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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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Cybersecurity Talent Demands Could Spark the Next Hiring Bonanza

Last Friday, a member of my leadership team found himself cut off from the digital superhighway when his city experienced an area-wide Internet outage. It began around 10:00 a.m. and lasted into the early hours of Saturday morning. Local merchants struggled to process transactions, which hindered commerce; let’s face it, most people rely on cards over cash. Some businesses simply sent their workers home and wrote the day off as a loss. The situation, though regional, illustrates the greater macrocosmic impacts of digital communications on today’s organizations. And while the cause of the shutdown was not malicious in nature, it does underscore our reliance on secure, dependable Internet access -- and why cybersecurity should be a paramount financial concern for business leaders. Economically, digital security is also coming to represent one of the biggest opportunities in job demand, as the need for cybersecurity talent spreads.

The Rewards of the Digital Age Come with Risks

For all the wonders and conveniences of this digital world, we must not ignore the persistent threat of hackers. Technology graces us with new comforts every day -- and with them, new perils. The global cyberattacks that erupted in May offered another profound object lesson. A massive infection of malware plagued at least 75,000 computers across nearly 100 countries. The perpetrators targeted dozens of hospitals in England, multinational businesses such as FedEx and Spain’s largest telecommunications provider. Companies in the United States were urged to place themselves on high alert and take precautions against intrusions.

Experts believe the latest attacks were inspired by a National Security Agency (NSA) tool kit that was leaked last year. The malicious software, called the Wanna Decryptor or WannCry, essential locks users out of a system until ransom is paid to the hackers. As NBC News reported, the malware spread through email phishing programs and specifically exploited a known bug in Windows operating systems:

It was the size of the attack that shocked experts. “The scale of it — that’s pretty unprecedented,” Ben Rapp, the CEO of IT support company Managed Networks, told NBC News' British partner ITV News. “There’s been a lot of ransomware in hospitals, but to see 16 hospitals, last time I looked, and reports of other people — this is probably the biggest ransomware attack we've seen.”

Yet the events of April 12 are not the headlines of the year in terms of data theft. Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections became a chilling example of how far-reaching, sophisticated and consequential cyberattacks have become. Regardless of who orchestrated Friday’s electronic ransom campaign, Michael Sulmeyer’s piece in the Harvard Business Review illustrates the growing risks business around the world must confront as hackers develop more aggressive and penetrating attacks.

Sulmeyer’s expose directly examines what the rise of Russian hackers means for our businesses – and the sensitive data we entrust to systems that may be more vulnerable than we suspect.

“On the geopolitical stage,” he explains, “Russian hackers have been busy: Their targets have included Estonia (using overwhelming denial-of-service attacks), Georgia (supporting ground operations with cyber operations), Germany (achieving unauthorized access to servers in the legislature), and the United States (stealing data from the Democratic National Committee and emails from John Podesta). But with the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) indictment of four Russian hackers for breaching Yahoo, the U.S. government is now on record that Russia’s targets are not just geopolitical -- businesses are very much at risk as well.”

To emphasize the latter point, look at the ramifications of the breaches that shook Yahoo. Not only were datasets compromised, the fallout led to severe indirect costs for the company. Sulmeyer noted that “Verizon reached new terms for its acquisition of Yahoo and exacted a $350 million discount toward its purchase price because of the Russian hacks.”

However clever or overt some of these attacks have been, the U.S. government now worries about more insidious threats. Does anyone remember the 1979 film “When a Stranger Calls?” A psychopath terrorizes a babysitter in a fraught cat-and-mouse thriller. The big reveal, of course, is when the protagonist learns that the “call is coming from inside the house.” Officials in the United States suspect that a similar menace could be lurking on millions of devices already -- an enemy stalking us from within. As Bloomberg reported:

Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab’s software is everywhere in the U.S., keeping ordinary consumers as well as banks and power plants safe from cyber attacks. But some within the U.S. government are getting worried about the Russian company’s connections with its own government, questioning whether Kaspersky Lab can be trusted to safeguard key parts of the U.S. digital infrastructure. This week, Bloomberg Technology’s Jordan Robertson reveals details from his investigation outlining Kaspersky Lab’s connections with the Kremlin.

Cybersecurity Affects Staffing

The staffing industry isn’t exempt from or immune to these problems. In her article for SIA’s Staffing Stream, Diane Poljak recounted two tragic tales that underscore the importance of cybersecurity in the workforce solutions space:

Take, for example, an in-house staffing employee who mistakenly distributed copies of hundreds of staffing employee W2s to an email address that auto-populated into their email. It was an honest mistake, but cost the staffing company more than $75,000 in credit monitoring for those individuals, should their identities be stolen in the future.

