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Demand for IT Security Experts Outstrips Supply

IT security professionals are in high demand, especially those with certifications, and security salaries are on the rise. But a shortage of talent leaves companies struggling to get their hands around breaches.

Demand for security professionals is growing at almost four times the pace of other roles in IT, and has consistently outstripped the supply of experts, according to new report.

During the past five years, the number of job postings for IT security positions went up 73%, according to a study conducted by Burning Glass Technologies, which develops job-search and resume-parsing software. By contrast, the study showed that job postings for general IT positions went up just 20% in the same time period.

Other data also point to a strong demand for infosec professionals. Security topped the list for planned staff increases, edging out other hot IT areas including application development and data analytics, according to InformationWeek Reports' 2012 State of IT Staffing survey. More than 1,300 business technology professionals responded to the survey.

There are approximately 67,000 cyber security jobs in the U.S., 50,000 of which require a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, according to public statements by Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies.

During the past two years, the number of jobs posted that require CISSPs rose from 19,000 to more than 29,000, a pace the industry can't possibly match, Sigelman said.

CISSP certification requires a minimum of five years of active security work in one of 10 specific security disciplines, according to ISC 2, Inc., which administers the certification.

According to InformationWeek Reports, 57% of respondents hiring in the security area say certifications are important factors in evaluating candidates for IT security jobs.

chart: Salary Trend

The shortage of security professionals may be driving up salaries. According to InformationWeek Reports' 2012 IT Salary Survey of the security sector, the median annual base salary for IT security staff rose from $90,000 in 2011 to $97,000 in 2012; security managers saw a jump to $115,000 in 2012, vs. $110,000 in 2011.

Shortage Strains

The shortage is putting a strain on the rest of the IT staff in many organizations and keeping managers busy hunting for qualified candidates, the Burning Glass report stated.

It is also distracting managers with the constant need to find and recruit new job candidates.

In a keynote at the RSA security conference in San Francisco last month, Dept. of Homeland Security Deputy Undersecretary Mark Weatherford admitted raiding other federal agencies to help fill openings at DHS.

He also warned there are not enough people in the educational pipeline even to fill current demand, let alone the numbers of security pros DHS and other organizations will require in a few years.

"Cultivating the next generation of security professionals is critical to our economic viability and the future of our country," Weatherford said during the speech.

Among the highest costs of the security skills shortage is that existing security staffs don't have the time to evaluate or learn the best tools to do their jobs or get the training to stay up to date, said a Ponemon Institute study released at the RSA conference in San Francisco last month.

Malicious data breaches have increased 54% during the past two years, exacerbating a threat IT isn't staffed or well-equipped enough to deal with, the report said. It takes an average of 80 days for a victimized company to discover a malicious breach and another four months to resolve it, the Ponemon survey found.

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Worse, a third of all malicious data breaches are reported by third-party companies, meaning the victimized companies don't detect the breaches at all.

Some of the poor response comes from managers that don't really understand where the threats are coming from or how serious they are, the Ponemon report said. The result is that many security pros spend a significant amount of time working on compliance rather than security, and even more time doing things like reminding users to change passwords rather than countering threats from outside.

"Organizations are facing a growing flood of increasingly malicious data breaches, and they don't have the tools, staff or resources to discover and resolve them," according to Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute.

Rather than trying to harden the perimeter of a network and running around the building to solve security mini-crises, security staffs have to get ahead of the attackers with more effective penetration-identification, data-protection tools, and training to help end users avoid spear phishing and social-engineering attacks, Ponemon said.

Doing that, however, means hiring more people to put out fires, more people to build or run protection and monitoring tools, and more people to use the advanced analytics that can identify discrepancies that may indicate an attack is underway. But demand for those bodies is increasing, and the supply is so short that even senior Homeland Security officials say the best way to find good security people is to steal them. That makes for a tough market for companies looking to hire security pros.

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