Government Security Analysts Submerged with Threats

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The government is relying on a “skeleton staff” of security analysts to root out and respond to online threats, according to a new FoI request.

SIEM specialist Huntsman Security wanted to find out the level of preparedness within government to tackle serious cyber-attacks. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) claimed in April to have responded to more than 800 “significant incidents” since October 2016.

Unfortunately, the FoI requests revealed that many agencies appear under-resourced. The Scottish Prison Service and Scottish Public Pensions Agency said they have no full-time security analysts, while the Northern Ireland Assembly has just two.

Several other departments reported no increase in staff numbers over the past few years.

Huntsman Security argued that the lack of skilled analysts on the frontline could expose the government to the risk of successful attacks or employee burn out.

“As organizations come under great cyber-pressure from adversaries and their analysts become more and more stretched, the risk of a spiraling increase of successful attacks is likely,” said Piers Wilson, head of product management. “The consequences of a successful breach of government and other organizations are severe so they need to limit any likely deficiencies in their cybersecurity protection by better supporting the analysts that protect them.”

However, he acknowledged that skills shortages are a global problem, with predictions of a shortfall in skilled professionals of 1.8 million by 2022.

Government departments must invest now in managed services and machine learning/automation to relieve these skills gaps, as the cost of dealing with a serious attack is likely to exceed any initial outlay now, the firm argued.

The news comes at a time of heightened pressure on the UK’s critical infrastructure and government networks, as state-sponsored actors — particularly from Russia — step up their efforts to disrupt and eavesdrop.

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