Over 80% of security professionals identify 'people' as the industry's biggest challenge compared to technology and processes, according to the results of the second annual survey from The Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP).
The survey also indicates that while 60% of respondents still feel that investment is not keeping pace with threat levels, there was a modest 5% increase in businesses that feel better placed to deal with a breach or incident if it happens. In real terms, spending does appear to be on the rise with 70% of companies seeing an increase in budget, up from 67% and only 7% reporting a reduction, which is down from 12% last year.
While people have long been seen as the weakest link in IT security through lack of risk awareness and good security practice, the people problem also includes the skills shortage at a technical level as well as the risk from senior business stakeholders making poor critical decisions around strategy and budgets. Interestingly, the increase in reported skills shortages contrasts with a decrease in those reporting a lack of experience being a market factor. This suggests that as the industry matures the shortage of experienced, senior managerial professionals will reduce and the problem will be felt most acutely in the hands-on technical disciplines.
"The survey highlights the continued need for industry, government, academia and professional organisations like the IISP to continue to work hard to attract new entrants and younger people into the industry," said Piers Wilson, author of the report and Director at the IISP. "This year, over 75% of respondents had a degree and over a third had a post graduate Masters Degree – an increase of over 5%, reflecting the increasing number of university programmes. While this is very encouraging, we also need to develop other routes into the industry to harness talent from diverse backgrounds."
"It is still the case that technical IT security disciplines don't always get their share of respect, yet these are the people at the front line defending systems and companies from attack and keeping one step ahead of the cyber criminals," adds Wilson.
Despite a lack of wider recognition, the security industry is increasingly lucrative and provides a strong career path for those with the right skills and abilities. Some three-quarters of respondents reported positive job and career prospects, with 28.6% earning between £50 to £75k and almost 20% on salaries over £100k.
"The challenges around hiring and retention are putting an upward pressure on salaries," says Piers Wilson. "But while money and career opportunities were cited as the most common reasons for taking and leaving jobs, other factors include variety of work, management and company culture, research and learning and autonomy."
"Many of the figures in this year's survey show a step in the right direction," says Piers Wilson, "The continuing high frequency of cases hitting the headlines and the regulatory pressures, including from GDPR, are leading to a corresponding increase in investment and a drive for increased skill, experience, education and professionalism. However, there is still a lot of work to do and we need to redouble our efforts to meet the challenge of increasingly sophisticated threats."
Along with surveying its diverse membership of over 2,500 people, this time the IISP opened the survey up to non-member security professionals. The respondents to the survey represent a wide range of ages, experience and industry sectors and so provide a very accurate picture of the state of UK businesses in terms of skills shortage issues, the state of security preparedness and risk awareness.