In the last year or two there has been considerable discussion centered around the lack of trained, experienced IT security personnel able to handle the growing needs that companies face as technologies and cyber threats evolve and grow.

As part of Cyber Security Awareness Month, this week has focused on building the next generation of cyber professionals. While the industry works to encourage education and increase the supply of qualified professionals in coming years, this may not help your company if you are struggling with gaps and unfilled positions today.

Several Federal agencies and the military have set aggressive goals for increased IT security funding and staffing. In 2015, they face the same challenges that many other private industries face to find enough qualified cybersecurity professionals to reach their goals.

In HIMSS’ annual survey of 300 IT professionals representing major healthcare organizations throughout the United States, the majority of respondents reported the lack of appropriate security personnel to be their greatest concern. Outranking even lack of funding and the pace of new and emerging threats, the cybersecurity skills shortage was dubbed their greatest barrier to better security in 2015.

An understaffed IT team can leave a company open to obvious risk. While universities graduate new degree-holders, such candidates often lack real world skills and their learning and availability have been unable to keep pace with growing demand. Experienced IT professionals are in high demand and often find companies willing to compete for their services. This is not a new challenge for IT staffing. But in security, when a position stands open, an employee does double duty, or a seasoned employee is stolen away, the company is subject to cyber-attack, risks from inadequate monitoring, or losing compliance and security ground as technologies move on.

Added to the increased risk, companies facing hiring challenges or losing experienced IT staff to other companies spend valuable time and resources stuck in a never ending hiring process. For some companies, working through a managed security services partner can alleviate the perpetual human resources strain and help them to maintain consistent security without the consequences of inadequate staffing.

Risk Assessment and Remediation Planning

Has an open position on your IT team led your company to postpone routine updates or maintenance? Has your team put off doing a full risk assessment while you try to manage critical day to day operations and find qualified candidates to add to your team? While you are fully aware of the security risks you could incur and the compliance problems that could result from your overdue risk assessment, you may not have seen any other option. Or perhaps you conducted a risk assessment and identified vulnerabilities or compliance issues to be addressed but you are unable to implement the fixes or take remedial action.

Rather than putting risk assessment and/or remediation on hold, a third party could be more beneficial and cost effective than you realize. An expert or team of professionals experienced in the risk assessment process, requirements of regulatory agencies, and the current security threats your company may be facing could be an extension of your team allowing you to address areas you have kept on the back burner. The potential financial, legal, and brand damage that could result from a data breach far outweigh the short term expense of a professionally conducted risk assessment.

Compliance Strategies and Documentation

As your company may be required to conduct regular risk assessment, this is just one facet of proactive compliance. Maintaining federal compliance with HIPAA or PCI is an ongoing process that requires a strategy and focused, sustained effort to implement a custom created strategy that is most appropriate and economical for your company.

Achieving compliance that will satisfy regulators or auditors should there be an attack or security incident requires thorough documentation and diligent steps that can be shown to have been taken by your company. If your organization does not have a specific process for documenting and updating your compliance efforts (or if you suddenly lose the staff member who maintains this process), you can face unnecessary punitive action that would only compound the damage done by an attack or incident.

Incident Response

If you are understaffed or inadequately staffed, how would you respond should your company face a breach or cyberattack? If your staff today, with their existing day to day workload, could not effectively respond to a security incident, the resulting impact to your organization could be compounded greatly by a delayed or inadequate response.

A third party incident response partner could bring the critical expertise and manpower your company will need in a crisis. But if you wait to call around when you have detected a problem, the experts will need to spend critical time up front assessing your systems and processes. This critical early phase of any cyberattack or breach needs to be when your team hits the ground running to implement a pre-planned, practiced response strategy. If your company does not currently have this plan in place, do not wait to until something happens to start planning.

Healthcare, banking, technology and other industries are all facing similar challenges. Where experienced, qualified cybersecurity professionals are in short supply, companies are realizing the prudence of managed security services to stay prepared independent of staffing fluctuations. Adding key risk assessment, incident response, and other experts to your extended team can free up internal team members for effective day to day functions of your systems and processes.

To speak with someone regarding your IT team’s current coverage gaps and needs, to learn how customized managed services can free up your team to do their jobs more effectively, contact our experts today.

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