How to Become a Cybersecurity Professional

Who is a Cybersecurity Professional?

Cybersecurity Specialists are professionals who provide security during the development stages of software systems, networks, and data centers. The professionals are expected to search for risks and vulnerabilities in software and hardware. They monitor and manage any attacks and illegal intrusions. The Security Specialist is capable of recognizing attempted breach or the potential threat by closing off the security vulnerability. New layers of protection and updates of the security systems are developed by these professionals.

The professional must make security measures for any information by designing various defensive systems and strategies against intruders. The professional’s eye for any unusual activities to prevent cyber loss. The specialist must create new defensive systems and protocols and report incidents. Granting permissions and privileges to authorized users is also their job. Examining the defensive systems and provides reports based on test results is also the responsibility of the professional. They are responsible to run diagnostic on any changes in the information and verify any undetected breaches. The cybersecurity professional must maintain IT security controls documentation, recognize the security gaps, and prepare an action plan accordingly. The specialists are responsible for suggesting recommendations, create security policies, and ensuring implementation with support and mitigation during implementation. They work in coordination with the stakeholders and other organizations related to cybersecurity-related matters to take care of the cybersecurity projects and makes sure it cybersecurity objective. The cybersecurity operations they offer include automation, process re-engineering, and documentation. 

Sometimes referred to as information security technicians, security analysts, or security engineers, they are a part construction manager, part doorman, part detective, and also part undercover police investigation officer — they are the heroes of the stability of the internet!

In this article, we’ll cover the roles and responsibilities and the skills required to become a cybersecurity professional. Since the technical requirements of this career field are always changing — just like most other IT fields — you’ll want to bookmark Cloud Academy’s Cloud Roster™. Using Cloud Roster, you can understand the top technology skills in demand for each job role, as well as the demand for each role itself.

Cybersecurity Professional Cloud Roster

Roles and responsibilities

Cybersecurity professionals enable security in IT infrastructure, data, edge devices, and networks. Out of the lot, many are programmers, systems or network administrators, or have backgrounds in math and statistics. Such skills are required for the role of an IT security professional, but equally as essential as critical thinking, curiosity, and a passion for learning and research. Further, hackers are creative by nature; therefore, cybersecurity pros need to be, as well, to outsmart them. 

Listed below are the critical responsibilities of a cybersecurity professional: 

  • Monitor operations and infrastructure: Network and applications are monitored to identify irregular activity. 
  • Maintain Security Tools and Technology: Ensures security practices are compliant by performing regular audits. 
  • Monitor internal and external policies: Ensures that both vendors and employees are work within the framework of a policy laid out and that the system is laid out for them.
  • Work with different departments in an organization to reduce risks: Work with IT operations to set up a shared disaster recovery plan, work with HR and team leads to educate employees on how to identify suspicious activity.
  • Implement new technology: As the cybersecurity professional, you evaluate the new technology and help implement any controls that might diminish the risk of its operation.
  • Audit policies and controls: Audit the policies and controls regularly as the audits tell if there’s anything that needs improvement, remediate, or quick fix.

Tools and technical skills needed to be a cybersecurity professional

The following tools top the charts to be a cyber specialist.

Metasploit

Metasploit is a prevalent penetration framework. Several IT experts and cybersecurity professionals use it to accomplish various objectives, including managing security evaluations, discovering vulnerabilities, and formulating defense methodologies. Uses of the tool include online-based applications, networks, servers, and several other places. Metasploit evaluates the security of the infrastructure against older vulnerabilities. 

Nmap

Network mapper is an open-source tool for scanning the networks and systems for vulnerabilities. The tool helps in carrying out other activities such as monitoring host or service uptime and performing mapping of network attack surfaces.

Nmap is suitable for scanning both large and small networks and runs on all the major operating systems. It understands different characteristics of any target network, like the hosts available on the network, the type of operating system running, and the type of packet filters or firewalls in place.

Wireshark

The tools assist and are capable of seeing the minutest details of the suspicious activities taking place in the network. It is a network sniffer, analyzer, or protocol analyzer for assessing the vulnerabilities in real-time. The tool is used for scrutinizing the details of network traffic at various levels, from the connection-level information to the small pieces that constitute a packet of data. By capturing data packets, specialists can investigate various characteristics of individual packets.

Aircrack-ng

The tool provides a collection of utilities that analyzes the weaknesses in a WiFi network. Security of the WiFi network is monitored by capturing data packets and exporting them to text files for analysis. It also allows verifying the performance of WiFi cards through capture and injection. Also, it allows assessing the reliability of  WEP and WPA-PSK keys by cracking them using this tool.

John the Ripper

The use of the traditional password is the most common risk that cyber professionals deal with. Hackers usually hack into users’ systems and use their passwords to steal relevant credentials or cause other forms of damage. John the Ripper, the penetration testing tool, comes to aid to prevent such hacks. The tool is free and straightforward as it blends different password crackers into a single package. It automatically identifies different kinds of passwords and comes with a customizable cracker. 

