The cybersecurity industry is constantly evolving, facing new threats and challenges every day. To stay ahead of the curve, protect sensitive information, and protect lives (in case of cyber-kinetic risks), the industry requires a diverse range of skills, perspectives, and innovative solutions capable of tackling complex and evolving threats. The cybersecurity sector has a unique opportunity to harness the distinctive talents of neurodivergent individuals. Neurodiversity, which encompasses individuals with cognitive differences such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodivergent descriptions, offers a unique and untapped talent pool for the cybersecurity sector.
The benefits of diversity, especially in tech spaces, are well-documented. Diversity inspires curiosity in heterogeneous teams, which means more robust creative capacity. Diversity creates a level of discomfort that makes teams perform better.
Vacant cybersecurity jobs globally are projected to clinch a whopping 3.5 million in 2021. One is tempted to think that the current shortage in cybersecurity should force the hands of HR to tap into a pipeline of neurodiverse employees. After all, it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15%) are neurodivergent. Despite all that, traditional HR recruitment practices often miss out on the neurodiversity opportunity as they fail to engage with neurodiverse candidates adequately.
“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” – Alan Turing
We, cybersecurity professionals, know better. We are increasingly finding that neurodiverse talents easily hold up to the scrutiny of performance and value — thanks to their uniquely fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking they bring to the table. Seemingly opposite angles to problem-solving deliver strong results when dealing with complex cybersecurity issues.
Neurodivergent individuals may possess strengths that are particularly well-suited to the cybersecurity field. For example, individuals with autism may have a natural affinity for technology and an ability to focus intensely on specific tasks. At the same time, those with ADHD might excel at multitasking and adapting to rapidly changing situations. By incorporating neurodiverse perspectives into cybersecurity teams, organizations can tap into these strengths and foster a more robust and resilient approach to tackling cyber threats.
Other cognitive abilities that are highly valuable in the cybersecurity field may include exceptional pattern recognition, attention to detail, logical thinking, and problem-solving skills. By embracing neurodiversity, the cybersecurity industry can tap into these unique strengths, resulting in more effective threat detection, mitigation, and prevention strategies.
Neurodiverse employees often have no difficulties side-stepping their emotional bias to determine the root cause of problems. In cybersecurity, they’re more mentally equipped to peek beyond the veneer of OK-ed systems to optimize for tighter security and even greater possibilities.
The cybersecurity landscape is in a constant state of flux, with new threats and vulnerabilities emerging daily. Neurodivergent individuals are known for their ability to think outside the box and approach problems from unconventional perspectives. This innovative thinking can lead to the development of creative solutions that address emerging cybersecurity challenges.
Embracing neurodiversity in the cybersecurity industry offers significant benefits, including access to a diverse range of skills and perspectives that can help fuel innovation, address skills gaps, and strengthen overall cybersecurity capabilities. The time has come for the cybersecurity industry to fully harness the power of neurodiversity and drive forward a more secure and inclusive digital landscape.
For over 30 years, Marin Ivezic has been protecting critical infrastructure and financial services against cyber, financial crime and regulatory risks posed by complex and emerging technologies.
He held multiple interim CISO and technology leadership roles in Global 2000 companies.