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Young Cybersecurity Professionals Fear Automation May Take Their Jobs

Young cybersecurity professionals fear they’ll lose their job to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), a new study found.

But there’s a streak of ambivalence in their concerns. While nearly nine in 10 cybersecurity pros believe automation will make their jobs easier, it's the veterans who are more secure that technology won’t replace their roles, Exabeam’s 2020 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Report, said.

The annual report of security practitioners aims to identify trends related to salary, education level, job satisfaction and general attitudes toward innovative and emerging technologies among cybersecurity professionals worldwide. The survey was fielded to more than 350 professionals in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany and Singapore.

Cybersecurity Professionals: High Career Satisfaction

Technology issues aside, 96 percent of the survey’s respondents said they are satisfied with their role and responsibilities and 87 percent are pleased with their salary and earnings, continuing a three year upward trend. In addition, the percentage of women respondents in the study more than doubled to 21 percent from last year’s nine percent.

However, Exabeam cautioned that there’s much work to be done to “break down barriers for female professionals in the security industry.” The number of men in this year’s study slid 13 percent to 78 percent.

“The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us,” said Samantha Humphries, Exabeam’s security strategist. “In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology,” she said. Job security can be affected by “ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation,” Humphries said.

Here are more of the study’s top line findings:

On job security. 53% of respondents under age 45 said AI and ML threaten their job security. 25% of those over age 45 believe the same.

On job improvement. 89% of respondents under 45 years old believed emerging technology will improve their jobs. 47% are threatened by its use.

On job efficiency. 80% of those over 45 believe automation will simplify their work. 22% felt threatened by its use.

Phil-Routley, Exabeam
Phil Routley, Exabeam

On geography. 47% of U.S. respondents are concerned about job security when automation software is in use, fewer than in Singapore (54%) but more than Germany (42%), Australia (40%) and the U.K. (33%). In last year’s survey, which covered the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, India and the Netherlands, 10 percent overall believed that AI and automation were a threat to their jobs.

In 2019, nearly 41 percent of respondents had been security pros for at least 10 years. This year, however, the demographics have changed. More than eight in 10 (83%) have been in the profession for 10 years or less and more than one-third (34%) have been in the cybersecurity industry for five years or less. In addition, 33% do not have formal cybersecurity degrees.

“There is evidence that automation and AI/ML are being embraced, but this year’s survey exposed fascinating generational differences when it comes to professional openness and using all available tools to do their jobs,” said Phil Routley, Exabeam’s senior product marketing manager in its Asia Pacific and Japan division.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.