There is a significant and internationally widespread shortage of IT security staff, with 78% of security professionals across the US, the UK and the Asia Pacific region reporting that their teams are understaffed.

This is according to research published today by DomainTools, conducted in collaboration with the Ponemon Institute, which surveyed over 1,400 IT professionals across the three regions.

However, many believe the solution will lie not in more staff, but in automation, with artificial intelligence (AI) and other automated solutions taking over repetitive or time-consuming tasks to increase the capabilities of the existing human workforce.

50% of respondents said some tasks were already being automated, with 56% saying further automation was planned over the next 3 years.

IT security shortage drives support for automation

The research, which is published today in the study Staffing the IT Security Function in the Age of Automation, demonstrates increased support for automation among IT professionals compared to previous years, likely because of the growing IT security shortage issue.

“Within just one year, the perspective around adoption of automated technologies has notably shifted among security professionals,” said Dr Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute.

“Contrary to the popular belief that the rise of automation will threaten the job market, organisations now feel these technologies will help ease the current strain on resources, and offer the potential to promote job security for highly skilled staff, while strengthening cybersecurity defenses.”

Just a third (35%) of respondents expressed concerns that automation would see the number of human cybersecurity workers at their company reduced, while 40% said they thought greater automation would increase the number of roles due to the need for increased technical expertise.

Global variation in automation support

While there was a clear trend of IT security shortages reported by professionals around the world, the level of trust in automation did vary by region.

59% of respondents from the UK and 65% of those from the US said they thought automation would increase their ability to do their job effectively, however only 48% of those from the Asia Pacific (APAC) region said the same.

“The results of the survey reveal that, overall, security professionals are confident that automation will make their workload more manageable and will increase the accuracy of certain tasks, without jeopardising their job security,” said Corin Imai, senior security advisor at DomainTools.

“Although there are geographical differences in the level of confidence placed in AI and automation as security tools, the reasons that motivate their adoption – relieving overworked teams, preventing downtime and business disruptions, reducing threats created by operating in the global digital economy, etc. – seem to be consistent across regions, suggesting that goals and expectations are aligned for organisations across the globe.”

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