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Hottest IT skill? Cybersecurity

Under a barrage of cyberattacks, U.S. companies are hiring more security engineers, analysts than ever before

By , Network World
May 03, 2012 09:55 AM ET

Network World - Embattled by hactivists, cybercriminals and foreign rivals seeking to steal proprietary information, U.S. corporations are ramping up their hiring of cybersecurity experts, with open jobs reaching an all-time high in April.

The need for cybersecurity experts spans all industries, from financial services, manufacturing and utilities to healthcare and retail. Among the major U.S. companies trying to fill cybersecurity-related positions are Boeing, Baylor Health Care System, Verisign and Office Depot.

BACKGROUND: Biggest threat to corporate nets in 2011? Hactivists, not cybercriminals 

Cybersecurity jobs also are plentiful in the U.S. federal government market. For example, the Energy Department's Idaho National Lab is seeking a senior cybersecurity researcher to support its lead nuclear research and development facility.

The number of cybersecurity-related job openings listed on the Web site for IT professionals rose significantly in April 2012 compared to a year ago. The biggest increase was for cybersecurity specialists, which rose 74% with 920 open job listings. U.S. companies also are hiring thousands of network security, information security and application security experts. 

"Every year, threats go up, so every year companies increase investment in security,'' says Tom Silver, senior vice president of North America for Dice. "On Dice, information security jobs reached an all-time high last month ... Companies want security professionals to counter breaches and also anticipate gaps, suggesting measures to fill them. Protection is key.''

Several trends are driving the demand for cybersecurity experts. Companies have increasingly complex networks, more transactions to process, and more data than ever. They're using cloud applications such as Salesforce and Taleo, which extends their need for information security outside the perimeter of their networks. Additionally, they're dealing with a flood of user-owned mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The cybersecurity skills needed three years ago compared to now "is a whole different ballgame," says Sudhir Verma, vice president of consulting services and project management at Force 3, a Crofton, Md., government contractor that is hiring several senior engineers, solutions architects and analysts for its security team.

"Three years ago, the iPad was not in play. Now we're hiring experts in our practice who understand the bring-your-own-device and consumerization trends,'' Verma says. ``Everything is in flux with the move to the cloud and mobile devices. It's no longer about managing firewalls for IT security. It's beyond that. It's about how to protect information in the enterprise in an environment that includes cloud applications and tablets.''

MORE: Identity management in the cloud emerges as hot-button issues for CIOs

All of these trends are prompting CIOs and CISOs to hire experienced security professionals to safeguard their sensitive information. They are particularly concerned about protecting intellectual property from theft by government-sponsored hackers from countries such as China.

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