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). 
12 Free, Ready-to-Use Security Tools
Steve Zurier, Freelance Writer,  10/12/2018
Most IT Security Pros Want to Change Jobs
Dark Reading Staff 10/12/2018
Most Malware Arrives Via Email
Dark Reading Staff 10/11/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Surviving the IT Security Skills Shortage
Surviving the IT Security Skills Shortage
Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand -- and short supply. Find out what Dark Reading discovered during their 2017 Security Staffing Survey and get some strategies for getting through the drought. Download the report today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-18361
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
An issue was discovered in nc-cms through 2017-03-10. index.php?action=edit_html allows XSS via the name parameter, as demonstrated by a value beginning with home_content and containing a crafted SRC attribute of an IMG element.
CVE-2018-1744
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, and 3.0 could allow a remote attacker to traverse directories on the system. An attacker could send a specially-crafted URL request containing "dot dot" sequences (/../) to view arbitrary files on the system. IBM X-Force ID: 148423.
CVE-2018-1747
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, and 3.0 is vulnerable to a XML External Entity Injection (XXE) attack when processing XML data. A remote attacker could exploit this vulnerability to expose sensitive information or consume memory resources. IBM X-Force ID: 148428.
CVE-2018-18324
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
CentOS-WebPanel.com (aka CWP) CentOS Web Panel 0.9.8.480 has XSS via the admin/fileManager2.php fm_current_dir parameter, or the admin/index.php module, service_start, service_fullstatus, service_restart, service_stop, or file (within the file_editor) parameter.
CVE-2018-18322
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-15
CentOS-WebPanel.com (aka CWP) CentOS Web Panel 0.9.8.480 has Command Injection via shell metacharacters in the admin/index.php service_start, service_restart, service_fullstatus, or service_stop parameter.