According to the latest research from KMPG, more than half of UK companies are considering hiring ex-criminals in a bid to get ahead of cyber criminals.
The poll, which consisted of 300 senior IT and human resource professionals, revealed that the inability to find people with the necessary cyber security skills is forcing many companies to consider these poachers turned gamekeepers.
Nearly three quarters of those interviewed said they are facing new cyber security challenges which demand new cyber skills.
According to the poll, 53% of respondents said they would consider using a hacker to bring inside information to their security teams. Another large proportion said they would consider recruiting an expert, even if they had a criminal record.
60% said they are struggling to find cyber experts who can effectively communicate with the business, which they see as vital to ensuring the cyber threat is well understood by corporate leaders outside the IT department.
The survey found that 57% of respondents have found it increasingly difficult to retain staff in specialised cyber skills in the last two years.
Head of KMPG's Cyber Security Academy Serena Gonsalves-Fersch said: "The increasing awareness of the cyber threat means the majority of UK companies are clear on their strategy for dealing with any skills gaps.
"However, they would not hire pickpockets to be security guards, so the fact that companies are considering former hackers as recruits clearly shows how desperate they are to stay ahead of the game."
According to Fersch, there are other options. She said: "Rather than relying on hackers to share their secrets, or throwing money at off-the-shelf programs that quickly become out of date, UK companies need to take stock of their cyber defence capabilities and act on the gaps that are specific to their own security needs."
The research was released to coincide with the launch of a KMPG cyber awareness programme aimed at improving cyber security at all levels of an organisation.
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