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Survey: 53% of young cybersecurity professionals fear replacement by automation

Cybersecurity professionals largely embrace automation, but half of younger employees worry that technology could make their roles obsolete, according to a new survey by Exabeam.

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Although the image of the tech-confused Boomer is a deeply-rooted stereotype, TechRepublic has reported that this is, in fact, a myth: In actuality, a Dropbox survey found that “people over age 55 are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using tech in the workplace stressful.” A new report from security advisors Exabeam–2020 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Surveyemphasizes these findings, as well. The research shows that although a whopping 88% of cybersecurity professionals embrace new technology, confident that automation will help them in their roles, it is the younger generation that is skeptical: 53% of respondents under the age of 45 “agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security,” according to the report.

SEE: Special report: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The findings, part of an annual survey, looked at attitudes regarding salary, training, innovation, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), among 350 cybersecurity professionals worldwide, hailing from the US, Germany, Singapore, Australia, and the UK. Overall, the results were positive, and the findings show that cybersecurity professionals continue to be satisfied in their jobs. Nearly all of the respondents, 96%, reported satisfaction with their duties, and 87% with salary and earnings. Another positive result was that gender diversity continues to increase, with female respondents jumping from 9% in 2019 to 21% this year.

While the younger cohort report fearing automation, only a quarter of cybersecurity professionals older than 45 exhibit that same concern, “possibly indicating that subsets of security professionals in particular prefer to write rules and manually investigate,” the report noted. Overall, fears of automation were reported by 47% of US respondents, 54% from Singapore, 42% of Germans, 40% of Australians and 33% from the UK. In Exabeam’s 2019 survey, a mere 10% saw AI and automation as a threat to their jobs.

“The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us. In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology,” said Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam, in the press release. “As we noted earlier this year in our State of the SOC research, ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation can have an impact on job security. It’s also possible that this is a symptom of the current economic climate or a general lack of experience navigating the workforce during a global recession.” 

SEE: Social engineering: A cheat sheet for business professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The findings do not necessarily show that young people fear automation itself–89% of them believe it can improve their specific jobs but worry that it will make their roles obsolete.

Aside from security, respondents indicated satisfaction with role and responsibilities (96%), salary (87%) and work/life balance (77%), the report noted. Only 53% said that their jobs are stressful or very stressful, down from 62% in 2019.

Male respondents, 78%, dropped from 91% in 2019. And a third of respondents do not hold 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, senior product marketing manager, APJ, Exabeam, in the survey. “And while gender diversity is showing positive signs of improvement, it’s clear we still have a very long way to go in breaking down barriers for female professionals in the security industry.”

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