IT security, once a subject of interest to a narrow group of techies and niche publications, has in the last year catapulted into mainstream media focus.
On a tide of widely covered data breaches, laptop thefts and complex malware tactics—some of which require no user intervention whatsoever—general public interest is beginning to reflect what IT pros have long known: Securing networks is a daunting task.
Those reports have also sent a bolt of fear into IT departments, many of which lack confidence that they could contain a large-scale security compromise.
Its not just about securing desktops and laptops, but securing every memory stick device, mobile technology and user that may touch and unknowingly—or worse, knowingly—infect a network.
For every office PC with a USB outlet awaiting a device connection, every remote worker who jumps on an insecure Wi-Fi network, and every piece of phishing-based e-mail enticing users to click, there is a potential security breach, virus, or resource-draining spyware program that could be lurking.
For example, Apple on Oct. 18 revealed that it mistakenly shipped a small inventory of iPods with Windows viruses.
Imagine if you had plugged one in to your system?
"While our number of overall job listings on Dice.com are up 20 percent from this time last year, theyre up 30 percent in the area of IT security," Ed ONeill, director of technical services at Dice.com, a New York-based job site for technology professionals, told eWEEK.
eWEEK spoke to a range of professionals, from those on the recruiting side to long-term security technologists, to get a sense of whats changing for the role and responsibilities of the IT security professional these days. Below, trends that stand out.
Shift from exterior to interior
Three years ago, the biggest security concern was viruses sneaking into networks. More recently, however, theres been a shift in focus to stopping data from exiting the network. Those widely covered data breaches have not just the public panicking, but IT professionals as well.
A recent study by the Elk Rapids, Mich.-based privacy management research company Ponemon Institute found that only 37 percent of IT professionals believed their company would be effective in detecting data breaches.
"Security 1.0 was all about fundamentals—firewalls [and so on]. As the market has matured, however, theres less focus around infrastructure, more about data and customer relationships," said Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yoh Services, a provider of talent and outsourcing services based in Philadelphia.
The rise of CISSP
Considered one of the premiere information security certifications, the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), a vendor-neutral certification governed by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)², has shown steady growth over the last several years.
"In any high-level security job, you need your CISSP, and youll see them often among mid- to senior-level IT security professionals. We call this a center of the circle skill set," said Matt Colarusso, national recruiting branch manager for Sapphire Technologies, a provider of IT staffing solutions in Woburn, Mass.
Yet the CISSP is not without its critics, many of whom argue that passing the exam doesnt necessarily attest to acumen in staving off threats. All the same, half of security professional job openings request these letters after a name.
"CISSP-certified professionals represented 50 percent of the openings for network security in Silicon Valley, New York and Washington, D.C., on Dice," said ONeill.