The global shortfall in cyber security workers could reach nearly two million within five years – but UK businesses are overlooking university graduates in their search for new staff.

(ISC)2’s Global Information Security Workforce Study revealed that the world could be short of 1.8 million security professionals by 2022 – a figure 20 per cent higher than predicted in 2015.

The report found that two thirds of companies in the UK do not have enough information security personnel to meet their needs, with 47 per cent citing a struggle to find qualified personnel as an issue as they attempt to recruit new staff.

46 per cent said this is having a significant impact on their customers, and a similar number said that it is causing breaches. Meanwhile, 46 per cent of firms expect to expand their workforces by more than 16 per cent in the next year but are being held back by the lack of candidates.

The skills gap could also be costly for firms come May 2018, when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation comes into full effect, threatening huge fines for breached businesses.

However, only six per cent of UK businesses said they would recruit university graduates, with 93 per cent citing previous cyber security experience as an important factor when hiring.

“A continuing industry refusal to hire people without previous experience and a failure to hire university graduates means Britain is approaching a security skills cliff edge due to the perfect storm of an ageing cyber workforce going into retirement and long-term failure to recruit from the younger generation,” said (ISC)2’s EMEA managing director Dr Adrian Davis.

“We need to see more emphasis on recruiting millennials and on training talent in-house rather than companies expecting to buy it off the shelf. There is a need to nurture the talent that is already in this country and recruit from the fresh pool of talent that is graduating from university.”

Meanwhile, the average wage in the sector has risen to £47,000 in the UK, with 39 per cent of security professionals earning more than £87,000. This has sparked concerns that SMEs will be priced out of the market – just 23 per cent of those surveyed work for smaller organisations.

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