(ISC)2: Security pros need to get better at application security

There is also a skills gap that needs to be addressed by government and businesses

(ISC)2, the world's largest not-for-profit information security professional body, has conducted its annual survey of more than 12,000 security pros across the globe and found that although many rank software vulnerabilities as a top concern, not many have the skills to deal with application protection.

The study found that almost half of security organisations are not involved in software development, and security is not amongst the most important factors when considering an outsourcing provider for software development, yet 69 percent reported application vulnerabilities as their top concern.

Computerworld UK spoke to Richard Nealon, Co-chairman of the (ISC)2 EMEA Advisory Board, who said that there is a requirement and an opportunity for security professionals to become experts in protecting software.

"There is a huge gap that seems to exist between information security professionals and software professionals. There's a disconnect there. We see software vulnerabilities as the key issue, but we are not getting involved with it as a profession," said Nealon.

"We are seeing a high number of incidents that have software vulnerabilities as a core component, but we don't have the training to go in and get more involved in the development lifecycle. There is a huge opportunity for security professionals in the industry to get more involved."

He added: "Mostly what we get involved with at the moment is setting the requirements for the software, and that's pretty much it. Most of us don't see it as our bread and butter, as our focus is traditionally governance and risk management. We have very few professionals that are primarily involved in developing secure software."

Nealon also pointed to the study's conclusion that there is a significant skills gap, with 56 percent of organisations claiming that their security team is short-staffed. The main impact of this, according to (ISC)2 is that companies are not able to effectively remediate from an attack.

Some 15 percent of organisations are not able to put a timeframe on their ability to recover from an attack, despite downtime being one of the highest priorities for nearly three-quarters of respondents. Also, twice the percentage of respondents in the 2013 survey believer their readiness has worsened in the past year.

"The main impact of the shortage is our ability to respond to incidents. We don't rate our ability to respond very highly at all. We are overstretched, understaffed and don't have enough budget allocated to us," said Nealon.

Nealon believes that more needs to be done to address the skills shortage, as well as a gender gap that is occurring within the profession, with the number of male security professionals dominating the industry.

"Businesses, government and academia need to acknowledge the skills gap that we have talked about and try and bridge it. I think businesses have a responsibility to offer a career path for security professionals - they need to acknowledge it as a valid profession. Some businesses don't," he said.

"In a lot of businesses the IT manager is also the security manager, and then there is a conflict between getting stuff out on time, and getting it out securely."

He added: "The thing that really bothers me is the gender gap - it seems to be getting worse and worse. Overall, we are seeing that 89 percent of the information security professionals are male - that grows to 93 percent in the UK. It's not only about attracting new people to the industry, it's about attracting new women to the industry."

Furthermore, some 78 percent of respondents said that bring your own device (BYOD) technology is a significant security risk, and 74 percent reported that new security skills are required to meet the BYOD challenge.

The study also found that hactivism (43 percent), cyber terrorism (44 percent), and hacking (56 percent) are among the other top security risks for companies globally.

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