Another industry example is when a hacker released a computer worm that launched a service attack against an IT placement firm’s entire system. The infection caused a 48-hour shutdown of its computer systems. The IT staffing firm incurred extensive costs to repair and restore their system as well as business interruption expenses that totaled more than $750,000.

As business leaders, we’re placing more of our enterprise, client and employee data into computers each year. That means we face greater losses if our systems are compromised. However, the news isn’t all dire. Innovative organizations have begun implementing efficient and creative solutions in the cybersecurity space. And with these advances come new employment and business opportunities.

Digital Security Experts Wanted

Writing for VentureBeat, Paul Sawers recently showcased a cybersecurity startup that has garnered a lot of attention and funding. “Founded in 2013 by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, England, Darktrace touts its ‘enterprise immune system,’ which sits on a company’s network to create ‘unique behavioral models for every user and device,’” he explained. “This in turn enables the platform to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to identify patterns, spot subtle changes, and thwart cyberattacks before they happen.”

The platform can detect threats in real time through machine learning, which adapts and becomes more intelligent during its lifetime. Since its launch, Darktrace has raised $180 million. The company reported a post-funding valuation of $825 million. Today, it boasts $200 million worth of contracts, serves 3,000 customers globally and has grown 140 percent in the last year, according to TechCrunch. With experts predicting $6 trillion in cybercrime damages by 2021, it’s no wonder that Darktrace is thriving.

Cybersecurity is not a singular discipline reserved for specific systems or companies. It sits at the intersection where many aspects of technology converge: IT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), hardware and software design, data science, systems architecture and so many others. It also spans industries: aviation, finance, manufacturing, utilities, consumer products, automotive, government, healthcare and, yes, even staffing. Cybersecurity talent demands are increasing. Naturally, opportunities in this space abound.

  • ”Indeed, we will likely see more ‘machine versus machine’ battles in the online security realm, which is why AI-infused cybersecurity technology is ripe for investment,” Sawer observed in his article.
  • Microsoft’s acquisition of Israeli-based Hexadite will empower the software giant to bring AI to the enterprise security mechanisms that protect Windows 10.
  • Cylance, another firm like Darktrace that specializes in injecting machine learning into security, raised $100 million last year.
  • Fresh studies conducted by Frost and Sullivan indicate that 1.8 million digital security roles will need to be filled by 2022.

Other Interesting Opportunities

Singapore is currently rated as the having the world’s best security by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Yet it’s not content to rest on its laurels. The country’s government announced bold changes to its regime. Like other nations, Singapore will continue hiring hackers to probe for vulnerabilities, investigate potential threats, conduct penetration testing and help develop new protocols. As Joon Ian Wong noted in Quartz:

Singapore’s hacking license would be a departure from the current global practice of self-certification. Hackers employed to check system security can currently obtain the “certified ethical hacker” certificate issued by the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants, a trade body based in the United States. In the United Kingdom, hacking by the government was recently legalized under the euphemism “equipment interference.”

If other governments follow Singapore’s lead to legitimize hackers, we could witness the rise of a new classification of in-demand talent. With almost 2 million cybersecurity experts needed in the coming years, employers and staffing professionals would do well to consider cultivating these candidate pools.

Another potential avenue is governance. In a July 11 piece for Forbes, Christopher P. Skroupa interviewed Larry Shoup, the CEO of ClearArmor Corporation, a digital security firm focused on CyberSecurity Resource Planning (CRP). Shoup emphasized the need for companies to begin applying the concept of governance to cybersecurity initiatives.

”A core principle in financial governance is the people that are doing the auditing and verification are independent from the people that do the day-to-day financial work,” Shoup said. “That is generally not true in cyber security. Almost all of the data presented to the board and CEO comes from the security people. The same people doing the work to protect the organization are also the ones doing the reporting up to the board. We’re asking people to self-report and say if they’re not doing a good job.”

Shoup’s recommendation is creating another group of workers to operate independently, outside the dedicated security professionals. This talent will analyze and rationalize data from disparate sources, work with HR on employee studies, enforce visibility, assess vulnerabilities and more.

”The first step,” Shoup pointed out, “is to convince yourselves that you actually have an adequate and accurate inventory of everything that needed to be protected. You have to take it back to your purchasing records and your employee counts and be convinced that you found it. If you can’t find it, you can’t protect it.”

Shoup offers a proactive approach to evaluation, control and risk mitigation. And, it presents new employment opportunities. Exponential technologies are transforming the world and the workforce. Including cybersecurity talent into our business cultures and infrastructures will play a pivotal role in ensuring future success.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, thought leader and influencer who is transforming the way companies think about and acquire talent. Blending vision, technology and business skills honed in the most innovative corporate environments, he has launched a new model for recruitment called Crowdstaffing which is being tapped successfully top global brands. Sunil is passionate about building a company that provides value to the complete staffing ecosystem including clients, candidates and recruiters.
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