The Growing Need for Cybersecurity Experts in the New Normal

Cyber Security, SCS blog

By Matthew McGrath

Cybersecurity practitioners working on a laptop.

Advances in technology are a double-edged sword. It simultaneously makes our lives easier while adding so many complications.

Take automation—AI-based and machine-learning technologies are erasing simple tasks from our daily lives. Banking apps and automated payments ensure our bills get paid without us having to think about it, for instance. At the same time, by 2025, the World Economic Forum estimates that automation will disrupt 85 million jobs globally.

Here’s another example: cloud-based storing, video conferencing technologies, and portable home office equipment allowed millions of Canadians to work from home during the 2020 shutdown—saving countless jobs and allowing organizations to continue functioning with little interruption. According to a StatCan survey, “among employed Canadians, almost half (48%) worked from home using the internet more often during the pandemic.”

However, this nearly overnight transition led to an exponential number of cyber breaches. A CIRA Cybersecurity Survey found that three in ten organizations (29%) experienced a data breach in 2020, nearly doubling from 18% in 2019 before the pandemic began.  

Job elimination and cyber-attacks. Two massive issues that have increased exponentially during the pandemic and are on track to get much worse.

Perhaps there is a solution for both problems: a career in the growing field of cybersecurity.

While many organizations are recruiting more cyber professionals to combat the rise in cybercrime, (an influx of 700,000 professionals into the cybersecurity workforce in the past year) a 2022 study shows that demand for cyber professionals is still outpacing supply. The global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 65% to protect organizations from growing cyber threats. 

An effective cyber defense doesn’t have a set-it-and-forget-it automated solution. It needs to be run by a reactive and strategic team of experienced professionals.

And many organizations are in dire need of teams like this. Not just because of a talent shortage but also to correct organizational cyber bad habits. 

A recent survey by the Insurance Bureau of Canada gave small and medium-sized Canadian organizations a C rating for their cyber safety and awareness.

According to IT World Canada, “after surveying 1,525 workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees, [the Insurance Bureau of Canada] concluded firms have been slow to adapt to increasingly frequent and sophisticated cyberattacks.”

They discovered that 72% of respondents had done something that could allow a cybercriminal to breach their company’s computer systems. Other cyber faux pas committed by employees included using one password to access multiple websites, using public Wi-Fi while on a work computer, allowing family members access to their work computer, and sharing their passwords by email. 

But let’s not place all the blame on employees—managers and business owners didn’t fare much better. According to the same survey, only 34% said their company provides cyber security training, and only half of the respondents said their organization introduced multi-factor authentication.

And despite the increase in attacks over the years, many still underestimate cyber criminals, deferring to the “but-it-won’t-happen-to-me” mindset. 

The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s report found that 21% of respondents believe that most cyber breaches are minor and easy to resolve. But the average cost of a cyberattack for Canadian organizations in 2021 was roughly $7.3 million. On a global scale, cybercrime is the fastest-growing crime, set to cost over $10 trillion annually by 2025.

And while this may sound doom and gloom, let’s take a glass-half-full look at the situation: this industry is ripe with exciting opportunities and potential for new professionals or people looking to make a career transition. 

According to Accenture’s State of cybersecurity resilience 2021 report, over 80% of organizations in North America have increased their cybersecurity budgets over the past year.  

Experienced cyber security professionals are in high demand today, marked by a 13% cumulative annual growth rate in the number of entry-level cyber security job postings across Canada. The strongest demand is in the Greater Toronto Area with a 19% cumulative annual growth rate. For people beginning their careers, the average cyber security analyst salary in Canada is $71,000 a year.

As Ali Khan, a Cyber Security instructor at the School of Continuing Studies puts it, “There’s no better time to get into cyber (security). This is the post-COVID recovery time of massive spending, where budgets are now opening up. Countries are adopting massive digital transformations. Companies are looking to further digitize their services. And cyber security is a part of all of that. Whether that’s for AI, blockchain, autonomous vehicles.”  

And for professionals outside of IT looking for new career prospects, cybersecurity is not only for technical people, but also inclusive for those who have a non-technical background. The industry abounds with managerial, administrative, and roles behind the front lines.

So while one door closes, another opens. Although technological advances are making many jobs obsolete, it’s also creating unheard-of opportunities, with cybersecurity careers being chief among them. 

As we move forward, practices like hybrid work culture and fully remote positions will become more commonplace. Machine learning and AI will be more integral to the smooth functioning of our work and personal lives. These advancements will be met by even more sophisticated cyberattacks. 

If you’re looking to enter this field ripe with opportunity and actively looking for new talent, consider the School of Continuing Studies suite of Cyber Security programs so you can gain the skills and experience you need to upskill or reskill for this exciting career.