Younger cybersecurity pros fear being replaced by automation

Concerns over the current economic climate could be behind concerns, suggests Exabeam

Posted 19 October 2020 by Christine Horton

Despite 88 percent of cybersecurity professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier, younger staffers are concerned the technology will replace them.

That’s according to a global survey of security pros by SIEM vendor, Exabeam. The 2020 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Survey shows 53 percent of respondents under 45 agreed or strongly agreed that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) threaten their job security. This compares to just 25 percent of respondents 45 and over who feel the same.

The report suggests this could indicate that subsets of security professionals prefer to write rules and manually investigate.

Interestingly, when asked directly about automation software, 89 percent of respondents under 45 years old believed it would improve their jobs, yet 47 percent are still threatened by its use. The figure is 33 percent in the UK. This is again in contrast with older respondents, where 80 percent globally believed automation would simplify their work, and only 22 percent felt threatened by its use.

Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam described the findings as “surprising”.

She said: “In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology.

“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.”

Job satisfaction

The survey also notes increases in job approval across the board. There was an upward trend in satisfaction around role and responsibilities (96 percent), salary (87 percent) and work/life balance (77 percent).

When asked what else they enjoyed about their jobs, respondents listed working in an environment with professional growth (15 percent) and opportunities to challenge oneself (21 percent) as top motivators. Just over half (53 percent) reported jobs that are either stressful or very stressful, which is down from last year (62 percent).

Despite being among those that are threatened by automation software, 100 percent of respondents aged 18-24 reported feeling secure in their roles and were happiest with their salaries (93 percent).

Additionally, there was some improvement in gender diversity with female respondents increasing from nine percent in 2019 to 21 percent this year.

“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.

“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.”