Threat Intelligence

9/13/2017
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Why InfoSec Hiring Managers Miss the Oasis in the Desert

Despite a sharp shortage of IT security professionals, a pool of potential talent is swimming below the surface.

InfoSec hiring managers may feel they're looking across a vast desert when it's time to fill an IT security position, but the situation may not be as dire as some expect, according to a survey released today by ISC(2).

"Hiring managers want fully trained and experienced cybersecurity people doing the job. But with the shortage, what organizations and academia need to do is look at their own bench," says Wesley Simpson, chief operating officer for ISC(2).

A company's IT staff is one of the greatest resources for finding new security workers, because they are already familiar with the company, its processes, and know its technology, Simpson says.

But in ISC(2)'s 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, which includes a survey of 3,300 IT professionals, 43% of survey respondents say their companies failed to provide them with adequate security training and professional development.

Untapped Potential

Although 63% of survey respondents say their organizations face a cybersecurity shortage, only 34% of participants say their companies will cover the cost of security training. Another 30% of respondents split the education and training costs with their employer, while 34% of surveyed IT professionals are left to pay the entire cost by themselves.

The average certification class costs $2,000 at ISC(2), Simpson says. However, he notes some organizations charge as much as $10,000 for a certification class.

IT professionals are also underutilized when it comes to soliciting their opinion on security matters. Roughly a third of respondents had their security suggestions put into action, while 28% say their advice was solicited but not followed.

Companies will look to CISOs for answers because they are the ones who are accountable for security, explains Simpson. But, he adds, it is the frontline IT workers who are tasked with executing the CISO's security strategy, yet are not given the credibility that they deserve.

"Companies will sometimes look to consultants to help with vulnerability assessments, but sometimes it's these employees who know because they see it day in and day out," observes Simpson.

Crafting Solutions

Over the next 12 months, 50% of survey respondents say their organizations will likely spend the same amount on security training as in past years. However, 33% of survey respondents say they anticipate an increase in security training, according to ISC(2)'s report.

"Things can't remain status quo," Simpson says. "Status quo is actually falling behind because new vulnerabilities are being created every day by the bad guys, and our security posture has to advance to keep pace."

A recent survey by Dimensional Research found companies are filling the cybersecurity skills gap with non-security professionals.

In a survey of 315 IT security professionals, 20% of survey participants say their organizations have hired non-security experts over the past two years to fill the cybersecurity skills gap. Seventeen percent of survey respondents, meanwhile, plan to continue this practice of hiring non-cybersecurity experts over the next two years, according to the survey, which was sponsored by Tripwire.

Fifty percent of Dimensional's survey respondents say their companies plan to increase security training with existing staff as a means to offset the security skills shortage.

Steps to Transform IT Workers to InfoSec Workers

The first step in selecting potential employees for the transition to IT security is to consider their interests, says Kimberly Mahan, CEO of Maxx Potential, an IT training and outsourcing company.

"We look at (apprentice trainees) and how much they are into security. Do they go home and research it? Do they want to learn more about it? Do they enjoy problem-solving enough to push through the concepts?" Mahan says.

Once it's clear an IT worker has an interest in security, Mahan's firm runs them through hardware and software exercises, as well as a mini capture-the-flag exercise.

"They can say they want to be a security professional, but it's not good unless they understand things like software development," says Mahan.

After getting a base read on an IT worker's skill set, Mahan teams the apprentice with a technical advisor to work on security projects together to develop "real-world" experience.

"Some apprentices take three or four years to make the transition to security and others take a year," she says. "This is more of an immersion approach and it adds value as quickly as possible."

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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