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Security salaries hold up during economic gloom

Kit spending culled but work still plentiful

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Information security salaries are holding up well during the economic downturn but capital spending projects are feeling the axe, according to a pair of surveys from training organisation (ISC)2 and specialist recruitment consultant ISS.

The survey of more than 600 respondents, contractors and permanent employees based in the UK, found that more than half (56 per cent) received a pay rise in the last 12 months. Respondents were members of organisations representing professionals in the field, including: (ISC)2, ISACA, British Computer Society, Business Continuity Institute, Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST), and MIS Training Institute.

Nearly three quarters of survey participants (73 per cent) indicated their role to be senior professional, with seven or more years of experience. Almost a half were in charge of managing teams.

John Colley, managing director of (ISC)2, told El Reg that contractors who saw their salaries cut and who struggled for work in the early stages of the credit crunch have subsequently been rehired. Jobs and prospects in the financial services industry, traditionally a major source of employment, have been hard hit, but this has been offset by work in the government sector. However, there continues to be big salary gaps between the public and private sectors. This is particularly true for those who work for local authorities, who earn about a third less than their counterparts in finance and telecoms.

Day rates for contractors ranged from £100 to £1150 (with an average £548). None of the contractor respondents had more than 40 unpaid days off in the last year.

Traditionally London has always been the regional location with the highest salaries, but this has changed due to cut-backs in the city, leaving the South East as the location with the highest wages for security workers.

The salary survey - which is designed to serve as a reference for information security pros and hiring managers - found that the average salary for the 566 permanent employees who responded was £53,600. Nearly two thirds earned more than £50,000, while nearly half received bonuses that contributed an average of £10,000 to their basic salary. Benefits received by half contributed £10,000 to their remuneration package. "Despite the doom and gloom of the economic situation, security continues to be a highly valued as a profession, and they continue to be paid well," said Iain Sutherland, founder of ISS. "The operational and administrative roles that used to be considered specialist to information security appear to be moving into IT," he added.

While security salaries might be holding up well it's a different story in terms of capital expenditure. Seventy-two percent of more than 2,500 information security pros quizzed said their budgets were reduced the past six months due to the economic downturn. However half said they did not expect any additional cuts for the remainder of the year.

Around a third of survey respondents occupied hiring roles. Two in five (43 per cent) of this sample expected to hire additional information security staff this year. Sought-after areas of expertise included information risk management, operations security, access control systems and methodology, security management practices, and applications and systems development security.

The recruitment and spending findings are part of a web based survey by (ISC)2. The survey remains open to information security pros until May 15, when final results will be published.

"While we are being affected, generally Information Security is a profession that is weathering the recession well, as companies continue to recognise that security competency is both a business imperative and a means to achieving cost –cutting operational changes," said John Colley, managing director of (ISC)2 Europe.

“Budget cuts are definitely here and security isn't immune,” Colley said. “ But what we're seeing is projects are sacrificed in favour of people. Firms need to align security plans to biz strategy,” he added.

The release of the two (ISC)2 surveys on Wednesday coincided with the Infosec conference in London. (ISC)2 is sponsoring Job Market Cafes for members and attendees of Infosec 2009. Representatives of three specialist recruiting firms – Barclay Simpson, Acumin and Information Security Solutions – will take part in the seminar on Wednesday afternoon. The Job Market Cafes form the London leg of workshops (ISC)2 is planning around the world to assist information security pros during the global downturn. ®

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