Skills deficit leaving IT security jobs unfilled

11 Nov 2010

Many job vacancies for experienced information security professionals are going unfilled, Ireland’s computer emergency response team has warned.

“Despite the recession, a lot of infosec roles are not being filled due to lack of talent,” said Brian Honan, head of IRISSCERT, the Irish Reporting and Information Security Service computer emergency response team. He said he is contacted regularly by firms looking for experienced information security professionals capable of putting together security programmes for their organisations.

For example, Amazon’s development centre in Dublin has several open positions for computer security personnel. Pharmaceutical and financial services companies, which are plentiful in Ireland, are just two sectors where protecting information is vital. “They’re either bringing that talent in or they’re hiring here,” said Honan.

He pointed out that one of the Government’s aims for its smart economy strategy is for Ireland to become a preferred location for data centres. “Those will need security skills,” Honan pointed out.

There are places where people can acquire the necessary expertise, he added. Some of the world’s leading IT security software companies operate threat centres in Ireland, including Symantec, Microsoft, and Trend Micro, while McAfee has a sizeable operation in Ireland. “There are vacancies, a career path and opportunities for people with the right skills,” said Honan. 

Where are the suitable candidates?

Difficulty in finding qualified staff isn’t restricted to the security sector. Other indigenous technology firms have reported vacant positions because of a lack of suitable candidates, as Siliconrepublic has reported

The problem may be in obtaining the right skills; many third-level institutes now provide courses in information security or cyber crime analysis, including UCD, the University of Limerick, Dublin City University, Queen’s University Belfast, Independent Colleges Dublin and the Open University, as well as institutes of technology at Blanchardstown, Cork, Letterkenny, Limerick and Waterford. However, Honan pointed out that many of the courses focus specifically on niche areas, such as computer forensics.

“It’s a good skill to have but it’s a very narrow skill to have. It deals with what happens after the fact. To protect individuals, the economy and critical infrastructure, we need people who can take a bigger-picture approach and who can design security policies,” he said. 

To try and address the issue, IRISSCERT’s annual cyber crime conference next week will include a jobs and education fair. The event takes place on Thursday, 18 November at the D4 Berkeley Court Hotel. It will include a keynote address by the White House cyber security co-ordinator Howard Schmidt, as well as presentations by Det Insp Paul Gillen from An Garda Siochana Computer Crime Unit, Billy Hawkes, the Data Protection Commissioner and many other industry figures. More details can be found online.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic