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Research: Younger cybersecurity pros more fearful of being replaced by AI

16 Oct 2020

Young people in the cybersecurity industry are more concerned that automation will eventually replace their roles than older staff - despite a massive 88% of security professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier.

This is according to new research released recently by Exabeam, which surveyed 350 global practitioners of the cybersecurity industry on various topics including skills, salary and stress.

According to the findings, 53% of respondents under 45 years old either agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security, despite 89% of this demographic believing that it would improve their jobs.

Meanwhile, only 25% of those over 45 were threatened by AI and ML, and 80% think that it will simplify work.

When surveyed by country, the most paranoid cybersecurity workers were in Singapore, where 54% were concerned about having their jobs made redundant by automation. This was followed by the US (47%), Germany (42%), Australia (40%) and the UK (33%).

“The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us,” says Exabeam security strategist Samantha Humphries. 

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

“Ambiguity around career paths 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.” 

Worker approval and satisfaction enjoyed a general increase across the industry: 96% of those surveyed reported satisfaction around roles and responsibilities, 87% were happy with salaries, and 77% said they struck a good work/life balance.

More than half (53%) of respondents reported their jobs as being either stressful or very stressful - but this is down from 62% from last year.

Despite their misgivings about automation, younger workers, specifically in the 18-24-year-old bracket, were extremely happy with their lot: 100% of this group reported feeling secure in their roles, and 93% were satisfied with their salaries.

The survey also found that while women are still vastly underrepresented in the sector, there has been an improvement in gender diversity in 2020, with female respondents increasing from 9% to 21% this year. However, Exabeam cautions that it remains to be seen whether this will become a solid trend.

“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,” says Exabeam senior product marketing manager for APJ Phil Routley. 

“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.”