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Leveraging the internal IT skills for cybersecurity, how to do it right

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Building a strong security team is a priority for all enterprises today. With frequent and complex cyberattacks happening today, organizations have opted to pitch into internal IT skills. Their effort aims to form security teams to identify and remediate security threats. Indeed, the IT role grants employees fundamentals such as coding and networking. IT personnel are also good at administering and configuring systems, and database management. All these skills are essential in cybersecurity initiatives. 

Essentially, the scope of work in IT and cybersecurity is different. But the two teams are often intertwined in organizations. An IT team manages and plans systems, networks, infrastructure, storage equipment, and applications. They also develop strategies to meet the organization’s IT needs. Conversely, cybersecurity teams focus on protecting information systems. They also aim at enhancing resiliency to internal and external cyber threats. Beyond mitigating risks, security professionals also foster a culture of cyber awareness. This initiative aims to enhance employee’s responsiveness towards security threats.

Can organizations leverage internal IT skills for cybersecurity? Why is it necessary, and how can enterprises do it right?

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Understaffed Cybersecurity Teams 

The current COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption has primarily affected the cybersecurity workforce. This is according to a survey report from ISACA and HCL Technologies.  Cyberspace has also been grappling with hiring and retention challenges over the years.  

ISACA study reveals 53 percent of information security professionals had difficulties retaining talent. Sixty-one percent revealed that their cybersecurity teams are understaffed. Another 55 percent of businesses say they have unfilled cybersecurity positions.

Fortunately, there is no one true path to transitioning to a security career. People manifestly become security experts from all angles. The best choice, however, would be IT professionals with knowledge of the information systems they are protecting.

Benefits of Leveraging Internal IT Teams for Security 

  1. Turn Insiders to Security Experts 

Training internal IT personnel can be a good call. But, this approach works if organizations provide proper training.  The training should occur before entrusting the IT team with cybersecurity roles.

Indeed, turning competent IT insiders into cybersecurity roles empowers them to become security professionals. Such employees know the organization and understand its capabilities, information assets, and vulnerabilities. “When you hire from the outside, it can be hard to get someone who wants to hit the ground running in the best interest of the company,”  explains Jim Habeeb, IT Director for Boston-based MathWorks.   Most new candidates do what they already know or are familiar with doing. 

  1. Introduce Different Backgrounds and Perspectives to Security Teams 

Besides that, leveraging internal skills for cybersecurity provides professionals with different backgrounds. Alongside that, new personnel introduce fresh perspectives to the team. Security professionals need an in-depth understanding of the company network setup. Additionally, they must acquaint themselves with different system requirements.

In this situation, internal IT personnel are ahead of the game in cybersecurity. They have the knowledge necessary for better evaluation of security gaps. Besides, internal IT specialists can provide remediation of possible vulnerabilities in an organization.

  1. Administrative Skills Necessary in Cybersecurity 

IT professionals have collaboration and management skills in tandem with technical expertise. Inhouse employees have proved themselves able to work in ad hoc groups.  Their IT roles have exposed them to extra administrative skills. For instance, they are proficient at developing and presenting reports to other stakeholders. Such skills are essential in security teams’ ability to address possible issues. They need to communicate with C-level executives. Also, security teams must develop programs that better fit the company’s needs and capabilities.  

  1. Overcome Challenges of Hiring Security Experts 

Undoubtedly, highly skilled cybersecurity experts need a premium salary. It is arduous to find and hire a security professional due to stiff competition in the skills market. Essentially, the demand for skilled security professionals remains one of the biggest challenges facing the industry today. The cybersecurity talent crunch has 3.5 million unfilled jobs globally by the end of this year.

Not only that, many security educational programs lack trained tutors. This makes it difficult to impart hands-on, technical skills that are most sought-after by employers. 

Internal IT skills for cybersecurity

How to do it Right 

  1. Conduct Skills Gap Analysis 

It would be helpful if organizations could canvas the background and interests of internal IT personnel. This process identifies the proper passions and knowledge required in the cybersecurity role. Conducting a skills gap analysis in this context can generate insights into the IT team’s cybersecurity knowledge capabilities. What’s more, the process aids in identifying the best approach for cybersecurity-related training. 

  1. Training  

Soft skills, security controls, and software development are the top three skills gaps organizations see in candidates. In effect, enterprises are resorting to training non-security personnel. They target particularly those employees interested in moving to security roles. Organizations can use reskilling programs and performance-based training. Such efforts build the hands-on skills that IT teams need to perform cybersecurity tasks.

Regardless of the roles the new IT security team covers, specific skills are essential across the board. Overall understanding of practical aspects of cyber threats is imperative. The knowledge helps detect and respond to cyberattacks vigorously. Everyone involved in security roles within the organization requires network attack techniques training.  Other relevant skills include web application security, mobile attack tactics and malware. It would also help to understand advanced persistent threat methods.

With the high degree of specialization required in cybersecurity, no single training can make the IT personnel a security expert. For this reason, organizations should define training paths. Such programs can feature a series of time-tested training programs. Overall, proper training paths enhance the team’s security capabilities.  

  1. Defining Essential Security Roles 

Organizations should define team roles on top of training internal IT personnel. In this case, the new security team will clearly understand their responsibilities. Enterprises can then match the roles with proper training. Even without separation of roles, it would help if the security department understood various security tasks and specializations. Examples include security engineering, proactive red teaming, blue team roles, and security management.

  1. Complement Internal Team with Automation and Managed Services 

Other than training and defining team roles, enterprises can rely on AI/automation in security. Organizations can adopt a tailored and automated action plan. They can achieve this by setting goals for cyber hygiene, compliance, and due diligence.

Organizations can balance internal IT skills with managed services from key vendors. This strategy actively protects their environments from cyberattacks. Cybersecurity vendors like Cynergy empower IT and enable them to elevate the organization’s cybersecurity.  Cynergy provides solutions for ongoing and dedicated monitoring of all externally exposed assets. The security expert makes the internal IT security team’s work easier. Security employees can use automation to navigate through enormous data alerts. This process helps discover obscure threats that companies need to investigate or remediate.

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