Careers & People

5/2/2018
12:45 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Automation Exacerbates Cybersecurity Skills Gap

Three out of four security pros say the more automated AI products they bring in, the harder it is to find trained staff to run the tools.

As the security industry grapples with the consequences of a constrained supply of experienced cybersecurity talent, many pundits have lauded automation as a way out. But a new survey out today shows that many security professionals are experiencing the opposite effect. The more artificial intelligence (AI)- and machine learning-powered tools they bring in, the more they need experienced staff to deal with those tools. 

Conducted by Ponemon Institute on behalf of DomainTools, the study queried over 600 US cybersecurity professionals on the effects of automation on their staffing situations. The results offered up are counterintuitive to general belief that automation will ameliorate the cybersecurity skills gap.

According to the study, 75% of organizations report that their security team is currently understaffed and the same proportion say they have difficulty attracting qualified candidates. Over four in 10 organizations report that the difficulties they've faced with recruiting and retaining employees has led to increased investment in cybersecurity automation tools. However, 76% of respondents report that machine learning and AI tools and services aggravate the problem because they increase the need for more highly skilled IT security staff. And only 15% of organizations report that AI is a dependable and trusted security tool for their organization.

This jibes with what a lot of experienced security practitioners have to say about automation. 

"It is very tempting to think that automation will fix a lot of cybersecurity issues. However, automation mechanisms are worthless without a staff which can smartly leverage them and implement them," says Frank Downs, senior manager of Cyber Information Security Practices at ISACA. "An organization can purchase the most incredible intrusion detection/prevention system in the world. However, if they don't have the staff to configure, implement, and manage it — it might as well stay uninstalled." 

That's not to say that there's no value in automation, it's just that the same principle of "GIGO" applies for cybersecurity automation as it does for any other technical system.  

"Automation really helps make the people on the team more effective. There's no substitute for human flexibility and intuition, so automation lets you take repetitive tasks off the table and enables people do more interesting work," explains Todd Inskeep, principal for Booz Allen Hamilton and advisory board member for RSA Conference. "That's important, but one of the first things I learned about computers — 'GIGO,' or 'garbage in, garbage out' — still applies with automation and machine intelligence." 

The other issue is that automation tends to follow a maturity path where the most automated systems are never fully up to date with the timeliest threat trends. As a result, there always need to be experienced humans who are adaptable enough to deal with the unknown threats of tomorrow, says Lucas Moody, CISO for Palo Alto Networks.

"If you break it down, automation is about taking care of yesterday's problems. We are automating what we've mastered and what we understand well," says Moody. "In order to tackle tomorrow's challenges, we need to hire professionals who are strategic, creative, and adaptable. We're really looking for those individuals who thrive on change and problem-solving." 

Related Content:

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
HardenStance
0%
100%
HardenStance,
User Rank: Strategist
5/3/2018 | 4:39:00 AM
Good survey research and article
Great to see some survey research that actually tells us something new.

Great also to see an article that triangulates high end quantitative data with expert qualitative inputs. Really well put together, thanks.

Two take-aways for me are that the industry needs to re-double its investment in cyber security career paths for young people as well as re-double its investment in putting ease of use front and center in the design of security products and services.

Yes they already are front and center in many cases. Yes, we are making progress. But yes we do still have to re-double our efforts again (and again). 
Worst Password Blunders of 2018 Hit Organizations East and West
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  12/12/2018
8 Security Tips to Gift Your Loved Ones For the Holidays
Steve Zurier, Freelance Writer,  12/18/2018
How to Engage Your Cyber Enemies
Guy Nizan, CEO at Intsights Cyber Intelligence,  12/18/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security 2018
This Dark Reading Tech Digest explores the biggest news stories of 2018 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape.
Flash Poll
[Sponsored Content] The State of Encryption and How to Improve It
[Sponsored Content] The State of Encryption and How to Improve It
Encryption and access controls are considered to be the ultimate safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of data, which is why they're mandated in so many compliance and regulatory standards. While the cybersecurity market boasts a wide variety of encryption technologies, many data breaches reveal that sensitive and personal data has often been left unencrypted and, therefore, vulnerable.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-16883
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-19
sssd versions from 1.13.0 to before 2.0.0 did not properly restrict access to the infopipe according to the "allowed_uids" configuration parameter. If sensitive information were stored in the user directory, this could be inadvertently disclosed to local attackers.
CVE-2018-17192
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-19
The X-Frame-Options headers were applied inconsistently on some HTTP responses, resulting in duplicate or missing security headers. Some browsers would interpret these results incorrectly, allowing clickjacking attacks. Mitigation: The fix to consistently apply the security headers was applied on th...
CVE-2018-17193
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-19
The message-page.jsp error page used the value of the HTTP request header X-ProxyContextPath without sanitization, resulting in a reflected XSS attack. Mitigation: The fix to correctly parse and sanitize the request attribute value was applied on the Apache NiFi 1.8.0 release. Users running a prior ...
CVE-2018-17194
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-19
When a client request to a cluster node was replicated to other nodes in the cluster for verification, the Content-Length was forwarded. On a DELETE request, the body was ignored, but if the initial request had a Content-Length value other than 0, the receiving nodes would wait for the body and even...
CVE-2018-17195
PUBLISHED: 2018-12-19
The template upload API endpoint accepted requests from different domain when sent in conjunction with ARP spoofing + man in the middle (MiTM) attack, resulting in a CSRF attack. The required attack vector is complex, requiring a scenario with client certificate authentication, same subnet access, a...