Security Skills Shortage Creates Opportunities For Enterprises, Professionals

Security pros look to cash in on heavy demand for skills; enterprises need to cast a wider net, experts say



PHILADELPHIA, PENN. -- (ISC)2 World Congress 2012 and ASIS International 2012 -- A growing shortage in security staffing and skills is creating a seller's market for security professionals -- and could drive new thinking in hiring, experts say.

Here at the Career Pavilion at the co-resident annual conferences of two of the world's largest security professionals' associations, job hunters are finding a target-rich environment for workers with advanced skills. The industry will need to add nearly 2 million jobs during the next three years in order to keep up with demand, according to industry figures.

The growing gap between supply and demand is creating problems for many enterprises and may cause some to cast a wider net in search of talent, speakers at the event say.

"As more advanced technology is deployed -- technologies like cloud and bring-your-own device -- there's a demand not only for more skills, but for different kinds of skills," says Hord Tipton, executive director of (ISC)2. "Once you get your arms around one thing, there's something else you need to be ready for."

"There aren't enough good people out there," says Brent Conran, CSO of McAfee, who previously served as CIO for the U.S. House of Representatives. "In a lot of cases, you're in a position where you have to take a kid out of college and get them ramped up very quickly."

In its 2011 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, Frost & Sullivan researchers projected that there will be 4.24 million security professionals in the global workforce by 2015. The current figure is approximately 2.6 million.

The "skills gap" is being driven by a variety of factors, including increasing volume and sophistication of attacks, greater compliance requirements, and a shortage of professional training, experts say. While the global security workforce has grown by an estimated more than 600,000 in the past two years, there still are more positions open than there are trained people to fill them, experts say.

Many companies are still struggling with how to hire security professionals, Tipton observes. "It often falls to human resources people, but they don't always know what questions to ask," he observes. "They need to understand what tools that the candidate has used, what specialized areas they have experience in, and what certifications they have. Hiring security people is not always an easy process."

Other speakers at the conference took that idea one step further.

"The problem is not that we have a shortage of security people -- the problem is that the people who do the hiring are too binary in their thinking," says Winn Schwartau, chairman of MAD Security, who gave a presentation on security hiring practices at the conference on Monday.

Schwartau suggested that companies are too reliant on finding employees who have degrees and certifications, fit a certain age bracket, or even a certain type of hair and dress code.

"All people are not created equal," Schwartau. "Security is a creative pursuit, whether it's on the offensive side or on the defensive side, and it's not always done by people who work 9 to 5. It's not about fitting in, but the CEOs and the lawyers and the HR people make it that way."

For now, however, organizations are looking for ways to differentiate between candidates who know their craft and those who don't -- and certification is one way to do that, Tipton observes. Companies requiring a certification such as CISSP are up 34 percent this year, he says, and the average CISSP-certified employee makes an average of $97,000 a year, about $20,000 more than noncertified professionals.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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