By the numbers, most estimates indicate that the IT security industry is in the throes of a major talent crunch. But the reality on the ground is much more layered, involving questions of exactly what the critical skills deficits are, where to look for talent, and how to define the essential qualifications for membership in a 21st century security operations center team.
In recent weeks, our Dark Reading blogs and message boards have been filled with a range of thoughtful opinions reflecting the complexity of the issue. Rick Howard, CSO, at Palo Alto Networks, argued in The Right Stuff: Staffing Your Corporate SOC that passion, experience, and communication skills trump certifications and degrees. If candidates are "not playing with a Linux box at home, they are not qualified," he wrote, adding that, "they have to have a basic understanding of computer science, a passion for the craft, and an ability to explain what they know to anybody who will listen."
On the other end of the spectrum is community member Gurgle, who complained about the "skill set shallowness" of security professionals seeking a place in his company's security team. "Most [candidates] have network, anti-malware or sysadmin security skills," he wrote. "But when looking for higher level skill sets of AppSec, PKI, Incident Response, ISO2700x, etc. we have [seen a] consistent lack of skills in ANY of the candidates."
For entry-level jobs, the issues are even more complex. There is little dispute that an educational background in STEM is an important baseline. But for some -- like security consultant Tim McCreight, former CISO for the Province of Alberta -- there are also advantage to thinking outside the box. McCreight says he recently gambled on a young security guard working towards a certification in analytics and hired her as a summer intern. "She came in with a fresh perspective and looked at the data we were collecting from a new angle," he wrote. "She uncovered some very interesting patterns that lead to threats being blocked and some potential APT activity discovered in our network."
Then there's the experience of KevinK, a veteran IT pro "on the fringes of IT security and networking" who has hit a brick wall trying to break into the security field, despite all the hoopla about the purported skills shortage. "I have the desire, interest and passion to move into the IT security world. I have been a software developer, tester, systems analyst and business analyst. As far as I'm concerned, I just need some solid training and some certifications, which I'm working on."
With that as a backdrop, let’s take a closer look into the posture of your company’s SOC staff. Tell us which of the following statements in our new poll, State of IT Security, rings most true. Your choices are:
- We don’t have enough skills and it is very hard to find qualified people.
- We have enough staff but are struggling to train them on the latest skills.
- We don’t have enough skills or enough budget to hire the right people.
- We are staffing up and are finding lots of good candidates.
- We have enough staff and skills and are not hiring at this time.
- I’m too underwater to answer this question.
Click here to take the poll, then flesh out the details in the comments.