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News

Report Shows Information Security Resources Being Stretched Thin

ISC Squared : 02 March, 2011  (Technical Article)
The evolving threat landscape affecting IT systems has led to a gap in skills amongst IT security professionals according to a recent study

A study based on a survey of more than 10,000 ( 2400 in EMEA)  information security professionals worldwide finds that a growing number of technologies being widely adopted by businesses are challenging information security executives and their staffs, potentially endangering the security of governments, agencies, corporations and consumers worldwide over the next several years.


Conducted by Frost & Sullivan, the 2011 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS) says new threats stemming from mobile devices, the cloud, social networking and insecure applications, as well as added responsibilities such as addressing the security concerns of customers, have led to “information security professionals being stretched thin, and like a series of small leaks in a dam, the current overworked workforce may be showing signs of strain.”




Conducted on behalf of (ISC)2, the not-for-profit global leader in educating and certifying information security professionals throughout their careers, the study also shows a severe gap in skills needed industry-wide.  Information security professionals admitted they needed better training in a variety of technology areas yet reported in significant numbers that many of these technologies are already being deployed.


“In the modern organisation, end-users are dictating IT priorities by bringing technology to the enterprise rather than the other way around,” said Robert Ayoub, global program director - network security for Frost & Sullivan.  “Pressure to secure too much and the resulting skills gap are creating risk for organisations worldwide.


“We can reduce the risks, however, if we invest now in attracting high-quality entrants to the field and make concurrent investments in professional development for emerging skills. As the study finds, these solutions are underway, but the question remains whether enough new professionals and training will come soon enough to keep global critical infrastructures in the private and public sectors protected.”


“The good news from this study is that information security professionals finally have management support and are being relied upon and compensated for the security of the most mission-critical data and systems within an organisation,” added Ayoub. “The bad news is that they are being asked to do too much, with little time left to enhance their skills to meet the latest security threats and business demands.”


Key findings from the study include:


* As of 2010, Frost & Sullivan estimates that there are 2.28 million information security professionals worldwide (over 617,000 in EMEA). Demand for professionals is expected to increase to nearly 4.2 million by 2015 (1.15 million in EMEA) with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.2 percent (same in EMEA) , creating career opportunities for those with the right skills.


* Secure software development is a significant new area of focus for information security professionals worldwide.  Application vulnerabilities ranked as the No. 1 threat to organisations by 72 percent of respondents worldwide and in EMEA (69 percent , while 20 percent  (19 percent in EMEA) said they are involved in secure software development.


* Nearly 70 percent (67 percent EMEA) of respondents reported having policies and technology in place to meet the security challenges of mobile devices, yet mobile devices were still ranked second on the list of highest concerns by respondents (worldwide and in EMEA).  The study concludes that mobile security could be the single most dangerous threat to organizations for the foreseeable future.


* Cloud computing illustrates a serious gap between technology implementation and the skills necessary to provide security. More than 50 percent (55 percent EMEA) of respondents reported having private clouds in place, while more than 70 percent (75 percent EMEA) reported the need for new skills to properly secure cloud-based technologies.


* Professionals aren’t ready for social media threats. Respondents reported inconsistent policies and protection for end-users visiting social media sites, and just less than 30 percent (31 percent EMEA) had no social media security policies whatsoever.


* Viruses and worms, hackers and internal employees all fell in significance as top threats from 2008, the most recent year of the study.


* The main drivers for the continued growth of the profession are regulatory compliance demands, greater potential for data loss via mobile devices and mobile workforce, and the potential loss of control as organisations shift data to cloud-based services.


* About two-thirds of respondents worldwide and in EMEA don’t expect to see any increase in budget for information security personnel and training in 2011.


* Salaries showed healthy growth despite a global recession, with three out of five respondents reported receiving a salary increase in 2010.


“We are seeing a paradigm shift in how organisations are operating, brought on by the triple impact of cloud computing, the pervasive use of mobile devices and social media via the corporate network, along with the wave of new applications being developed to support it all,” said John Colley, CISSP, managing director for EMEA of (ISC)2. “Security professionals are going to have to re-skill for these new developments, but they are not alone.  Security accountability has become an organisation-wide concern, with implications for HR, legal, marketing, sales and even customers in the global cyber security strategy. I have every confidence that we will develop the right instincts to meet the challenge, but I anticipate it will demand a combined effort of industry, government, academia and the information security profession.”


Likely the largest study of the information security profession ever conducted, 10,413 information security professionals from companies and public sector organisations around the world were surveyed in the fall of 2010, including 61 percent in the Americas, 22.5 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 16.5 percent in Asia Pacific.  Forty-five percent (42 percent EMEA) were from organizations with over 10,000 employees.


The average experience of respondents worldwide was more than nine years, while five percent (seven percent in EMEA) of respondents held executive titles such as Chief Information Security Officer. Additionally, Frost & Sullivan supplemented the analysis with its other primary data sources and methods.


The objective of the GISWS, the fifth study sponsored by (ISC)2 since 2004, is to provide meaningful research about the information security profession to industry stakeholders, including professionals, corporations, government agencies, academia, and hiring managers.

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