Nessus

The tool scans vulnerabilities in a computing system or network. It is easy to use and offers fast and accurate scanning; the only drawback is that it is a paid tool. It provides a comprehensive outlook of the network’s weaknesses at the click of a button. The tool also looks for the loopholes that the attackers may exploit to cause damage. Misconfiguration errors, improper passwords, and open ports are some of the vulnerabilities that it identifies. 

Burpsuite

The tool is responsible for checking the security of web-based applications. Different security tests carried out include analyzing the requests, responses occurring between the browser and destination server, mapping the attack surface of the application, and crawling web-based applications automatically. 

It offers both a free version and a professional version. The free version is equipped to provide manual tools for scanning activities. The professional version has advanced web penetration capabilities. 

Non-technical skills needed to be a cybersecurity professional

Cybersecurity professionals need more than technical skills to be successful. To stay ahead in the field, these experts must be:

Strategists – The professionals are expected to be smart to proactively implement security measures and controls within an organization and weigh the consequences of any action, if any. High-level security protocols require the professional to perform tactical and strategical evaluations of the workflows, dependencies, budgets, and resources. As we know, new methods to hack are always developing the professionals are expected to be a step ahead of the hackers who perform malicious activities. 

Communicators -Effective coordination must be ensured amongst the team and clients, so the professional must possess management and communication skills. The specialist is expected to interact in meaningful ways by providing assistive training to employees to help protect systems. 

Lifelong Learners -With the growth of various illegal means to intrude a system, the security engineer must also pace up hi skills to prevent such activities. This skill requires the professional to be a lifelong learner to carry out research, training, and to earn other certifications to stay updated in this field and resolve complex security issues. 

Path to become a cybersecurity professional

Cybersecurity specialist is considered an attractive job for entry to intermediate-level IT, security candidates. The specialists are responsible for designing, testing, implementing, and monitoring security measures for an organization’s systems. 

Besides, Security Specialists are expected to be all-rounders. They are expected to know how to configure firewalls and implement compliance measures. Furthermore, they must be adept in pen testing, auditing, and post-incident analysis.They sometimes develop an infosec strategy, recommending security products, and even training other employees.

Let us now see the step-by-step approach to this career path. 

Get qualified

Plan on getting a degree from an IT field such as computer engineering, information security, computer science and programming or any relevant discipline that offer cybersecurity specialization. 

Aspiring candidates must also should look for accredited programs and certifications and stay updated with the significant changes in the field. They should be trained in fields like cybercrime and fraud investigation, cyber operations, intrusion investigations, information assurance, and network forensics.

As earnings, career outlook, and advancement potential tend to improve with education, the aspiring professionals can plan to earn a Master’s degree either right after their bachelor’s or sometime later in their career after certain work experience. 

Learn the hard skills required in this field

It’s always good to make yourself well-versed with fundamentals such as:

  • Windows, UNIX and Linux operating systems
  • ITIL, COBIT, and ISO 27001/27002frameworks.
  • NIST, GLBA, PCI, HIPAA, and SOX compliance assessments
  • Penetration and vulnerability and IDS/IPS testing
  • Computer networking, routing, TCP/IP, and switching
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Anti-virus, and anti-malware, DLP
  • Intrusion detection/prevention and firewall protocol
  • Ethical hacking, threat modeling, and secure coding practices
  • Java, PHP, C++, C#, or C programming languages

Earn certifications

The professionals with certification always have an advantage over other aspirants so, get certified in at least one from the following information or cybersecurity certifications. 

How much do cybersecurity professionals make?

As a cybersecurity engineer, you can average $120,000 to $200,000. This position nets one of the highest salaries in the security sector, but it may vary by state. ZipRecruiter provides a listing of cybersecurity average salaries based on state.

The starting salary for an information security analyst in the U.S. is around $40,000, and it can go up to as high as around $105,000.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary for an information security analyst in the US is $98,350, and it’s significantly higher in cities such as San Francisco and New York.

Several UK organizations offer graduate salaries of around £25,000, which increases to around £35,000 as the candidate gets experience with time. Raising to more senior management and consultant roles, a candidate can expect to earn ranging from £45,000 to £80,000.

Role  Salary 
Ethical Hacker  $ 79,000
Security Consultant  $106, 190
Security Architect  $ 118, 681
Chief Information Officer (CISO) $ 156,000

Summary

We all know that no organization is immune to cybercrime. This means we all need to make cybersecurity a top priority, and it all begins with finding the most qualified professionals to lead the way.

All this suggests that highly skilled security professionals are in high demand, and now is the perfect time to get involved in this highly exciting and fascinating industry. There are many scopes to progress and specialize in the areas you find most interesting as your skills are considered worthy of the job. 

Are you an aspiring professional or a senior-level professional?  What do you think about this roadmap? Share your thoughts! 

Simran Arora

Written by

Simran Arora

Simran, born in Delhi, pursued a Bachelor's in Computer Science degree in India. Curious and passionate about technology, she continued her education to earn a Master's in Computer Science degree in Silicon Valley, California. Simran now works as a freelance technical content developer.


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