The chronic shortage of cybersecurity professionals appears to be finally driving major investments in online learning platforms focused on cybersecurity training.
Immersive Labs this week raised an additional $40 million in funding that will be used primarily to expand its portfolio of online cybersecurity training classes built around simulations of actual attacks.
Company CEO James Hadley said its immersive approach to e-learning not only results in cybersecurity professionals with more hands-on expertise, but it also makes cybersecurity training more accessible.
Hadley said one of the primary reasons there is such a shortage of cybersecurity professionals is that cybersecurity today is viewed as a dark art that requires a lot of IT expertise. However, many of the most successful cybersecurity professionals have degrees in music and history, he noted, adding success in the cybersecurity field tends to equate more to aptitude in the form of critical thinking rather than any specific level of IT expertise.
Immersive Labs’ e-learning platform draws heavily from Hadley’s experience as a cybersecurity instructor at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The platform makes use of techniques such as gamification to enable professionals to acquire additional skills in an immersive e-learning environment at their own pace and on their own schedules, said Hadley.
The immersive approach also makes it possible to capture data to analyze internal skill levels and identify areas in need of improvement. The platform maps an organization’s existing capabilities to familiar frameworks, such as MITRE ATT&CK and NIST NICE, to identify those skills shortages.
As new types of attacks emerge, Hadley said Immersive Labs continuously updates its curriculum to help ensure the skills of cybersecurity professionals remain current.
Organizations that have adopted the Immersive Lab platform to train cybersecurity professionals include British Telecom, Bank of Montreal, Citigroup, the National Health Service in the UK, the London Metropolitan Police and Goldman Sachs, which, with this latest round, is now a major investor in Immersive Labs. That success has resulted in a 750% year-over-year increase in annual recurring revenues, the opening of a new North American headquarters in Boston, and the hiring of more than 100 employees.
Longer-term, Hadley sees artificial intelligence (AI) playing a significant role in helping to reduce the impact of the current cybersecurity skills shortage. However, he said organizations need to think through how they apply AI; if all the level one cybersecurity tasks are automated using AI, the barrier to entry into the field will become that much higher. In effect, if every low-level cybersecurity task is automated, it becomes difficult for cybersecurity professionals to gain the experience required to solve more complex cybersecurity challenges, Hadley noted.
Of course, no one is advocating that AI should not be applied to cybersecurity. However, as with most emerging technologies, the impact AI might have on cybersecurity strategies needs to be carefully considered.