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6/20/2014
12:00 PM
Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas
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Flash Poll: Critical Skills Gap In Threat Intelligence

Our latest poll reflects members' concerns over how to stay on top of the latest attack trends, defenses, and technologies.

In a view from inside the security operations center, technical knowledge about forensics, threat intelligence, and malware are more critical workplace deficits than diversity, according to a recent Dark Reading online flash poll.

Our poll, which took a deep dive into the current security talent gap, asked the Dark Reading community to identify three security skills or traits that are most lacking in their SOCs. The results, depicted in the graph below, show a concern among respondents about their ability to stay on top of the latest attack trends, defenses, and technologies.

Among the top five responses, communication, in fourth place, was the only skill outside the realm of basic infosec that respondents identified from a list of 10; the list also included characteristics like professional certifications, general business experience, and workplace diversity.

What are the top three skills or qualities that are most lacking in your SOC?

It’s interesting to note that diversity (or lack thereof) came up dead last in the poll, which, to put it in a positive light, is probably a pretty accurate depiction of the composition of most information technology departments today rather than the basis for a discrimination claim or a knock on the security community’s commitment to equal opportunity.

At Google, for instance, a recently released diversity report detailing its current workplace demographics showed that among tech employees, the breakdown was 83 percent men and 60 percent white. “We’re not where we want to be,” observed Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior Vice President, People Operations. That's a sentiment that's hard to dispute.

Not surprisingly, professional certifications came up eighth on the list, which seems to me less a comment on the enduring argument over the value of a security credential than an indication that certs like CISSP are already in abundance on the resumés of Dark Reading security teams.

Respondents also gave short shrift to the idea that it’s important for security teams to have a working knowledge of their industry or experience managing vendors.

For our next poll, we are looking for input for calculating a CEO risk management report card. If you were assessing your chief exec on his or her commitment to better cyber security and lower risk, what grade would you give? The criteria:

  • Grade A: It's a top priority -- we've got all the right tools, budget, and staff
  • Grade B: We're moving in the right direction, but we lack critical tools   
  • Grade C: We're meeting the minimum compliance requirements, but barely       
  • Grade D: We're flying blind -- our tools are outdated and our team needs more support and training   
  • Grade F: Epic fail -- we're an open target for attack

Click here to grade your CEO. And, as always, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments.   

Marilyn has been covering technology for business, government, and consumer audiences for over 20 years. Prior to joining UBM, Marilyn worked for nine years as editorial director at TechTarget Inc., where she launched six Websites for IT managers and administrators supporting ... View Full Bio
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Randy Naramore
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Randy Naramore,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 2:46:36 PM
Critical Skills Gap
Informative. As I have said before this shows why it is quite an task to be at a functional level in all of these disciplines.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2014 | 3:03:02 PM
Re: Critical Skills Gap
It truly is. It's a job in and of itself just to stay current. Curious to know how much of this is self-directed and how much support you get from your company?
Randy Naramore
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Randy Naramore,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 3:53:49 PM
Re: Critical Skills Gap
I personally believe that self study is the majority of what employees get in the realm of training. Much cheaper and the class size is smaller.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 5:25:24 PM
Its up to us to fill in the gaps
It also needs to be in the priority of the Information Security professional to fill the gaps within their organization. For example, the forensics being the most lacking was true for my organization as well. However, my coworker and I sought to put this into our security initatives. He having a degree in forensics and myself having done masters work in forensics saw it necessary to develop a process which we documented and have the proper tools and protocols in place to have a successful forensics procedure. As security professionals we need to be enthiusiastic and proactive when it comes to filling in the gaps we perceive our organizations to have.
RetiredUser
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RetiredUser,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 7:35:03 PM
The Team Rules
Is it possible this partially reflects the habit of some companies to keep dropping hats on the same tech with the idea of saving money?  I would argue, especially in enterprise-scale organizations, that security is a team op, and that you couldn't expect one or two people to fill every role, from forensics examiner to systems and network auditor, or to be a perimeter protection analyst, incident handler and intrusion analyst all in one, or even jump from pen tester to reverse engineer, and then secure software programmer/auditor.  A solid security team should break the load up, with each member specializing, though able to switch hats at any given moment. 

To the point of keeping up, every security manager should be daily, if not hourly, reading sites like Dark Reading and Packet Storm, or Infosecurity and keeping tabs on exploit and malware databases, looking for trends, new tech and risks, and assigning one of the team to attack critical topics in order to learn, master and defend against them.  All this requires bodies, smart and enthusiastic ones, and the willingness to do the time, the curiosity to read on beyond the news and exploit titles, and the hacker drive to see a solution through, or to beat the opponent at their own game.
Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
6/22/2014 | 9:39:17 AM
Re: The Team Rules
To add to your point, in my experience organizations attempt to cover all areas of security with as few people as possible.  This practice forces the security professionals in those enterprises to become a jack of all trades and master of none.  

We need to do a better job of educating management of the value of security specialization.  Unlike, other areas of IT such as system administratrion or network management you cannot get away with only hiring generalists.  
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2014 | 7:40:43 AM
Re: The Team Rules -- jack of all trades
@RobertMcDougal 

You make a great point about specialization. And I suspect your experience -- wearing many security hats-- is fairly typical.  As InfoSec continues to mature and evolve along with the threat landscape, there would definitely seem to be a need for a core group of specialists within the SOC. especially in larger companies. Is anyone aware of that type of organizational structure now?
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