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UK firms turn to ex-hackers to “skill-up” against cyber crime

The latest research from KPMG revealed that many companies are becoming desperate as they struggle to get the right people on board.

The majority are candid enough to admit that the shortfall exists because the skills needed to combat the cyber threat are different to those required for conventional IT security. 

In particular 60 per cent are worried about finding cyber experts who can effectively communicate with the business vital to ensuring that cyber threat is well understood by corporate leaders outside the IT department.

And while 60 per cent claim to have a strategy to deal with any skills gaps, it is clear that there is a short supply of people with all the relevant skills. 57 per cent agree it has become more difficult to retain staff in specialised cyber skills in the past two years. The same number say the churn rate is higher in cyber than for IT skills and 52 per cent agree there is aggressive headhunting in this field.

Furthermore, the skills gap is forcing many companies to consider turning to “poachers turned game-keepers” to keep up to speed. Over a half of respondents say they would consider using a hacker to bring inside information to their security teams. And 52 per cent would consider recruiting an expert even if they had a previous criminal record.

Serena Gonsalves-Fersch, head of KPMG’s Cyber Security Academy, said: The increasing awareness of the cyber threat means the majority of UK companies are clear on their strategy for dealing with any skills gaps. However, they wouldn’t hire pickpockets to be security guards, so the fact that companies are considering former hackers as recruits clearly shows how desperate they are to stay ahead of the game. With such an unwise choice on the menu, it’s encouraging to see other options on the table.

Rather than relying on hackers to share their secrets, or throwing money at off the shelf programmes that quickly become out of date, UK companies need to take stock of their cyber defence capabilities and act on the gaps that are specific to their own security needs. It is important to have the technical expertise, but it is just as important to translate that into the business environment in a language the senior management can understand and respond to.

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