Neurodiversity in cyber security

Around 15 per cent of the population in the UK is thought to be neurodiverse. This is a term that covers a range of neurological conditions, ranging from autism and Asperger's syndrome to ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. However, this group is often greatly under-represented in the workforce.

For example, there are estimated to be around 700,000 people in the UK on the autistic spectrum. Yet the Office for National Statistics showed that only 22 per cent of adults in this group are in any type of employment - and this figure has barely changed in more than a decade.

However, there are many opportunities for these individuals to make a difference in the workplace, and one sector that could be especially well-placed to benefit from this largely-untapped resource is cyber security.


The opportunities in cyber security

The cyber security industry is currently experiencing a major skills shortage, which means businesses are crying out for people with the talents and knowledge to help keep their confidential systems and information safe from attack.

In 2013, there were one million vacant cyber security roles. The following year, it was estimated there would be 3.5 million unfilled jobs in the sector by 2021. For the first time since then, the skills gap is starting to level off. However, the number of empty positions is expected to remain at approximately 3.5 million until 2025. This will undoubtedly leave many firms vulnerable to hacking attacks and other cyber security incidents.

As a result, the cyber security industry offers a highly competitive environment, with companies willing to offer significant incentives to the best talent. What's more, many of the skills demanded for these roles will be well-aligned with those possessed by many neurodiverse individuals, making them an ideal fit for jobs in this sector.


The skills the industry needs

NeuroCyberUK is an organisation Cyber Security Jobsite works with that is dedicated to promoting the benefits of neurodiverse people in the security sector. It notes that people in this category often have several key skills and personality traits that make them especially well-suited for a career in the field.

Mike Spain, founder of NeuroCyberUK,  said: "The ability to spot patterns in large data sets can lead to a great career in cyber." Meanwhile, people with autism may have a strong ability to assimilate and retain detailed information, while those with ADHD can often remain composed in high-pressure situations, such as a cyber attack.

NeuroCyberUK observed that some of the essential skills needed to be successful in this sector include:

  • Logical and methodical ways of thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Cognitive pattern recognition skills
  • Highly focused
  • Creative, outside-the-box thinking
  • Reliability, loyalty and dedication

It is, however, important for employers to also be aware of the strengths of neurodiverse candidates and consider how they will fit into their organisation. These individuals should be seen as much more than a good way to fill a skills gap - diversity brings strength to businesses, offers new ways of looking at challenges, and helps boost a firm's productivity and reputation.


The roles available for neurodiverse employees

It's important to avoid stereotyping when it comes to neurodiversity in the cyber security sector, as individuals will have a wide range of skills that can be used in different ways. For example, there is a perception that people on the autism spectrum are particularly good with maths, but this is certainly not the case for everyone.

However, by identifying where each person's individual skills lie and what roles they will be best suited for, prospective employees can find jobs tailored to their skill sets and interests.

This may, for example, include threat analysis, penetration testing and SOC analysis, as these roles require exactly the type of skills neurodiverse people are more likely to have.

Many of the country's largest and most prominent cyber security organisations welcome people with neurodiverse backgrounds. GCHQ, for example, has long attracted neurodiverse staff and has had a specialised neurodiversity support service for over 20 years.

Therefore, there are growing opportunities for neurodiverse individuals with the right skills, training and clearances to find exciting careers in cyber security. To find the role that's right for you, please register your details here. You will be able to search for the latest jobs and set up Job Alerts to be emailed to you on a daily basis.

Ready to explore your next career in this sector? Check out our most recent cyber security job listings to find the perfect position for you.