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Under Growing Pressure, Security Pros May Be Ready To Crack, Study Says

Faced with securing personal devices and a growing base of threats, security pros feel overwhelmed, (ISC)2 survey reports
Faced with an attack surface that seems to be growing at an overwhelming rate, many security professionals are beginning to wonder whether their jobs are too much for them, according to a study published last week.

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 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."

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

As of 2010, Frost & Sullivan estimates that there are 2.28 million information security professionals worldwide. Demand for professionals is expected to increase to nearly 4.2 million by 2015, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.2 percent.

Application vulnerabilities ranked as the No. 1 threat to organizations among 72 percent of respondents, while only 20 percent said they are involved in secure software development.

Nearly 70 percent 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. 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 of respondents reported having private clouds in place, while more than 70 percent reported the need for new skills to properly secure cloud-based technologies.

Most security pros aren't ready for social media threats. Respondents reported inconsistent policies and protection for end users visiting social media sites, and nearly 30 percent had no social media security policies whatsoever.

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 organizations shift data to cloud-based services, the study says.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents don't expect to see any increase in budget for information security personnel and training in 2011. Salaries showed healthy growth, with three out of five respondents reported receiving a salary increase in 2010.

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