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With digital threats and 'hacktivism' becoming an increasingly pertinent issue, demand for highly-skilled cyber security experts is set to soar as businesses look to improve their cyber security.

A study by telecoms giant BT has assessed attitudes towards internet security and levels of preparedness among business IT bosses. It discovered that firms need to place greater priority on protecting their IT systems from security threats. Globally, between 53 and 54 per cent of IT decision-makers feel that hacktivism and malicious insider threats will become a more pressing issue over the coming year, with the figure rising to between 73 and 74 per cent in the US. In the UK meanwhile, between 23 and 29 per cent of IT businesses expressed the belief.

Chief executive officer of BT Security Mark Hughes said the US "should be celebrated" for its awareness of cyber security threats and requirements, adding: "The risks to business are moving too fast for a purely reactive security approach to be successful. Nor should cyber security be seen as an issue for the IT department alone."

He went on to say that board level investment in cyber security is increasingly necessary, while staff in the IT department require proper education to deal with an evolving threat landscape.

"The stakes are too high for cyber security to be pushed to the bottom of the pile," Mr Hughes warned.

Prioritise protection against cyber attack

The study found that most businesses on a global scale feel their CEOs take the stance that protection against cyber attack is a priority, but many companies actually think their boards underestimate the importance of cyber security.
In the UK, 55 per cent of firms feel the issue needs more attention, while the figure increases to 74 per cent in the US.
Globally, non-malicious insider threats like accidental data leaks were found to be the most common concern, reported as a serious threat by 65 per cent of IT bosses, or 60 per cent of those based in the UK.
Malicious insider threats were cited as the second most common security concern reported by 51 per cent of firms, followed by hacktivism and organised crime with 37 and 32 per cent of firms citing these security issues respectively.
Of those surveyed, three quarters of IT decision makers said they want to overhaul their infrastructure and design security features in response to emerging threats. Almost the same number said they would like all their staff to be trained in cyber security best practice, while just over half said they would use the services of an external vendor to prevent attacks.
Currently, only 37 per cent of senior decision makers in the UK are given IT security training, compared with 86 per cent of directors in the US.

Government speaks out on cyber security standards

Speaking at a recent cyber security summit, business secretary Vince Cable said that more needs to be done to protect IT systems from criminal and terrorist attacks amid a growing threat of disruption to everyday life.
The meeting was attended by a number of regulators, including representatives from Ofcom, the Bank of England, Ofgem, Ofwat and the Office of the Nuclear Regulator. Together with government officials, a joint statement was made, in which the group pledged to adopt security standards and measures, more exercises to test resilience and cross-industry information sharing on how cyber threats can be combated.
Industries that provide essential services like power firms, banks and telecommunications providers especially need adequate protection, Mr Cable said, as these areas have become a part of everyday life. Mobile networks, gas distribution and rail signalling are also particularly vulnerable, he stated.
He added: "It is essential for financial stability that the UK financial system and its infrastructure continues to work towards improving its ability to withstand cyber-attack.
"We can only achieve this objective through a partnership between government, the regulators and industry."

Taking all of this into account, it is clear demand for experienced IT professionals who have a good track record when it comes to improving the security of sensitive networks is likely to rise in the years to come.