ISJ Influencers 2022- Professor Alison Wakefield, University of West London


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For anyone who has followed the publication of the US National Intelligence Council and UK Ministry of Defence Global Trends/Global Strategic Trends foresight reports and their equivalents from governments and intergovernmental organisations around the world, the messages of the seventh edition of Global Trends will have come as no surprise. With each update, the projections are of a world more chaotic and uncertain than before. The latest report, published in March 2021 to inform the new Biden administration, is grounded in five overarching themes:

  • Shared global challenges arising with increasing frequency and intensity, including climate change, disease, financial crises and technology disruptions, which often lack a direct human perpetrator and can intersect and cascade in unpredictable ways;
  • Fragmentation, recognising that a more connected world does not mean a more cohesive world and can mean quite the opposite for communities, states and the international community;
  • Disequilibrium, based on the fact that the so-called international system barely functions as such and is not set up to mitigate effectively the global challenges now being confronted;
  • Greater contestation within communities, states and the international community as a result of such fragmentation and disequilibrium; and
  • Adaptation, identified as the key priority for the many actors in the international system and the basis for future advantage. Key dimensions of their adaptation, it is argued, include harnessing technology effectively and building societal consensus on the adaptations that need to take place.

For the security profession, while technical advancements are changing the balance between frontline workers and security technology and many such jobs are among those at risk of automation, the scale of the cybersecurity skills gap suggests demand for security expertise will continue to grow. The(ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2021estimates that there is a current gap of 2.72 million workers globally (a decrease from 3.12 million last year). As our reliance on connected technology increases, the opportunities for criminals to attack and compromise information systems and data will continue to multiply, impacting individuals, organisations and the wider economy.

Today, we need to be comfortable with both physical and information security and regularly update our skills and expertise as the demands upon us evolve. Governments have recognised the criticality of developing a sufficiently technologically skilled and cyber aware workforce and, through ventures like the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies in the US Department of Homeland Security and the UK’s new Cyber Security Council, now publish route maps to help current and future security professionals navigate the somewhat confusing landscape of cybersecurity career pathways.

Routes into security will need to widen: traditional pathways will not generate either the number or the diversity of cyber savvy professionals required to meet the challenges of the future. Fortunately, professional development opportunities are becoming more accessible than ever, with the rising popularity and accessibility of ‘microcredentials’. These are short, flexible and often very cheap courses offered by a variety of learning providers and now forming an important dimension of the digital economy, helping workers keep abreast of the speed of change. Which ones are on your to-do list for 2022?


Alison Wakefield PhD CSyP FSyI is Professor of Criminology and Security Studies at the University of West London and Co-Director of UWL’s Cybersecurity and Criminology Centre. She is also a Senior Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, a Commissioner on the National Preparedness Commission, and Academic Adviser to the Chartered Security Professionals Registration Authority and she was Chair of the Security Institute from 2018 to 2020.

For more information, visit: Cybersecurity and Criminology Centre

This article was originally published in the December 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here

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