Engineering industry needs skilled cyber professionals to tackle security threats

The engineering sector is facing a growing need for specialists in the cybersecurity sector to tackle the challenge of potential attacks on the industry.

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Concerns over security against cyber threats are developing and today industry specialists emphasise it is more than just the risk of personal data being hacked. The National Security Risk Assessment now classifies a significant cyber attack as a level 1 risk which puts it in the same category as an act of severe terrorism or a military event. 

The head of the center, Ciaran Martin has suggested the UK has been relatively lucky in regards to level one cyber attacks that could potentially disable significant infrastructures such as electricity, utilities or financial services. Martin highlights, however, that a cyber attack of this level was a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

The level of urgency emphasised by the National Cyber Security Centre has generated an additional requirement for cyber security specialists. Industry experts believe the government’s representation of the cyber-threat is now being met in the priorities of UK companies.

Furthermore, the regulations and framework regarding data are about to change with the adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulations. This regulation will come into play later this year and will make businesses reassess their cyber strategies to ensure they are fully compliant with the new regulation.

Regulations are changing and this is causing the cyber industry to become more critical. As a result, more businesses are investing in technology and skills to protect their business. Technology experts believe cyber threats are becoming more organised, complex and are occurring more frequently and on larger scales. With businesses becoming more reliant on technology and data, the importance of data protection is far more significant.

Today, data networks are becoming more sophisticated and complex. The rise of IoT, remote monitoring, and smart technology is creating a more complicated network that leads to potentially more weak spots or areas that could be open for a cyber attack.

The rise of risk to businesses is creating an urgency for established businesses and skilled professionals to advise companies on best practice and methods of reducing risk. A variety of skills are required, but generally speaking, they can be split into three key areas. There is a requirement for technology professionals with skills in the protective monitoring of servers and systems. Another group is skilled systems and network engineers with a focus on design, build and the implementation of systems and secure centers for companies. The third group relates to cybersecurity professionals who will advise and support businesses in regards to risk management and identify vulnerabilities to a business.

Industry experts explain that some of the latest, published hacks and loss of data have been related to the human error or a lack of systems in place to improve resilience against security breaches. Cybersecurity goes beyond technology issues but also includes strong governance and training opportunities.

The UK cyber industry requires a range of professionals from various experience levels. For consultants who are advising on cybersecurity will need years of experience within cybersecurity. System engineers will be more focused on IT infrastructure skills, cybersecurity awareness and good experience of working in secure environments.

One particular challenge is the potential skills shortage in the UK industry. One industry forecast has predicted a shortfall of nearly 1.8 million cyber security professionals globally by 2022. Companies have emphasised they are finding it difficult to retain staff with some businesses saying they are being forced to increase salaries above the market rate to retain people.

The National Cyber Security Centre has launched its Cyber First Initiative as well as the Cybersecurity Challenge UK which offers a range of courses, competitions and other initiatives focused on attracting more people into the cyber security market.

Reports suggest cybersecurity accounted for over 30% of UK exports in the sector during 2016 and is currently valued at over £1.5 billion. Recent data suggests there is unlikely to be any changes in the demand for skilled cyber professionals in the near future.

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