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Securing the cloud in the face of skills shortages

06 Jun 2018

According a new report from McAfee, the rush to the cloud in Australia has slowed down, with organisations turning away from utilising a cloud-first strategy due to ongoing IT skills shortages. Over half (53 per cent) of those organisations surveyed claim this skills gap has slowed adoption rates. This is significantly higher compared to some international counterparts where only 30 per cent of IT leaders in the UK and 41 per cent in the US have indicated the skills shortage is a barrier to greater cloud adoption.

In addition to skills shortage issues hindering further cloud adoption, Australian organisations continue to be concerned about data stored in the cloud, with McAfee’s cloud adoption and security report finding that Australian IT leaders (57 per cent) are more likely to be concerned about the theft of data hosted in cloud infrastructure by a malicious actor than their global counterparts (42%).

Moreover, as the skills gap continues to present cybersecurity challenges, and the threat landscape grows by the day, it has become clear that the only way to adequately protect a business is by making cybersecurity an organisational habit. Organisations need to think of their security strategy in terms of risk, governance (those responsible for compliance), people, processes and technology. 

Compliance doesn’t start and end with the IT department. It involves a cross-departmental company-wide effort to ensure the right policies and procedures are not only in place, but are followed by all employees. It’s no longer good enough to just have security systems in place - making people part of the solution and not the problem goes a long way in developing a culture of security and privacy by design.

Why gamers make great candidates

If people are part of the solution, how do organisations fill the skills gap? Winning The Game, a recent report from McAfee, found IT leaders are increasingly turning to gamers to plug the cybersecurity skills gap. More than three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents say the current generation entering the workforce, who have been raised playing video games, are stronger candidates for cybersecurity roles than traditional hires.

Seventy-two percent of respondents say hiring experienced video gamers into the IT department seems like a good way to plug the cybersecurity skills gap, and three-quarters of senior managers say they would consider hiring a gamer even if that person had no specific cybersecurity training or experience.

This willingness to hire gamers is likely because they often possess many of the skills required of cybersecurity professionals, including logic, perseverance, and an understanding of how to approach adversaries. With a shortage of skills necessary to tackle the immediate cybersecurity threats, especially in the cloud, companies need to start looking beyond the traditional methods of hiring cybersecurity talent.

How automation can fill the skills gap   

The agility and speed required to operate in the cloud makes security extremely challenging without sufficient automation and integration of security capabilities. For example, cloud environments often suffer from a lack of visibility. Integrating as many aspects of security in cloud environments as possible, increases visibility and the likelihood that the organisation will be able to respond to cloud-related cyber incidents in a timely manner.

Cloud environments typically use a "shared security model" where the service provider is responsible for certain aspects of security while the organisation using the services is responsible for the remainder. Integration of security capabilities helps to ensure more complete coverage across all aspects of one's cloud environment, particularly when trying to tie the capabilities provided by the service provider with the organisation’s security solutions.

Moreover, increasing the number of manual tasks required to keep cloud infrastructure and workloads secure, increases the likelihood that "secure by design" principles, policies and processes are ignored. This can be addressed by deploying automated and integrated security from the start, thus ensuring security processes are catered for in the DevOps lifecycle. This allows application designers and developers to focus more on application usability and code quality, which enhances the user experience.

For security to be a business enabler in cloud environments, it is important to ensure risk-based decisions can be made instead of preventing user actions by default due to a lack of information and context. Integration is the key to increasing the amount of contextual information available to make risk-based decisions and reduce the friction that can sometimes be caused by security measures.

Addressing the complete cybersecurity needs of a business isn’t going to happen without ensuring access to the necessary human talent and machine automation.  In order to combat Australia’s cloud security concerns, IT leaders need to start thinking outside the box when hiring talent, while shifting attitudes towards securing organisations, and re-assessing their approach to infrastructure. 

Article by McAfee APAC chief technology officer Ian Yip.

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