Solving the People Problem in Cybersecurity


After 25 years of experience in IT, including 17 years of experience in the information security industry and, having filled many diverse roles, George-Paul de Lange, founder and CEO of Cyber Intelligent Systems, noticed a big demand for cybersecurity skills development on the African continent. In his own words, “Whilst automation, machine learning, and AI have helped us to address the data problem in cybersecurity, the shortage of skilled professionals has been overlooked and underestimated, and it has come back to bite us.”

African organisations need people with demonstratable practical hands-on skills, knowledge, and abilities, and this will take time to develop. And, while the cybersecurity space needs practical skills, it also needs certified individuals that understand the regulations, governance, and ethics involved. 1000Pentesters.Africa is a comprehensive programme that includes hands-on training, technical coaching, mentoring, a support network of mentors and peers, volunteer opportunities, and a formalized certification programme.

In fact, many individuals in information technology are pursuing the prestigious Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification on their own, but sometimes they give up due to the lack of a supporting infrastructure of technical coaches, peer support, and mentoring. Or hands-on experience. And no IT professional should be left out to dry like that.

As is evident in a recent survey by Fortinet, worldwide, 80% of organizations suffered one or more breaches that they could attribute to a lack of cybersecurity skills and/or awareness. Headhunters are having a field day poaching talent from one organization to another, and the people skills issue is not being addressed in a holistic manner at the required scale.

The 1000 Pentesters for Africa progamme will change that. Its goal is to empower IT support individuals to grow in their careers and, secondly, to arm their respective organizations in Africa with the skills to ward off malicious cyber-attacks. So those organizations can develop a skills pipeline to mitigate the security risks and employees leaving at their respective organizations.

The 1000 Pentesters for Africa Vision: To create, promote, and support a cybersecurity community of offensive security testing professionals in an integrated ecosystem of education, training, mentoring and collaboration.

The programme will add 1000 penetration testers to the cybersecurity arena each year. Together with partners, the EC-Council, Black Hills Information Security (Discord channel, Antisyphon Cyber range), and Action Factory, all the pieces for the programme are in place now to prepare IT professionals to take the certified ethical hacking (CEH) exam, support them with the necessary technical coaching, a support network of peers and mentors, and hands-on experience at non-profit organizations.

Who is the 1000 Pentesters for Africa programme for? Anyone in IT who wants to skill up and grow their careers, any aspiring IT professionals and, of course, companies who want to train and, more importantly, retain talent. Consider that, over an eight-year period tracked by Cybersecurity Ventures, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs grew by 350 percent globally, from one million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021.

The latest IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report indicates the global average cost of a data breach in 2021 increased by 10% overall. That is the largest percentage increase in the 17-year history of the report. The report notes that in South Africa, the average cost of a data breach was $3.21 million – the highest in the Southern Hemisphere. The cybersecurity space is a place where job opportunities abound!

What’s more, considering the global need and lack of qualified talent in the workforce, cybersecurity professionals are paid exceptionally well. As of August 2022, a simple search in Salary.com for United States based positions show that certified ethical Hackers make an average of $103,866 per year, with the 90th percentile earning above $130,000. Experience, education levels, and other certifications provide even more value in most cases, but it is common to see starting salaries for ethical hackers that stretch well into six figures. People in IT can search their local job boards, view local salary information, and talk to potential employers to assess their value in the market. C|EH has been ranked in the top 5 highest paid cybersecurity certifications for the last 10 years and continues to grow worldwide.

If it were measured as a country, then cybercrime — which is predicted to inflict damages totalling $6 trillion USD globally in 2021 — would be the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China. – Cybersecurity Ventures

The 12-month long training programme is self-paced and prepares participants for the prestigious EC-Council’s CEH exam and certification. It includes access to a community support network of coaches, mentors and peers during and after the programme. This cyber community, the first of its kind, resides on a Discord server that supports collaboration, technical coaching, training webinars, etc. prerequisites for the programme are foundational IT skills, which is common amongst IT technicians, support desk, software developers, and networking administrators. The programme is ideally suited for individuals who have reached the peak of their careers in IT, and are looking to levelling up their skills, and pursuing this lucrative career path. Typically, candidates possess a minimum of 2 years’ experience in an IT environment before joining the programme. As the programme is about testing systems and using them for purposes not originally intended, candidates should understand the basic functions of those IT systems before enrolling in the programme.

To learn more about the programme curriculum and support, and for answers to questions you may have, visit the 1000Pentesters.Africa website. You can also tune into YouTube or follow them on LinkedIn for updates on this game-changing programme.

 

Staff writer