant threats to data and infrastructure will come from.
Start them young
This is where attracting the youth to pursue data and cybersecurity careers become vital in creating a safer digital environment for a business. However, there is often a disconnect between the real-world, practical skills needed and the courses available at tertiary institutions.
“Unfortunately, this creates a situation where you have high unemployment rates because traditional institutions have not transformed to the same extent as the business environment. For instance, many of the cybersecurity courses available see students focus on mastering a toolset over the course of three years. But by the time the student graduates, the technology (and tools) would have evolved significantly,” says Brandon Meszaros, CEO at Digital Resilience.
This is where companies can play a crucial role. To help ensure business resilience, they must look at training staff entering the market for the first time and supplementing their skills with those relevant to their requirements. It makes sense for the organisation to reskill and upskill new workers with training built on practical data and cybersecurity requirements.
“The deployment of an effective training and simulation platform that enables businesses to establish and manage hyper-realistic training will boost information security team performance in an ongoing manner and increase employee awareness. Organisations must think differently about training in this digital environment. Whether it is data or cybersecurity expertise, the market has transformed and people need to fill critical gaps that have emerged,” says Meszaros.