As the tech industry plagued by an economic downturn continues to experience huge staffing cuts in 2023, the least-expected cybersecurity workforce has been hit by layoffs.
The report has revealed that Latin America (Brazil and Mexico) has seen the greatest cybersecurity layoffs, followed by Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. Countries with the fewest cybersecurity layoffs are Hong Kong, the US, and Saudi Arabia.
The report also disclosed that the cybersecurity workforce shortage has risen to a record high of just under 4 million.
A third of cybersecurity teams (32%) have had a hiring freeze, 30% face budget cuts, a quarter (26%) will have to give up promotions or raises, and 22% are facing layoffs, according to the 2023 study.
The industries seeing the most layoffs include entertainment and media (33%), construction (31%), security software and hardware makers (31%) and automotive (29%) sectors. These sectors have been hit particularly hard by layoffs in cybersecurity. The military/military contractor (8%), government (9%), and education (13%) sectors have been the least affected.
The organization’s annual cybersecurity workforce study, which was released on Oct. 31 and surveyed nearly 15,000 cyber professionals, found that the industry’s skills gap has hit a record high.
Globally, roughly 4 million professionals are needed to adequately safeguard the digital world—an increase of about 13% compared to last year. This means the industry as a whole needs to double in size to meet growing demand.
Despite the cybersecurity workforce growing by almost 10% last year, the data noted that the gap between the number of workers needed and the number available has risen 12.6% year over year, with cutbacks, economic uncertainty, artificial intelligence (AI), and a challenging threat landscape as key driving forces, the research found. The current global workforce gap is estimated to be 3,999,964 while the workforce itself is estimated to be 5,452,732, according to ISC2.
Overall, 47% of cybersecurity workers have experienced cybersecurity-related cutbacks, with 22% of this group having been impacted by layoffs within cybersecurity. An additional 28% have had layoffs elsewhere in their organizations, which can significantly affect the cybersecurity workforce.
Nearly half of respondents stated that cutbacks have affected their security team disproportionately in comparison to the rest of their organization, with 71% having experienced a negative impact on their workload and 57% seeing their ability to respond to cybersecurity threats impacted as a result.
Cybersecurity Skills Gaps
A skills gap is an area in which cybersecurity teams lack workers with proficiency or expertise in particular skills that are necessary to function effectively.
More than half (59%) of cybersecurity workers said that skills gaps can be worse than total worker shortages, while 92% reported skills gaps at their organization, the most common being cloud computing security, AI/ML, and zero-trust implementation.
Almost half (43%) cited one or more significant or critical skills gaps within their company. An inability to find people with the right skills (44%), struggling to keep people with in-demand skills (42%), and lacking the budget to hire people (41%) are the biggest causes for these skills gaps, according to the report.
Changes in Cybersecurity Workforce
The data also showed that the makeup of the cybersecurity workforce is changing both in gender and race/ethnicity.
The biggest change was in non-white men by age; within the US, Canada, Ireland, and the UK, 70% of cybersecurity professionals 60 or older are white men. In those same countries, just 37% of those under 30 are white men. Two-thirds (66%) of security workers who entered the profession in the US, Canada, Ireland, and the UK in the past 12 months were non-white.
“While we celebrate the record number of new cybersecurity professionals entering the field, the pressing reality is that we must double this workforce to adequately protect organizations and their critical assets,” said ISC2 CEO Clar Rosso.