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Systems Security Professionals In Demand, Says (ISC)²

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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More than half of the companies surveyed said they will be hiring information security staff this year

Just seven percent of information security professionals were unemployed at any point during 2011. Globally, nearly 70 percent reported a salary increase, and 55 percent expected to receive an increase in 2012, according to the 2012 Career Impact Survey released by (ISC)², the information security professional body.

The results from (ISC)², which has over 80,000 members in more than 135 countries, are from its third survey tracking the impact of the economic climate on cyber security salaries, hiring outlook, budgets, threats and more. More than 2,250 security professionals participated.

Situations vacant

Of the respondents, 72 percent said that, in 2011, their organisation hired individuals specifically for information security roles. Additionally, a majority of respondents – 62 percent – reported they are looking to hire additional permanent or contract information security employees in 2012.

Among those hiring, 81 percent said an understanding of information security concepts is an important factor in their hiring decisions. Other top factors included directly related experience (72 percent) and technical skills (76 percent). Additionally, hiring managers identified the top skills they are looking for, including operations security (55 percent), security management practices (52 percent), access control systems/methodology (51 percent), security architecture/models (50 percent), risk management (49 percent), telecom/network security (45 percent), applications/system development security (44 percent) and cloud/virtualisation (35 percent).

“These results demonstrate that even in tough economic times, information security professionals are in high demand by hiring managers and organisations who understand that their skillsets are not only paramount to their organisation’s ability to conduct business but also give them a competitive advantage,” said W Hord Tipton, executive director of (ISC)².

“This data reflects the increase in security breaches we saw throughout 2011 and the fact that organisations, both in the public and private sector, are finally realising the importance of implementing sound security programmes that should be run by experienced and qualified professionals,” he said.

The survey also found roughly 34 percent reported an increase in new hires last year, and 51 percent plan to hire information security staff this year. Of those, 62 percent plan to hire one to two people, and 22 percent plan to hire three to four. More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents said they saw an increase in layoffs in this field, and around 30 percent of respondents expect information security budgets and equipment purchases to increase in 2012.

In addition, 56 percent of those surveyed reported increased security risks in 2011, with 38 percent attributing most of that activity to mobile devices.

“Security is an ever-changing field that requires professionals to expand constantly upon their knowledge of today’s advanced threats. Just as importantly, this field also calls for hands-on experience and the business know-how to implement robust security practices across an organisation,” Tipton added. “While it’s a very positive sign that this field continues to grow and is somewhat ‘recession-proof’, one of the biggest challenges that remains is finding enough of the right people with the appropriate security skills to fill the huge void that exists right now. We must continue to build this workforce at an aggressive pace.”

The survey was conducted from December 2011 to January 2012, with 2,256 respondents globally to gain insights into how economic conditions and security threats affected the information security profession in 2011 and to gauge the 2012 outlook.

The most common sectors represented were government at 28.9 percent, information technology at 28.5 percent, professional services at 18.2 percent, banking at 11.3 percent, and telecommunications at 9.9 percent. The majority of respondents’ organisations had over 1,000 employees.