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The cybersecurity industry was already facing a skills shortage, and that has heightened during the coronavirus pandemic, recent research suggests.

covid 4948866 640smallCyberattacks have risen 63% in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, as CNBC reports, citing a study by the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). The nonprofit cybersecurity group called the health emergency a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hackers and online scammers.”

According to a separate ISSA survey, 70% of cybersecurity pros indicated that their organizations were affected by a staffing shortfall. Plus, 45% said the cybersecurity skills gap and its impact have been getting worse in recent years.

An April survey by another cybersecurity nonprofit, (ISC)2, found that cybersecurity workers’ duties were shifting and cybersecurity incidents were rising due to pandemic-related remote work. Before the coronavirus hit, a separate (ISC)2 study found that the industry would have to add 4 million trained professionals, about 500,000 of them in the United States, just to meet existing demand.

David Shearer, CEO of (ISC)2, told CNBC that recruiting more women and workers from other underrepresented backgrounds would need to be a big part of filling the gap.

A recent Microsoft survey of business leaders and employees in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and India provides further context. According to the survey, while 58% of business leaders indicate budget increases for security, 81% say they feel pressure to cut overall security costs. That’s particularly true for business leaders with resources on-site, of whom about one-third reported feeling “very pressured.”

The recruiting industry has spotted the opportunity. Jobs.com recently announced its acquisition of cybersecurity recruiting firm HireVergence. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Artificial intelligence could potentially also help organizations make up the shortfall. Shuman Ghosemajumder, global head of AI at application services company F5, writes in VentureBeat that bosses should “insist that the security products you use integrate with your organizational data to be able to do more with AI.”

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