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It's the People, Stupid

After years of investing in technology, IT security departments are putting more effort - and dollars - in people and processes, study says

IT security people are shifting their attention away from technology and toward people and processes, according to a major study released today.

When asked to rank their top priorities, more than 4,000 security professionals in more than 100 different countries named two "people" issues: gaining support from management and getting users to follow security policies, researchers said. Hardware solutions and software solutions ranked at the end of the list.

"Over the past six years or so, there's been a lot of emphasis on technology buying and technology implementation, but security professionals and their companies are really beginning to see that technology is only part of the answer. There's no 'god box' that's going to solve the problem," said Allan Carey, senior research director at International Data, which conducted the study.

The Global Information Security Workforce Study, now in its third year, is sponsored annually by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, an international training and professional association for IT security workers. The research was conducted by IDC. The results were presented today at the RSA Europe conference in Nice, France and at the InfoSecurity conference in New York.

The study, which tracks hiring practices, budgets, and attitudes among security professionals, indicates that organizations are spending a greater percentage of their IT security budgets on personnel and training than in past years when more of the money went to the purchase and implementation of technology.

"Regulatory requirements such as [Sarbanes Oxley] and [the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act] are forcing organizations to take a closer look at their people and processes," Carey noted. "When you look at the big security breaches that have occurred this year, a lot of them have been caused by human error. That's where more work needs to be done."

Interestingly, however, organizations are finding it difficult to locate skilled security staff to work on the problem. While the number of security professionals increased 8.1 percent worldwide in the past year, "you can look at any jobs site and see that there are a lot of open positions out there," Carey noted. As a result, many organizations are giving more responsibility to junior-level staffers and security outsourcing organizations, the report says.

"If they can't hire somebody with the skills they need, a lot of companies are taking a junior staffer and investing in the training and certifications they need within the organization," Carey said.

"We see this as a confirmation of our strategy to build education and certification programs that can help organizations get the skills they need," said Elise Yacobellis, director of corporate development for (ISC)2.

Security professionals aren't ignoring the technology issue, however. In the study, respondents rated biometrics, wireless security, intrusion prevention, and forensics tools as high priorities.

"Biometrics rated either number one or number two across all regions, which is a relatively new trend," said Carey. "In the past, the technology has been costly and cumbersome. But now, with companies like Lenovo bundling biometrics right into the PC -- and with identity fraud becoming such a big issue -- it could be that this is a market where something's really going to happen."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • International Data Corp
  • (ISC)2
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