It’s imperative for partners to address the cybersecurity skills gap – here’s how

Sean Campbell, Director Canadian Channels, Fortinet

Much has changed since the onset of the global pandemic. But one thing has not – the lack of trained cybersecurity professionals. This shortage was acutely felt before COVID-19, when the global shortfall had already surpassed 4 million workers according to a study conducted by (ISC)2.

The shortage is also very much a Canadian issue. It’s estimated that Canada alone is short at least 8,000 professionals and a survey we conducted this past March found that 89 per cent of Canadian IT managers agreed that the cybersecurity skills shortage has created additional cyber risks for their organization. By comparison, 73 per cent of their U.S. counterparts felt the same. Clearly the shortage is having a direct impact on the ability of businesses to adequately defend themselves.

And it’s fair to assume that the pressure has not abated as huge portions of the workforce moved to telework and cyber attackers took advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

For partners, the need to address the skills shortage is two-fold. One is to help their customers identify strategies that will minimize its operational impact, and the other, to ensure that they themselves have the resources they need to keep pace and grow their capabilities. Here are tips that can help partners navigate the skills conversations with businesses in a constructive, productive way. 

Become the voice of authority

In a world of constant threats and a lack of skilled cybersecurity talent, businesses lean on advisory teams who are qualified for the role and quick to deal with threats to fill the gaps. It’s critical to stay on top of the threat landscape, and be able to quickly troubleshoot when presented with a client challenge.

The most effective way to stay up to date is through training and certification. Our own Network Security Expert (NSE) program, for example, is designed to help partners become true strategic security advisors. In light of recent global developments, we have added new curriculum focused on the fundamentals of securing remote work. Getting certified through programs like NSE is also an effective way for partners to demonstrate their security expertise, and provide clients with the confidence that as advisors, those certified are up to date on the latest cyber threat developments. 

Becoming certified also benefits partners by creating more opportunities for trust, which can lead to increased sales, accelerated profitability, and strengthened customer loyalty.

Reframe the cybersecurity conversation

Organizations that put a priority on digital innovation tend to reap the rewards, on the one hand ridding themselves of slow or expensive legacy systems and making themselves able to quickly adapt to new ways of working. However, cybersecurity is critical to a successful digital innovation outcome. Not only does the rise of digital innovation and the embrace of cloud technologies open up more potential surfaces for attackers to exploit, the growing number of highly public – and damaging – attacks has also made business leaders well aware of the potential risks. Failure to address this critical fact will only add more pressure to IT teams, forcing them to spend more time addressing potentially preventable security issues.

It’s important for partners to demonstrate to their clients that cybersecurity does not hinder innovation. Far from it. It’s a mechanism that ensures innovation, reduces risk across the organization and, with the right tools properly implemented, can be woven seamlessly into any infrastructure. Now’s a great time for partners to help businesses step back and look at their digital innovation or business continuity plans through this lens. Look for ways where cybersecurity can be seen as an opportunity, and begin to look at the advantages of a modern, automated security platform that provides end-to-end protection.

Explore the power of automation

Given that so many Canadian businesses are feeling the impact of the skills shortage, partners should also work with them to help reduce their reliance on manual intervention when it comes to protecting their networks. This opens the door for partners to offer guidance on which security controls can be updated to enhance response times and increase visibility. 

Look for ways to show them the power of automated threat detection and response systems that are built to handle the speed and intensity of today’s cyberattacks – and which are increasingly powered by AI. Partners can work with customers to explore and deploy artificial intelligence solutions that can quickly monitor, analyze and respond to network threats. The result is taking pressure off IT teams, enabling them to focus more on strategic initiatives.

We’re not going to solve the cybersecurity skills gap anytime soon. The best way forward is to embrace a sense of shared responsibility and an understanding that security is critical to digital innovation. By leaning on partner expertise, finding ways to modernize where needed, and taking advantage of free online resources, businesses across Canada will find themselves better prepared to contend with the skills gap.

Learn more about Fortinet’s free cybersecurity training initiative or about the Fortinet Network Security Expert programNetwork Security Academy program, and FortiVet program.