The demand for cybersecurity experts is thriving, especially in today’s digital landscape where threats actors are utilising more and more advanced threats for their nefarious acts. Such a profession needs a conducive environment, however, allowing them to perform in cyberspace with little to no restrictions from authorities.
This is what Mika Devonshire, a specialist in digital forensics and incident response, found out during her time in teaching Hong Kong students – surveillance was influencing whether or not they would choose to pursue information security as a profession.
In her session at Black Hat Asia 2021, Mika Devonshire shared testimonials from the students. According to her, the topic of information security is very much tied to data, privacy and data security. This is due to Hong Kong being influenced by the People's Republic of China, which is known for its surveillance measures for its citizens.
“They're just afraid of being involved in this subject at all due to political circumstances”, Mika added.
For Mika, this topic needs to be talked about. In fact, there is a need to fill this skills gap and job shortage that some estimates put as high as 4 million jobs worldwide and 2.4 million in Asia that organisations can't fill due to the lack of trained and skilled information security practitioners.
“They're afraid of the consequences of joining the field and they don’t want to be involved in any kind of illicit or even grey area behaviour, which is what it takes to become an ethical hacker”, explained Mika, causing the shortage of professionals especially in the Asia Pacific region.
Aside from fear, Mika also observed the lack of interest of students, who are not really seeing the profession as a career path that will sustain them for a long time. Mika added that students may be more genuinely intrigued by things like AI, data science, coding, or development.
Another reason the students cited is the lack of prestige. “Some students find that they're not going to be as revered or admired for entering a field like ethical hacking where they could be at a bank in IT administration or architecting large networks and have what they believe in more prestigious role”, said Mika.
In this topic, Mika also believes that instructors like her have an important role in encouraging more potential information security experts to push with this field. If you are a mentor, Mika advised you to find such students in your neighbourhood down the block or at your company that might be interested in information security and encourage them to go try it.
“Because, you know, they might just be held back for reasons that we've discussed in this presentation that aren't right. They might just not have enough information to make that decision. And of course, send your interns to Black Hat Asia next year. You really are paying it forward by enabling the next generation of cybersecurity experts”, concluded Mika.