Wanted: Hands-On Cybersecurity Experience

Wanted: Hands-On Cybersecurity Experience

Organizations lament a lack of qualified job candidates as they continue to struggle to hire and retain security teams, the new ISACA State of Cybersecurity 2020 report shows.

RSA CONFERENCE 2020 – San Francisco – Nearly 80% of organizations say will need even more technical security staff – security engineers, security architects, analysts, incident responders, forensic analysts, for instance – in the next 12 months, according to new data from ISACA.

The data comes from a survey of mostly ISACA members as well as other organizations, more than half of whom say their security teams today are understaffed. Most are not satisfied with the qualifications of the job applicants they get: some 73% cite hands-on security experience as a key job qualification, followed by security credentials (35%), and hands-on training (25%). The study is based on data gathered from more than 2,000 respondents from more than 100 countries.

Greg Touhill, ISACA board director and president of Cyxtera Federal Group, says the evolution of security’s defense-in-depth technology has helped lead to this conundrum: “We invested in a strategy of defense-in-depth, so we added another layer upon another layer, and all of these layers cost tremendous amounts of manpower – and [require] a lot of highly skilled” talent for each tool and platform that get added to those layers, he explains.

Interestingly, non-security skills are also high on employers’ list: one-third of the respondents cite one of the main gaps they see in job candidates are soft skills – aka non-technical proficiencies such as communication, social, and leadership qualities – followed by IT knowledge and experience (30%).

ISACA Director Pam Nigro, who is also the senior director of information security in the GRC practice at Heath Care Service Corporation (HCSC), says even traditional security professionals need to be able to communicate what a vulnerability they found, for example, actually means risk-wise to the organization. “Leadership’s eyes are going to glaze over” if you can’t clearly articulate what that security flaw could mean for the organization, she says.

Nigro says HCSC runs a six-month rotation program for it security teams to help hone and expand skills. Red, blue, and purple teams, vulnerability scanning and firewall staff rotate into different teams to help brush up on skills or learn new ones. So red teamers can join the blue team to better understand how to defend against attacks they typically perform, and blue teams can sit in the red team seat and think like an attacker. “When you broaden horizons, you start to look at all the things that go into cybersecurity, and you start to be able to do really good critical thinking,” Nigro says.

Meantime, organizations need to be more realistic about the qualifications they expect candidates to have for security positions, notes Touhill. “This drives a greater need for a workforce development plan … and synchronization with the human resources folks” in the recruitment process, he says.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise … View Full Bio

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