Cybersecurity in the Digital Era: Challenges and Opportunities
Currently, cybersecurity plays a vital role within the expansive field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). As digital technologies provide unprecedented opportunities, they also give rise to significant risks. In the European Union, there has been a 40% increase in the ICT workforce over the past decade, with a projected sustained growth in ICT spending expected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2023 and $1.4 trillion in 2026, driven by Scandinavian and UK markets. Spain has experienced a similar boom in the sector, driven by digitization.
This article delves into the current dynamics of cybersecurity, exploring its evolution within the context of ICT and examining the challenges and opportunities shaping an increasingly interconnected world. From the rise of cyberattacks to the pivotal role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and from investments in cybersecurity to innovative projects defining the sector’s future, we will explore key trends and forecasts shaping this ever-evolving discipline.
Current status and forecast
Cybersecurity is a crucial segment within the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) sector. Digital technologies are increasingly being deployed, offering a range of opportunities but also posing risks. Currently, in the EU, approximately 4% of workers belong to the ICT sector, which is 40% more than a decade ago. ICT spending in Europe is projected to reach $1.2 billion in 2023 and around $1.4 billion in 2026, with a 4.2% increase in 2023 and a compound annual growth rate of 5.4%. This growth is primarily driven by two markets: the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom.
In Spain, the ICT sector has experienced significant growth over the past decade, with digitalization being a strategic focus for updating the productive model. Collaborations between the public and private sectors are increasing thanks to the establishment of institutions like the National Cybersecurity Forum (FNC) and the Spanish National Institute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE). These collaborations involve companies, universities, and the government working on joint projects that promote cybersecurity growth in Spain.
The number of companies in this sector increased from 16.584 in 2000 to 61.123 in 2020. In 2022, the sector generated €61,246 million in revenue in Spain, a growth of +6.1% compared to 2021, accelerating the trend (+3.7% in 2021 and +2.2% in 2020). Specifically, the cybersecurity sector’s revenue reached €1,950 million in 2022, a +14.7% increase from 2021, according to a sector report by Informa DBK. This figure represents only 3% of the total revenue generated by the ICT sector in 2022.
The cybersecurity segment is currently experiencing favorable development due to the increasing importance of digitalization in the business environment, leading to increased cybersecurity needs and the creation of numerous job opportunities. In particular, the cybersecurity sector in Spain is estimated to employ around 125,000 people in 2023, with a projected 64% growth in 2024. Gender disparity in this subsector of ICT follows the same trend as in related sectors, with men holding a greater share of jobs. In 2022, only 25% of cybersecurity jobs worldwide were held by women. This gender gap is slowly narrowing, with estimates suggesting that women will occupy 30% of cybersecurity jobs globally by 2025.
Cyberattacks and prevention
In the first quarter of 2023, there has been a 7% increase in weekly cyberattacks compared to the same period in 2022, highlighting the need for protection tools. Globally, 66% of organizations were attacked in the first quarter of 2023. In Spain, over the past year, more than 50% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) experienced some form of cyberattack, but only around 60% implemented cybersecurity measures. It is estimated that 65% of cyberattacks on Spanish companies are caused by human error, underscoring the need to develop and introduce cybersecurity measures that become ingrained in employees’ corporate culture.
It is also worth mentioning the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can be both beneficial and harmful, as it is used to combat cyberattacks or carry them out. More and more companies are using AI tools to streamline their work, whether in programming tasks, translation, or content creation, among others, which exposes companies to a greater risk of cyberattacks every time they use these AIs. On the other hand, its use can also be leveraged to enhance cybersecurity by establishing patterns that help recognize a potential cyberattack or by improving authentication systems, for example.
Companies have been redirecting their IT budgets and increasing the proportion allocated to cybersecurity. The average company currently dedicates approximately 20% of its IT budget to cybersecurity, compared to 13% in 2020. This proportion is expected to continue increasing in 2023. The ability to adapt between large enterprises and SMEs is not the same. SMEs lack the resources to invest in cybersecurity strategies, making them more vulnerable. Furthermore, the interest in cybersecurity varies by sector, with financial companies being the most attractive targets for cyber attackers, with 80% of them falling victim in 2021. In second place, the pharmaceutical sector also experienced attacks, with at least 49% of companies affected due to increased interest in intellectual property and clinical trials information during the pandemic.
On the other hand, Spanish public administrations invested €5,979 million in their IT budget in 2022, representing a 12.9% increase from 2021. Of which, 47% is allocated to IT services, 23% to hardware (including cybersecurity), 15.1% to software, and 13.8% to communications. This significant increase in investment by public administrations underscores the importance of digitalizing public services, in line with the goals set by the Digitalization Spain 2026 strategy, which aims to enhance cybersecurity capabilities in Spain and promote the development of the business ecosystem in this sector.
In line with this sector’s growth, Google is launching a project in Malaga at the end of this year. The tech giant will create its first Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC) in Spain, which will be the third in Europe, with existing centers in Munich and Dublin. Google is investing approximately €650 million over five years in this project, a significant investment for the city of Malaga, which hopes to attract both human capital to fill cybersecurity jobs and other telecommunications-related companies that Google may bring with it.
The expected evolution in this sector, both in Spain and globally, points to significant progress. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly frequent in both the private sector and at the national level (cyberwars, military, and commercial espionage). No entity subject to these attacks is willing to expose or use their data or sensitive information, whether it belongs to customers, products, or strategies, as this could result in substantial economic losses. As a result, most private and public companies will increase their budgets for cybersecurity to strengthen their defenses. This implies growth in the number of jobs in the sector, greater competition in developing the best products and services, and a growing interest in pursuing a profession with a promising and well-compensated future.
Gracia is the head of the analyst team and the hand behind every credit rating Inbonis produces. Her main goals are to help companies and bring out the best in her team, relying on mutual commitment and empathy. When she's not online, she can be doing pilates, devouring chocolate or listening to music of any style.