Licence to practice information security?

Here in the UK, you need a licence to drive a car, or watch television. You also  need a licence to go fishing. You don’t need a licence to have a child – unless you want to adopt or foster somebody elses. In those circumstances you have to undergo a thorough assessment of everything from sexual orientation to your preferred brand of tea. However, there is no licence to prevent two neanderthal inhabitants of the British underclass to mate, produce and then leave their offspring to rot in squalor. The result is stories such as this one here where a mating pair took their hungry pup out to the pub, or this now infamous tale of the mother who organised the kidnapping of her own daughter in order to claim a ransom.

Some other things you’d need a licence for: to operate as an acupuncturist, own an airgun, run a butchers shop, hold a car boot sale, operate as a debt collector, give public demonstrations of hypnosis, run a lottery, or hold a public procession. And if your name is James Bond, you require a licence to kill.

A few years ago there were rumblings of proposals to licence IT security professionals as a part of the Private Security Industry Bill. The resulting Security Industry Authority currently licences guards, wheel clampers and a variety of others (read more here). IT and Information Security professionals do not require any qualifications or licence to practice. There are plenty of certifications around but none of them are obligatory. It’s up to the employer, and the individual. I’ve worked with plenty of very skilled and knowledgable individuals who have no security specific certifications and encountererd a few not so accomplished who have one or more.

Given the information security disasters of 2008, should we be heading for a time where information security professionals are obligated to be licenced to practice? Would it make any difference or make those of us in the industry more accountable?

Additional note: added 8 January

The idea of a parental “breeding licence” has actually been proposed before. “Prime Minister” Jim Hacker mentioned it in a classic episode of Yes Prime Minister. See below….