As of late, cybersecurity has become a central topic in daily discussions among businesses and government agencies. The recent wave of ransomware has highlighted what cybersecurity experts have known for years, but now the world seems to be catching on: No one who is digitally connected is completely safe, and hackers are getting more numerous and better by the day. Cybersecurity experts are also getting prepared and ready to fight back, though, and it seems that atypical individuals have a uniquely crucial role to play in this industry.
Businesses in growing need for cybersecurity talent
Although conditions like Asperger’s and autism are still being studied and our knowledge about them grows every day, there are many features that are common among individuals that have been diagnosed as atypical. These features make many of us struggle in the job market, as they do not play out well in a traditional job interview setting or even in a typical work environment. However, these same elements, like the uncanny attention to detail and an intense ability to focus on the task at hand, can become amazing tools when employed in the right setting. Enter cybersecurity. Research shows that by 2022, the number of vacancies in the cybersecurity sector will rise to roughly 1.8 million, while 97% of organisations are expressing lack of confidence in their security capabilities.
Asperger Syndrome makes for excellent hackers – and cybersecurity experts
In this context, atypical people might find a long-due chance to shine. Interestingly, most hackers seem to be atypical, too. According to LinkedIn, Scotland Yard has revealed that the majority of English hackers have Asperger Syndrome. As individuals with Asperger’s are very focused on detail and tend to be able to demonstrate exceptional concentration when trying to find what they are looking for, they make excellent cybersecurity professionals, while they are extremely well-equipped for thinking out of the box and coming up with novel solutions. Consider one of the most common social engineering attacks, for instance. Spear phishing is a type of attack where a cybercriminal disguises as a trusted individual in order to trick the potential victim into clicking on a malicious link that leads them to unwittingly install malware, reveal sensitive information, or unwillingly execute the first phase of an advanced persistent attack. Unlike phishing, which consists of generic messages sent out in bulk, spear phishing is an individualised attack. Someone with a natural knack for noticing the details will still know something doesn’t look right in that email or message – minor details in email addresses, fonts and so on. That’s from the perspective of a user, though. Once they’re in cybersecurity, people with excellent ability to focus can identify patterns and figure out what’s off to help identify and stop threats.
Major companies beginning to adapt to neurodiverse candidates
Autistic individuals are also great fits for the cybersecurity industry. They tend to excel in the fields in which they specialise, as they are able to absorb a great wealth of information and memorise it, while they enjoy complex tasks and have a knack for pattern recognition. LinkedIn also reports that the army of Israel has even set up an elite unit under the number “9900”, which recruits solely people on the spectrum to assist with identifying patterns in enemy troop movements. According to the Harvard Business Review, a lot of major companies, like Microsoft, EY and Deloitte, are updating their HR policies in order to tap into the potential of neurodiverse talent.
In the UK, there are roughly 700,000 individuals diagnosed on the autism spectrum, which means that over 1 in 100 children born is somewhere on the spectrum. It is high time these individuals found a job market in place that knows how to welcome and utilise their talent instead of shutting them off.