Research finds that gamers are strong candidates for cybersecurity jobs

A report from McAfee suggests that gamers could be the key to addressing the cybersecurity talent-shortage.
5 April 2018

72 percent of cybersecurity pros say hiring video gamers could fix the IT skills gap. Source: Shutterstock

In order to fight back against cybercriminals, McAfee has suggested in a newly released survey that gamers may just be the key candidates for cybersecurity jobs.

The California-based cybersecurity company carried out a survey of 300 senior security managers and 650 security professionals at large corporations.

According to the report, named “Winning the Game”, gamers – described as those engaged and immersed in online competitions – would be a logical move to plug the current skills gap that is ever-present in the cybersecurity space.

Of those who took part in the survey, 92 percent of respondents believe that gaming yields players with the skills and experience which are critical to cybersecurity threat hunting. This includes logic, perseverance, an understanding of how to approach adversaries, and a fresh outlook compared to more traditional cybersecurity professionals.

Cybersecurity seems to be a big problem for companies today. The survey found that 46 percent of cybersecurity responders believe that in the next year, they will either struggle to manage with the increase of cyber threats or that it will be impossible to defend against them.

A further 24 percent of respondents reported the need to increase their IT workforce by a quarter in order to manage the threats their organizations are facing currently. But it seems that the shortage of cybersecurity talent is felt across companies, with 84 percent of respondents admitting it is difficult to attract talent.

Could gamers be the answer to this global talent shortage? According to the McAfee survey, three-quarters of senior managers say they would consider hiring a gamer even if that individual had no specific cybersecurity background. 72 percent of respondents say that hiring experienced video gamers into the IT department would be a good way to address the cybersecurity skills gap.


Gamification, the concept of applying elements of game-playing to non-game activities, seems to be becoming a highly important tool used to drive a higher performing cyber security organization, says the survey.

The most common gamification exercises used in organizations include hackathons, capture-the-flag, red team-blue team, and bug bounty programs. Almost all of those organizations that use gamification in the workplace (a whopping 96 percent) report seeing benefits.

For instance:

  • Over half (57 percent) of respondents report that the utilization of games increases awareness and IT staff knowledge of how breaches can occur.
  • 43 percent reported that gamification creates a teamwork culture crucial for quick and effective cybersecurity.
  • Of senior manager respondents, 77 percent agree that their organization would be safer if they used more gamification.


As well as finding that gamification and gamers may be the key to addressing the challenges in the cybersecurity space at current, the report also found that automation plays a vital role.

Automated programs should be used to manage basic security protocols, enabling practitioners to free up time to proactively address unknown threats, says the report.

  • The majority of respondents (81 percent) believe that their organization’s cybersecurity would be stronger if it harnessed greater automation.
  • A quarter of respondents said that automation enables professionals to spend more time focusing on innovation and value-added work.
  • Almost a third (32 percent) of respondents who are not investing in automation explained this was due to lack of in-house skills.