Mid-East poaching world's security staff with top pay

The Middle East is mounting an aggressive bid to become the world's IT security centre by paying above-average salaries to global security staff...

Key Oger Systems predictions for 2008: (See bottom of release for timeline)

• Less security staff from Europe applying to work in the US, owing to the weak dollar.
• US security staff continuing to focus on highest-paying financial sector, while Asian applicants will focus on family and quality of life;
• Continued strong demand for security staff owing to US terror concerns, further raising Mid-East rates, thus attracting even more security experts from US.
• Mid-East salaries for skilled expats in IT security to reach US$15k per month, leading to a huge global skills migration.


Recruitment agencies are sourcing candidates from as far as Brazil and Korea for Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) security firms catering to national government agencies and global financial institutions.

Security staffs are particularly valued at present because they are relatively scarce in comparison with other IT skills sets, according to a survey by IT security firm Oger Systems Ltd.

And certification specialist CertMag just reported that Security Managers (ISACA) commanded the second highest pay out of all IT workers worldwide in 2007, at an average of US$9.5k p/m.

Oger Systems says the most qualified security applicants continue to arrive in the region from countries that are currently paying them the least.

Figures from the survey conducted by its HR Portal (hr.scanit.net) show the lowest paying countries for security workers are Malaysia at $2k per month and Singapore, Italy, India, Korea, Brazil and China at between $3k to $3.5k p/m.

The highest average rates are in Germany and the US, at between $4.5 and $5k p/m.

David Michaux, Security consulting Division manager of Oger Systems, says there has been a huge regional increase in the salaries being offered in the Mid-East region, which are easily surpassing those being offered by the West.

"Not only are our successful applicants earning in a tax-free environment, but they are on multiples of the rates they were being paid back home.

"If their home countries can't or won't pay them competitive rates, they have reason not to move. And they're coming here in the thousands," he adds.

Oger Systems survey shows the country with the highest number of certified specialists is Brazil, at 80% of its IT workforce, followed by India and the US at 70% and Malaysia and Singapore with just over 50%.

Furthermore, some 55% of the certified specialists it surveyed said they were not satisfied with their current salaries, and nearly 40% were looking for another job.

The trend has lead to the Middle East becoming an auction house for everyone from graduates to some of the most skilled IT workers in the world, Michaux says.

Domingo Montanaro, a Security Manager, was recently hired by Oger Systems because of his niche forensic IT skills and experience in the financial and law enforcement fields.

He says his recent move to the Middle East represents a 100% increase in salary from his native Brazil, and that a slew of his co-workers are following.

"The real experts are being hired by foreign companies because the Brazilian market still doesn’t pay them competitively," he says.

"When companies back home do start valuing our experts, like hackers or security researchers, most of the best talent will already have gone."

The Oger Systems survey shows a third of applicants for jobs it posted in 2007 were from India, followed by Brazil at 14% and Malaysia and Pakistan, at 7%. The United States represented just 5%, and the UK, 2%.

However, the comparatively lower figures from the West included some top operators.

Steve Anson, a Director of top US IT security firm Forward Discovery, started operations in the UAE last month in partnership with Oger Systems, to provide combined security services and training in the region.

He says the GCC offers enormous opportunities in the information security field at the moment.

"The volume of high-profile corporations relying on networked systems for their daily operations represents a fertile hunting ground for hackers and other cyber criminals," he explains.

"Where there is a high potential for cyber crime, there is also a great need for information security, computer forensics, and incident response training and services."

Anson, a former cybercrime investigator for the US Defence Department and FBI, says as the number of cyber crime incidents increases, law enforcement and other governmental agencies also have a demand for advanced computer crime investigation training.

"We have established a base of operations in Riyadh & Dubai in order to help address this growing need," he adds.

The most applications for job posts on Oger Systems HR Portal last year were for Network Security Engineers, Information Security Managers and Senior Network Security Consultants.

Job postings by salary across the whole of 2007 were: 39% at $2,5k to $5k, 11% at $5k to $8k and 14% at $7k to $9.5k.

Half of those aged 20 to 35 - the age group Oger Systems found was most skilled in the field of IT security - wanted to change job because they were being paid between $1k and $3k p/m.

Oger Systems timeline outlining the rise in demand for security workers in the region:

• 2001: No separate division existed within most major corporations in the region;
• 2002: Saw the introduction of hiring basic security engineers who were in the IT department with an average salary of US$1k p/m;
• 2003: Saw IT security departments established as separate entities within the IT department. Salary of an IT Security Manager at around US$3k;
• 2004 and 2005: Saw the IT security department starting to stand by itself, no longer reporting to the IT department, but more toward internal audit and CFO, Salary of IT manager around US$6k;
• 2006: Saw the market demand for security personnel increase dramatically, and due to the lack of IT security personnel within the country, salaries got their highest rise. Poaching of staff within the country became a major issue. Salary for an IT Security Manager was approximately US$9K.
• 2007: Due to the high amount of poaching of skilled IT staff, companies started to look outside the country for supply, offering packages of over US$11k;
• 2008: Expecting to see salaries of skilled expats in IT security reaching US$15k.