Cyberdefense Skills Shortage Identified

Network-security and disaster-recovery expertise in short supply, survey says
The demand for expertise in network security, disaster recovery, and other cyberdefense skills has never been higher. At a time when the federal government is considering legislation to prevent cyberterrorism, there's a severe shortage of IT workers with knowledge and experience in those crucial areas.

Those are the conclusions of a study from Brainbench Inc., an online IT skills-testing and-certification company that analyzed 4.5 million online tests and certifications taken on its Web site by 1.2 million individuals during the past 12 months. According to its Cyber Defense IQ Report, the biggest shortage appears to be in disaster recovery and planning; only 111 professionals are certified with that expertise. "With disaster recovery, everyone thinks someone else is doing it," says Mike Russiello, Brainbench's president and CEO.

There are also shortages of professionals skilled in network-security and WAN technologies, with 211 and 640 certifications, respectively. Internet security (4,098) and TCP/IP administration (4,258) jobs are more popular, he says, because they pay better. One reason there are so few disaster-recovery, network-security, and WAN experts, Russiello says, is that those skills haven't been in great demand, and thus there's no monetary incentive to be certified and trained.

Analysts agree. "Previously, security was an area of underinvestment," says Gartner research director Barbara Gomolski. "Now, it's on the radar screen of top executives."

Several companies have contacted Gartner in the last few months to flesh out job descriptions for newly created security positions, Gomolski says. "Companies had the basics covered, with security folks at the systems level, but no one with the big picture," she says. "Security is a priority right now."

Businesses looking for workers with those skills should start near San Francisco, Brainbench says. The San Francisco Bay area, including Silicon Valley, is home to more than 671 cybersecurity experts, the largest number in nine metropolitan areas surveyed, according to the study. The Washington-Baltimore region, with 583 certified experts, is second, followed by Los Angeles (479), the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area (469), and Chicago (404).