Angela Gunn is fried. With three cases going and a fourth just getting started, this is one of those frantic periods when it feels as if she works in an ER or at a fire station rather than holding a staff position with a computer security firm.
It’s people like Gunn that organizations large and small call if they’ve had a data breach or suspect they have. People in the industry — cybersecurity, if you’d like, though Gunn’s preference is information security, or “info-sec” for short — call this “incident response.” To my mind, though, they’re the online world’s firefighters: those who rush to put out the flames and then assess the damage.
As an incident response consultant for British security firm BAE Systems, Gunn is in charge of assembling a small crew for each case. Typically, that includes an analyst who can pore over computer logs, a malware specialist, and those she dubs “forensic workers, except without the formaldehyde smell and ripped-open chest cavities.” That is, if she can find any live bodies to do the work.
“Right now, I’d sell a right toe for a forensics guy,” Gunn says. “Like a lot of people in info-sec right now, we’re agonizingly understaffed.”
A 2015 report by job analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies found that postings for cybersecurity had grown more than three times faster than other information technology (IT) positions and roughly 12 times faster than all other jobs. The firm also reported that those working in cybersecurity on average earn nearly 10% more than others in IT.
There’s good reason behind the growth: Cybercrime caused an estimated $3 trillion in damages in 2015, according to research firm Cybersecurity Ventures. The company expects that figure to double to $6 trillion by 2021. Corporations face a “defender’s dilemma,” which Dave Weinstein, a security manager inside Google, summed up this way: “The defender has to be strong everywhere, every day. The attacker only has to win once.” For each set of bad guys, the defense side needs veritable armies, beefing up armaments and rushing to the rescue at the first sign of an attack.