The worldwide cybersecurity skills gap continues to present a significant challenge, with 59% of information security professionals reporting unfilled cyber/information security positions within their organization, according to new cybersecurity workforce research from ISACA, Schaumburg, Ill.

Among the concerning trends revealed in part 1 of the ISACA State of Cybersecurity 2018 Report:

  • High likelihood of cyberattack continues. Four in five security professionals (81%) surveyed indicated that their enterprise is likely or very likely to experience a cyberattack this year, while 50% of respondents indicate that their organization has already experienced an increase in attacks over the previous 12 months.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 organizations (31%) say their board has not adequately prioritized enterprise security.
  • Men tend to think women have equal career advancement in security, while women say that’s not the case. A 31-point perception gap exists between male and female respondents, with 82% of male respondents saying men and women are offered the same opportunities for career advancement in cybersecurity, compared to just 51% of female respondents. Of those surveyed, about half (51%) of respondents report having diversity programs in place to support women cybersecurity professionals.
  • Individual contributors with strong technical skills continue to be in high demand and short supply. More than seven in 10 respondents say their organizations are seeking this kind of candidate.

Yet, there are several positive insights in the ISACA data:

  • Time to fill open cybersecurity positions has decreased slightly. This year, 54% of respondents say filling open positions takes at least three months, compared to last year’s 62%.
  • Gender disparity exists, but can be mitigated through effective diversity programs. Diversity programs clearly have an impact. In organizations that have one, men and women are more likely to agree that men and women have the same career advancement opportunities. 87% of men say they have the same opportunities, as compared to 77% of women. While a perception gap remains, it is significantly smaller than the 37-point gap among men and women in organizations without diversity programs (73% of men in organizations without diversity programs say advancement opportunities are equal, compared to 36% of women).
  • Security managers are seeing a slight improvement in number of qualified candidates. Last year, 37% of security professionals said fewer than 25% of candidates for security positions were sufficiently qualified. This year, that number dropped to 30%.
  • Budgets are increasing. 64% of respondents indicate that security budgets will increase this year, compared to 50% last year.

“This research suggests that the persistent cybersecurity staffing problem is not a financial one. Even though enterprises have more budget than ever to hire, the available workforce lacks the skills organizations critically need,” says Matt Loeb, chief executive officer. “More of those dollars will need to be invested in technical cybersecurity training, along with effective retention programs. Practitioners who acquire and demonstrate hands-on technical cybersecurity skills will find themselves in significant demand.”