Code Red: It's Time To Sound The Alarm On The Security Talent Shortage

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If you thought the talent shortage was bad enough in the IT industry as a whole, think again. Security experts say they are facing an even bigger talent drought, one they don't see going away anytime soon.

The IT industry is grappling with a growing gap in talent, with one estimate by predicting that by 2020 there will be only 400,000 computer science students to fill more than 1.4 million open computing jobs. Solution providers said the result has been a battle on the ground for qualified employees, a fight they expect will only get worse over time.

However, that talent gap is nothing compared to the chasm that exists in the security industry, solution providers and vendors agreed. The talent gap in security is the "No. 1 item" that comes up in conversations with partners about their business, said Todd DeBell, vice president of channel sales and distribution at security vendor FireMon, Overland Park, Kan.

[Related: Security Experts: Education, Certifications Aren't Keeping Up With The Times]

"People right now are probably at the highest demand that I've seen in my 15 to 16 years in the security space," DeBell said.

The numbers are there to back up that assertion. According to Frost & Sullivan's 2015 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, 62 percent of the study's nearly 14,000 respondents said they didn't have enough security talent, up from 56 percent in 2013. That gap will continue to grow, the study predicted, reaching 1.5 million unfilled positions in the next five years.

"It's definitely a challenge in the marketplace," said Tom Patterson, vice president of global security solutions at Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys, No. 19 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500 list. "We need to grow more security-minded people. ... The real experts in security who have been there, done that are becoming harder and harder to find."

With a limited amount of quality technical talent available to handle the onslaught of security threats facing businesses today, Jonathan Grier, principal at Grier Forensics, said the result is a scuffle for talent in the security market.

"Right now, it's hard," Grier said. "Everyone is fighting -- literally fighting -- over talent."

That will continue until the talent pool adjusts over time to meet demand, he said.

The gap has formed as threats have become more sophisticated and, as a result, security professionals have moved from practicing an exclusive "black art" to a more mature industry that is cross-pollinating with other areas of IT, Grier said. The Frost & Sullivan survey backed up his point, saying that a growing footprint for security across mobile, cloud, Internet of Things and more is driving up security budgets and causing companies to look to increase headcount, which catalyzes a supply and demand challenge across the industry.

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