Security Culture

How an Untapped Talent Pool Can Transform the Cybersecurity Workforce

We live in a connected world, with information right at our fingertips. We rely on the internet—for both personal and professional needs. We are online consistently. More organizations are moving to a Cloud or Cloud-Hybrid infrastructure, allowing them the flexibility to access their corporate information from anywhere.

But all that data available remotely attracts the attention of bad actors, with threats and cyber exploits becoming more sophisticated. We see daily reports of digital attacks, and that number continues to grow at an alarming rate. According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, it takes an average of 287 days for an organization to identify and contain a breach. That same study showed the global average total cost is $4.24 million per breach.

These threats are increasing the roles and responsibilities of those in the cybersecurity profession. Companies realize the decisions and actions they take toward securing their data must be their top priority. But cyber teams are spread thin with a perceived shortage of qualified resources across the country. Most alarmingly, there is no apparent talent pipeline to backfill entry level roles, which would allow senior cyber talent to focus on more complex projects.

While the future might look bleak, a possible solution could come from an unexpected source: from people with a natural ability to fill these roles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are over five million adults in the U.S. with autism spectrum disorder. Studies estimate that a staggering 50-75% are either unemployed or underemployed.

“Individuals with autism have a unique set of valuable skills which can help to meet the [cybersecurity] skills shortage.” They often possess valuable traits such as “attention to detail, the ability to focus for long periods and identify patterns, photographic memory, integrity and honesty.” Additionally, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder report much higher levels of satisfaction [when working in IT] than other areas of employment.

CAI has years of experience of working with the neurodivergent population and can attest that this workforce drives value and improves productivity. Since 2013, CAI’s Autism2Work (A2W) program has been providing opportunities for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to enter the workforce. When businesses provide career foundation and advancement opportunities for the neurodivergent population, we’ve seen them realize up to 120% increase in productivity and performance. Specifically, our neurodiversity career program has discovered a profound potential for neurodiversity in cybersecurity.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but it’s also National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time for businesses to explore how they can use an untapped talent pool of qualified neurodivergent individuals to help bridge the cyber talent gap and transform the greater cybersecurity workforce.

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