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AI in cyber security: job threat or opportunity?

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AI in cyber security: job threat or opportunity?

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) could transform cyber security, providing a powerful new tool in the fight against online crime and other threats. But what will the technology mean for the future of jobs in the sector?

It’s a hot topic today, and not just in cyber security. The rise of ChatGPT and similar technologies has sparked fears across a range of industries, with everyone from copywriters to financial advisors analysing the potential for disruption.

Cyber security could be a fruitful growth area for AI because of the data-focused nature of much of the work, some of which could be automated. As bad actors themselves adopt AI, the technology could provide a continuous, adaptable line of defence, while potentially reducing costs.


How could AI impact the cyber security market?


There is clearly huge potential for AI in the cyber market. According to a report from Grand View Research, AI in cyber security could generate revenues of almost $94 billion by 2030.

Cyber AI could provide “a proactive mechanism of protection with accuracy in detection”, the report notes. “For instance, AI has witnessed strong demand to do a relentless verification of a user in terms of behavioural biometrics. Industry participants are expected to prioritise machine learning algorithms to leverage the power of AI to bolster security intelligence.”

But when it comes to jobs, the future is difficult to predict. Far from posing a simple threat to cyber professionals, it’s possible that AI could open new opportunities for them.

For a start, there aren’t enough of those professionals to go around. Cybersecurity Ventures has identified a 350% increase in global cyber security job vacancies between 2013 and 2021, with an increase from about 1 million to 3.5 million, where it remains today.

“Organisations of every size and type have faced a tumultuous few years due to the pandemic and economic uncertainty,” the report states. “These challenges have likely impacted recruitment, and may continue to do so.”

It would hardly be surprising if companies turned to AI to help fill the gaps, perhaps removing mundane (but essential) jobs from their human workforce.


How will humans work with AI in cyber security?


While the future is impossible to predict, it seems likely that the nature of cyber-focused work will change in some way, depending on the role in question.

Rohit Ghai, the CEO of RSA Security, addressed the topic at the RSA Conference in San Francisco in April 2023. He said that while over 60 providers – including major vendors like RSA and more than 50 startups – have announced AI-powered cyber security products, “most of these capabilities have been positioned as a co-pilot model”. However, he noted that “we must expect that many jobs will disappear. Many will change, and some will be created”.

For Ghai, while “we may remain in the cockpit for a little bit longer, we will need to work differently”. AI will make the easier decisions and automate most identity workflows, but humans will supervise the more impactful decisions and handle exceptions, he said.

Eventually, when we exit the cockpit, we will still have an important role, training, supervising, regulating, [in] ethics, and monitoring the AI for air traffic control and designing flight plans.”


What are the potential opportunities?


For the foreseeable future at least, we’ll need human cyber security professionals. In fact, the rise of AI could create new jobs, perhaps focused on more of an oversight role, or making decisions based on the powerful data analysis tools that AI can provide.

This should be seen in a positive light, offering jobseekers exciting new opportunities in the years ahead. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report 2023 shows the opportunities that could be out there, noting that relative to their size today, “the majority of the fastest-growing roles are technology-related roles”, with AI and ML specialists at the top of the list of fast-growing jobs.

Goldman Sachs has pointed to the significant disruption the labour market could face due to the rise of generative AI, with about two-thirds of current jobs in occupational tasks in the US and Europe exposed to some degree of AI automation. Nonetheless, the report points to potential good news, noting that displacement from automation has historically been offset by the creation of new jobs and the emergence of new occupations.

“The combination of significant labour cost savings, new job creation, and higher productivity for non-displaced workers raises the possibility of a productivity boom that raises economic growth substantially, although the timing of such a boom is hard to predict,” according to the Goldman Sachs report, which estimates that AI could eventually boost annual global GDP by 7%.

Of course, it’s difficult to predict the impact this will have. The WEF report describes AI as “a key driver of potential algorithmic displacement”, but it could lead to high levels of churn; among surveyed companies, nearly 75% said they expected to adopt the technology. But while 50% of organisations said they expected it to create job growth, 25% said they expected it to create job losses.

How can my firm adapt its recruitment policies?


As the jobs market changes, so firms must adapt. While no-one can say with certainty how AI will impact cyber security, there are some techniques and approaches that can help orgnanisations prepare for the future.

  • Expand your reach: Cyber security is an international business, operating in a rapidly changing landscape. It’s vital to gain access to the widest possible network, enabling your firm to adapt to evolving technologies like AI. Remember, the best professionals can help your firm make AI work for you.

  • Seek out market knowledge: At a time of complex changes for the cyber security sector, it’s vital to gain the best possible understanding of the intricacies of the industry and how AI will impact the hunt for expertise. By partnering with the right recruitment specialist, you can boost your ability to adapt.

  • Prepare for change: As we’ve seen, it appears likely that AI will initially hit certain roles hardest, such as those that rely on data crunching. But over time, it could affect everyone, right up to the CISO. You must prepare to adapt across your organisation.


How can job seekers prepare for the changing jobs market?


While AI may seem like a negative for jobseekers, it’s important to remember that cyber security has never simply been a number-crunching or data-focused task. In fact, it has always needed a diverse range of skills, which will remain vital – perhaps even more important – as employees work with and oversee the new technology. These include:


  • Problem-solving abilities: Cybersecurity changes all the time. To solve problems in the area, creative thinking will be vital. It will take time for AI to rival human creativity – if it ever can.


  • Communication skills: Cybersecurity professionals will often work alongside colleagues who don’t have the same technical focus, right from the C-Suite down through the ranks of the organisation. They must be able to explain concepts. Again, the human touch could be important here.

  • Researching new trends and tools: The best cybersecurity employees will stay abreast of changes in the industry, including the impact of AI. This will be particularly vital in specialised roles, like penetration testing.

  • Business acumen: Depending on your role, you may need to work across the organisation, explaining recommendations that take account of business needs. This type of task will rely on human intuition and communication abilities.

  • Technical knowledge and attention to detail: Of course, this remains an obvious and essential demand. Employees must be capable of installing, configuring, maintaining and troubleshooting computer systems as part of their day-to-day working lives. AI could conduct many mundane tasks or speed the processes, but a technical understanding on the human level will remain essential.


What comes next?


There’s little doubt that AI will impact the cyber security industry, but it is too early for predictions. There are a range of questions that remain unanswered, in areas like data protection or copyright law, for instance.

However, it’s vital to note that strong positives are likely to emerge from the evolution of technology. We can’t shy away from it – we must embrace the potential for change.

Rutherford offers a dedicated team of cyber security recruiters, solely focused on the field, from CISOs to entry-level positions. We can work with firms to find the candidates they need. For jobseekers, we streamline the job search right through to the interview stage, with a focus on helping candidates prepare.

AI will impact different firms in different ways when it comes to their cyber security needs. To adapt to this changing world, a specialist recruitment firm like Rutherford can develop a selection process that helps firms find the right candidates for any niche within cyber, identifying candidates who can make the most of AI, while offering the best in human ingenuity.


Looking for Cyber Security jobs within the financial services industry?

Rutherford might be able to help you. Our specialist cyber security recruitment firm has a team dedicated solely to cyber security roles, which cover all levels from entry-level to c-suite.