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SC Total Security Conference: Reviewing certifications will help professionalise information security

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Certifications and standards should achieve an approved standard, as we are in danger of polluting the industry.

Speaking at the SC Magazine Total Security Conference, Professor Ted Humphreys asked if there were too many standards and whether users were confused on what to select and who produces them.

He said: “There are not just standards for things, but a framework to make information security a profession. We have started to look at a new project on certifications of people that act as information security professionals at the ISO level, be they consultants or auditors. We need to determine what are the competency requirements on skills and knowledge, starting with organisations involved in different countries.”

Ian Glover, chairman of Crest, said that there is a risk of commoditisation with standards, and while compliance aspects can be good, we also need to look at the quality of auditors to make sure that they are qualified.

He said: “You can ride a horse and carriage through some technical controls, but have they met minimum standards? With less than 1,000 hours training an auditor can come in and audit and that meets the minimum standards to be an auditor; they have to have experience and capability and we should not lower the bar to someone who wants to stay in the profession.”

Commenting, Andy Smith from the British Computer Society, said that while ISO 27001 has become the defacto standard not just in UK, but elsewhere, the reason it has taken eight years for a new standard to be launched ‘is because it is too good and we don't want to change it when so much effort has gone into it'.

Humphreys said that the ISO board has 150 standards created by five working groups, while roadmaps say how they relate. Glover commented that if we want to be viewed as a professionals saying we have got years of experience, then we have got to mirror things with codes of conduct and career development.

In a separate presentation, Adam Thilthorpe, director for professionalism at the British Computer Society, said that as IT security is ubiquitous and should be underpinned by standards and people who are capable of doing what they do.

He said: “There are deep dive people in IT assurance, but the level of knowledge needs to go up, so don't hire people who are not good. We need to look at deep dive and have knowledge about what is important and that is why we come in with standards and professionalisation and with CPD and horizon scan.

“Understanding an organisation's attitude to risk and where you are as a professional is important, but we have a broad but shallow range of competency. We have a huge opportunity in this industry and the reason we don't have people breaking down our door is because we have a PR problem.”

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