How UK Businesses Can Cope with the Shortage of Cybersecurity Skills

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A recent report from the Institute of Engineering and Technology revealed that cybersecurity is among the most promising UK industries, but its growth could be hampered by a lack of skills and the inability of businesses to embed technology innovation.

These comments were echoed by research from a leading IT recruitment consultancy in November which claimed that the UK desperately needs 200,000 IT security specialists to counter cyber-threats. This is not surprising given that security incidents are continuing to increase, with the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of detected breaches globally showing a steady increase of 66% year on year since 2009 (Source: PWC survey, Nov 2014).

The skills shortage in the UK and other European economies could drive the increase in cybercrime even further, creating significant risks for citizens and organizations. Moreover, this phenomenon can prevent European countries from making the most of the digitalization of services required to drive innovation and meet the emerging demands of millennial customers. To put the scale of this problem in perspective, try feeling that one pound coin in your pocket. Figuratively speaking, you would need a stack of them 2000 miles high to cover annual losses due to data breaches. Imagine the international space station crashing into that stack before you got even 1/10th that high!

Training and recruiting skilled security workers requires a significant investment of time and resources, including policies that encourage young talent to get into the IT security field and education and training programs that raise awareness among young people about the need for these skills. Steps have been taken in this direction through numerous government initiatives, such as educational reforms which include software coding in the national curriculum and industry partnerships for co-operation and innovation in the IT security field.

However, it will take years before businesses can reap the rewards of all these initiatives, which puts enterprises in a disadvantaged position as cyber-criminals are moving at a much faster pace. Technology can help by supporting IT staff in driving compliance and best security practices across the organization. Of course, technology improvements should be accompanied by training and enhancing the IT skills of existing employees, but what is equally important is integrating technology into these processes and simplifying security and compliance management.

This is where Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions can help businesses establish stricter controls for data access and governance, while improving their understanding of security risk. This is a key requirement for effectively battling cybercrime, as one of the key reasons for the failure of existing security efforts is the lack of proper understanding of security risk.

Today’s CISOs are faced with the challenge of securing millions of access points across multiple users, devices and environments. This complexity creates a lot of vulnerabilities which can potentially expose a business to security risks.

To combat these threats, organizations need effective mechanisms that allow them to monitor how sensitive data is being accessed and used. This could be achieved with real time access intelligence systems that monitor and analyze multiple access risk factors as they are changing. Translating this real time data into visual representations of access risk is key to understanding where the greatest security vulnerabilities lie and what is causing them.

This approach can help CISOs and IT managers prioritize their security budgets more effectively and allocate resources where they are most needed. Moreover, the ability to monitor how sensitive data is being accessed and used in real time allows IT managers to detect unusual behaviour quickly and take appropriate measures to reduce risk.

Another area where IAM can play a key role is automatically enforcing security policies and standards and driving the best compliance practices across the organization. This is where IAM provides effective mechanisms for automating password provisioning and access privileges in accordance with security policies and compliance standards. For instance, IT managers can automatically change, disable or delete inappropriate access rights and demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations or business policies. This significantly minimizes the need for using a lot of manpower to drive better security standards across the organization without compromising on security.

While organizations should and must train people to help cope with the growing number of security threats, it is also important to leverage intelligent tools to automate security and assurance tasks to improve speed, accuracy and efficiency. A fundamental step in this direction is to continuously mine for and eradicate excessive access. Excessive access comes in many forms like privileged, orphaned and abandoned accounts that are consistently leveraged by adversaries. Managing these down will reduce the complexity of the threat surface, while easing the administrative overhead.

About the Author

Chris Sullivan is VP of Advanced Solutions at Courion, and is responsible for developing and bringing new products and solutions to market. Before joining Courion, Chris was president and co-founder of ISOLX, Inc, a systems integration services provider. Earlier in his career, Chris held management roles in R&D, engineering and product management at Samsung, Schlumberger, IBM and Digital Equipment Corporation. He is a frequent speaker at industry events including the European Identity Conference. 

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