McAfee report suggests gamers could thrive in a cybersecurity career

Flickr via Kelly Hunter. Click for original.

Flickr via Kelly Hunter. Click for original. (Image credit: Flick via Kelly Hunter)

Cybersecurity firms are feeling the pressure from having to deal with increasingly complex and voluminous cyberattacks. Compounding the issue is that many senior security managers feel it is difficult to attract the kind of talent needed to deal with emerging threats. The solution might be to focus on gamers, according to a new report by McAfee.

The report highlights the concept of gamification—the concept of applying elements of playing games to non-game activities—aka why your exercise app has you outrunning zombies.

"Gamification is growing in importance as a tool to drive a better-performing cybersecurity organization. Four in 10 organizations say they already organize some kind of gamification exercise at least once per year. The most common is capture the flag, followed by red team versus blue team," McAfee states in its report (PDF). Capture the flag, in this case, is a kind of hackers vs. defenders cybersecurity exercise—they're not booting up Unreal Tournament and going for a spin.

McAfee surveyed 300 senior security managers and 650 security professionals as part of its report. Of those who participated, nearly half said they will struggle to deal with the increasing number of cyberattacks, or will be unable to defend against them. They also note that they are short staffed to deal with emerging threats, with 84 percent saying it's difficult to attract the necessary talent. That is where gamers could come into play.

"To address the shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers, the report findings suggest that gamers, those engaged and immersed in online competitions, may be the logical next step to plugging the gap. Nearly all (92 percent) of respondents believe that gaming affords players experience and skills critical to cybersecurity threat hunting," McAfee says.

Those skills include logic, perseverance, an understanding of how to approach adversaries, and a fresh outlook compared to traditional cybersecurity hires. What's interesting about this is that the viewpoints are coming from the perspective of security experts who are already in the field. In fact, three-quarters of senior managers surveyed said they would consider hiring a gamer even if that person didn't have any specific cybersecurity experience or training.

This is already happening to an extent. More than three-quarters (78 percent) said the current generation entering the cybersecurity field have been raised playing video games, and are viewed as stronger candidates for cybersecurity positions than traditional hires.

"Gamers quickly learn to continually look for clues, tools and weapons in their quest for success. And they develop persistence, endurance, observation, and logic. This is supported by the survey, which suggests that gamers have many of the core skills that cybersecurity threat hunters of the future will need," the report says.

Something to keep in mind if you're not in the cybersecurity business and are looking for a career change.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).