Security Departments Stretched Too Thin, Firefighting


Posted by George Hulme, Feb 24, 2011 12:31 PM

While application vulnerabilities, mobile computing, and malware top the list of IT security vulnerabilities and threats, a just released survey from ISC2 and Frost & Sullivan reveals an underlying, more systemic threat.
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The 2011 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS) shows what many might suspect when looking at the state of information security: cloud computing, mobile devices, and shoddily written software are all pressing risks. No big shocker here.

However, the survey showed that security professionals are spending an incredible amount of time on issues peripheral to keeping their systems secure, such as researching new technologies (49 percent), internal politics (46 percent), and meeting regulatory compliance (45 percent) topped out the top three. The next batch of activities included developing polices, auditing IT security compliance levels, and implementing new technologies.

This paints a picture of an industry playing security catch-up with new technologies and services, such as cloud computing and social networking ā€“ and struggling to bolt security onto these systems after they’ve been adopted. It also hints at the damage regulatory compliance has done to the security profession as security teams are ensuring that their systems are secured to a level that won’t illicit government fines or industry sanctions ā€“ but not necessarily to a level that won’t get hacked.

IT security is about security professionals trying to install the proper breaks onto a runaway train, while also ensuring that the cars and cabin are maintained to proper specifications during the crises.
This condition is taking its toll on the profession, as Tim Wilson at Dark Reading reported on the same survey in his story Under Growing Pressure, Security Pros May Be Ready To Crack, Study Says:

The (GISWS) says new threats stemming from mobile devices, the cloud, social networking, and insecure applications have led to “information security professionals being stretched thin, and like a series of small leaks in a dam, the current overworked workforce may be showing signs of strain.” “In the modern organization, end users are dictating IT priorities by bringing technology to the enterprise rather than the other way around,” said Robert Ayoub, global program director for network security at Frost & Sullivan. “Pressure to secure too much and the resulting skills gap are creating risk for organizations worldwide … They are being asked to do too much, with little time left to enhance their skills to meet the latest security threats and business demands.”

Doesn’t take too many intellectual cycles to look at the trends of the accelerating adoption of new technologies in the enterprise, coupled with little improvement in secure application design and system implementations, the focus on compliance check box rather than enterprise security to see that this is only likely to get worse.
That is, unless the IT industry starts to take long term thinking about security seriously and starts building secure applications and implementing secure systems from the beginning. And that’s about as likely as . . . Wait . . . Is that a flock of flying pigs?
For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

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