Time to remember to be thankful for cybersecurity professionals

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There’s usually a lot to be grateful for every Thanksgiving in the U.S. but one area that tends to be underappreciated all year long is cybersecurity. Most cybersecurity professionals labor away all year with little to no recognition for their efforts. The truth is it’s only when something goes horribly wrong that anyone in senior management wants to know who is responsible for cybersecurity. A team of cybersecurity professionals may have thwarted billions of attacks in a year. But it can feel like it was all for naught in one bad horrible day.

'A team of cybersecurity professionals may have thwarted billions of attacks in a year. But it can feel like it was all for naught in one bad horrible day.' ~@MVizard Click To Tweet

Of course, most breaches are not even the fault of the cybersecurity team. There’s not much that can be done when an end user opens an attachment or clicks on a link that results in malware being directly loaded on to their machine. A cybersecurity research report from Verizon notes that 97 percent of all malware arrives in one way or another via email.

What the cybersecurity team can be held accountable for is how quickly that malware is contained once it’s been activated. That requires a cybersecurity architecture that, for example, makes extensive use of firewalls to microsegment a network in a way that prevents malware from spreading laterally across an organization. Unfortunately, when malware is effectively contained no one tends to remember the cybersecurity professional that came up with the architecture that made it possible to contain the breach.

Not surprisingly, far too many cybersecurity professionals feel underappreciated. They may be compensated fairly, but long hours of continuous stress will take its toll. Cybersecurity professionals are bombarded with thousands of alerts a day. Most of those alerts are false positives. Being able to identify the precise series of alerts that indicate a cyberattack has been able to breach an organization’s defense requires a lot of skill. It’s usually not until a series of anomalies are detected that usually include some exfiltration of data that cybersecurity professionals are certain an attack is underway. Then the goal becomes not just to contain the breach, but also study the malware employed to create an additional set of controls that prevents that type of breach from ever occurring again.

'It may be a decade or more before there are enough qualified job candidates to come anywhere near close to filling all the open cybersecurity positions.' ~@MVizard Click To Tweet

When you think about all that needs to be done there’s little wonder there’s a chronic shortage of cybersecurity professionals. Cities such as New York are investing millions of dollars to fill that void by investing in cybersecurity education. But it may be a decade or more before there are enough qualified job candidates to come anywhere near close to filling all the open cybersecurity positions.

Of course, cybersecurity vendors are investing billions of dollars now in various forms of artificial intelligence (AI) to help plug that gap. There’s no doubt AI has a huge role to play in cybersecurity going forward. But it’s not likely AI is going to come close to being able to replace cybersecurity professionals any time soon. But there will be a very large number of digital assistants augmenting the cybersecurity expertise of cybersecurity professionals that are now tasked with securing an attack surface that gets broader with each passing IT innovation.

In the meantime, billions of people remain blissfully unaware of what cybersecurity professionals do every day to protect us. Their efforts may not always be appreciated, but without them, it’s clear this digital society we all enjoy so much would not exist. Alas, the biggest concern now is that line of cybersecurity professionals that stands between us and digital chaos is much thinner than most anyone realizes. So, on behalf of every one of them here’s a simple thank you to cybersecurity professionals everywhere. Many of them will be working today. The rest will steal a look once or twice at the systems they are expected to protect every day of the year. Here’s hoping that’s the worst thing that happens all day.

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