Study: Cybersecurity Skills Gap Will Grow To 3.5M Positons By 2021

If you thought the cybersecurity skills shortage was bad now, it's about to get a lot worse, according to a new study by a research firm.

Cybersecurity Ventures now predicts that there will be a gap of 3.5 million positions – jobs that companies are hiring for but unable to fill – by 2021. That's a huge jump from current estimates, which put today's cybersecurity shortage at somewhere around 1 million open positions.

Driving that drastic rise, Cybersecurity Ventures Founder Steve Morgan said, is the growing threat landscape, calling it a "cybercrime epidemic." Cybersecurity Ventures predicts cybercrime costs will reach $6 trillion by 2021.

[Related: Code Red: It's Time To Sound The Alarm On The Security Talent Shortage]

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"With this huge growth in cybercrime, the world is just not able to keep up," Morgan said. "We just don't have the cybersecurity talent."

However, at least for security VARs and MSSPs, the talent shortage could present a significant opportunity, Morgan said.

"If you look at healthcare, or any vertical, companies up and down the food chain… would like to outsource security if they can. They don't have the staff," Morgan said. "If the channel can step up and offer outsourced security services, then the companies are in."

The challenge, Morgan said, is that security VARs and MSSPs will face the same difficulties their customers face when it comes to hiring security talent. He said those companies will have to step up and make big investments in talent and infrastructure if they want to seize the opportunity presented by the cybersecurity talent shortage.

"[That investment] is the challenge, but the opportunity is absolutely there," Morgan said.

Ron Temske, vice president of security solutions for Logicalis US, said the New York-based solution provider is "definitely" seeing the cybersecurity talent shortage growing. However, he said the company is also seeing opportunity as it looks to help its clients gain security scale with its managed security services offerings.

’We’re able to attract and retain security talent in a highly competitive market because of the exposure and experience gained working across a broad spectrum of customers, industries, and technologies," Temske said. "That approach helps us accommodate for a challenging personnel market."

Schools are also stepping up to address the cybersecurity talent shortage, Morgan said. He said Cybersecurity Ventures has identified around 125 colleges and universities with master's degree programs in cybersecurity, about double what there was a year ago.

Logicalis' Temske said education is an area VARs can get involved in, as well. He said Logicalis has a cybersecurity program in conjunction with a local university, where it works to "help train the next generation of security experts in the hopes of reducing this global shortage."

"We’re also helping to actually solve the problem," Temske said. "By encouraging and enabling students to pursue a cybersecurity career while still in school, we’re helping to increase the available talent pool, whether they ultimately come to work for Logicalis, our customers, or even our competitors.’