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Perimeter

5/8/2009
03:12 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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Recession Opens Up Opportunities To Innovate

Information technology, and especially the area of security, is an ever-changing, dynamic field for work and research. That's one of the reasons I enjoy it so much; if I get bored with one thing, there's a dozen others I can focus on and come back to the previous thing later. But, we are in interesting times. Enterprises are cutting back IT budgets. Layoffs are happening all around us. Companies are consolidating. What does this mean to the infosec community?

Information technology, and especially the area of security, is an ever-changing, dynamic field for work and research. That's one of the reasons I enjoy it so much; if I get bored with one thing, there's a dozen others I can focus on and come back to the previous thing later. But, we are in interesting times. Enterprises are cutting back IT budgets. Layoffs are happening all around us. Companies are consolidating. What does this mean to the infosec community?As with anything, there are pros and cons. The cons are many and could be as devastating as experiencing a layoff personally and being forced to find new work. A friend who recently faced a layoff took the opportunity to use his severance and retool. He took several training classes, acquired new skills and certifications, then landed a job within about 6 weeks. His story is fortunate compared to others I've heard.

Recent studies show that security is doing better than the rest of IT but there are have definitely been cuts in budgets (see DR's "Security Suffers Cuts In Recession, But Fares Better Than The Rest Of IT"). I think the impact of these cuts on security groups provides an opportunity for innovation where it may not have occurred otherwise. The reason I say that is often companies throw money at security issues with the misconception that technology will fix a problem.

Not having the money forces companies and IT security groups to find alternatives such as using existing tools in ways not previously considered or turning to free and open source tools. Maybe that means you can save $25,000+ a year by using Metasploit Framework and other pentesting tools instead of commercial options. Or, maybe you use Spider or Find_SSN and Find_CCN for data discovery. The options are there, they just might be a little less fire-and-forget, but I think it forces you to get your hands dirty and learn more than just hitting a button and reading a report.

Similarly, groups that may have lost team members or were promised additional staff that can't be hired now are being forced to do more with less. They're having to learn to do different areas of security which means their skills will become more diversified, and while the workload may be increased and difficult, it will make them stronger and more marketable later.

And, yes, I do always look for the silver lining. Give me lemons and I'll make lemonade. In times of a recession like these where we're being accosted on so many fronts by negativity, let's turn it around and do something positive. It's time to innovate or be left behind.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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