Demand Grows for Network/IT Security Pros

As consumer devices move into business, professionals who understand malware and data leakage are in the greatest demand.

By Doug Bartholomew | October 2008


Although
many companies are becoming cautious when it comes to hiring during the
economic downturn, there are still niches where CIOs and IT managers
are looking for new talent. One of these is IT security, and network
security in particular.

"In fact," observes Victor
Janulaitis, chief executive of Janco Associates, an IT management
consulting firm in Park City, Utah, "we’ve seen an increasing demand
for IT security people over the last couple of years."

Watch the video.

 

Janulaitis
believes the pressure to increase IT security staff is likely to
continue, especially given the current environment, with giants such as
AIG failing and Merrill-Lynch being acquired by Bank of America. "There
will be a tremendous impact on security as these large companies face
the challenge of ensuring their business information stays proprietary
and private," he says. Even the new parent companies face added
security concerns, he adds, stemming from both the loss of the acquired
firm’s employees to and the need to ensure customer privacy as accounts
are transferred.

What’s more, the influx of new
consumer technologies into the workplace – the Apple iPhone comes to
mind, as does the boom in social networking – is increasing demand for
IT security staff.

One reason IT security
professionals have their hands full is the influx of new workers from
"Generation Y," folks who grew up with Google, cell phones,
Blackberrys, Skype, and Facebook. They’re reluctant to check these new
technologies at the door when they enter the office environment. Many
companies find employees purchase the devices themselves and put
corporate data on them, including e-mail messages with attachments
carrying corporate data.

The security challenges
posed by the rampant use of mobile devices, flash drives and social
networking sites range from data leakage and the introduction of
malware to corporate systems, to compliance concerns when employees
access corporate information from Starbucks or use Bluetooth to send
and receive instant messages while traveling.

To
meet such challenges, IT departments need to add a number IT security
skills that are only likely to become even more in-demand as time moves
on. Companies need a new cadre of IT security professionals who
understand these new technologies and can install software packages to
deal with them, or else adapt existing ones to provide the needed
security measures. 

Some solutions to help curtail
the likelihood of data leakage are secure virtual private networks
(VPNs), data-leak prevention software, and network access controls.
Other defensive measures include new technologies such as Workbook, a
secure overlay for Facebook, and systems that expand corporate
visibility into network activity and application infrastructure.

One
way to stop the use of iPods, game software, flash drives, and other
unapproved technology is to install software that monitors and limits
its use on company laptops. For example, SecureWave offers a device and
application control software suite that distributes agents to monitor
and track how modems, iPods, flash drives, and applications are used
based on rules stored in Microsoft Active Directory.

Another
solution is to install a Web security gateway to keep malware and
spyware out. The Boston Celtics installed Mi5 networks’ Webgate
security applicance, which sits between the NBA team’s corporate
firewall and network. It detects and reports spyware, both inbound and
outbound. Machines already infected are quarantined and have to be
cleaned of intrusive software by the team’s IT staff.

The
system is a big help to Celtics vice president of technology Jay
Wessel, who says his staff had been overwhelmed with requests to detect
and remove spyware from employees’ PCs. "We have a lot of machines on
the road," he notes. "Our people would bring their laptops back to the
office and the things they picked up would drag down our network."   

In
sum, IT security professionals in the greatest demand are those who
understand the threat of malware and data leakage, and who are familiar
with the technologies that can reduce the risks they pose.

Doug Bartholomew is a business writer based in Northern California.

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