How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer: Job Details and Necessary Skills
As the world of business gets more and more digitized, the need for cyber security engineers grows by the day. The Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance estimates the cost of cybercrime to be around $45 billion per year. Cyber security engineers work to protect a company from expensive threats.
What Cyber Security Engineers Do
Cyber security analysts help keep organizations safe from a wide range of online threats. They also protect the networking systems that companies depend on. These systems may be simple and kept mostly in-house, but they often involve connecting to an external or wide area network (WAN). Let’s also not forget virtual systems and networks that allow employees to gain access to company data while working remotely. Even though external connections may invite more threats, an element of risk is always there.
Last Updated September 2022
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This is where a cybersecurity professional plays a key role. Much of their job description involves performing assessments and penetration testing to limit and control the risk of cybercriminals penetrating the network. A security professional is also a main element of the overall technology team. Specifically, they use security technology to limit threats, which frees up the IT team to focus on creating secure network solutions instead of tracking down security issues.
Further, a cybersecurity professional is often responsible for engineering trusted systems into secure systems. This usually involves a complete review of a company’s networking systems to transition them from trust-based to trustless. To accomplish this, the engineer performs a full audit, intrusion analysis, and assessment of employees’ individual access rights. On the other hand, if adequate trustless security is already in place, a cybersecurity engineer may focus more on developing and implementing cybersecurity solutions. These may fit the existing security architecture or require new hardware and software to protect from cyber attacks.
How Cyber Security Supports the Modern Business Landscape
The more vital elements of business shift from basic internal networks to cloud computing, the more exposure critical systems have to threats. A cyber security engineer has the skills to limit or eliminate these threats. This way, the company can carry on business without investing extra resources in recovering from attacks. Because they fulfill this crucial role, cyber security engineers are essential to the survival of modern businesses.
When a security engineer has earned the necessary credentials, they can apply their skills to a wide range of businesses. This includes finance, wholesale, retail, education, manufacturing, and more.
Requirements to Be a Cyber Security Engineer
To land a security job, you need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in computer science. If an individual already has several years of experience in cyber security and augments that work experience with continual training, that will also help them qualify for a position.
Many companies these days will overlook your lack of a computer science degree provided you have relevant cyber security certifications like Security+, CEH, CISSP etc. Even if you do have a computer science degree, professional certificates are a MUST.
What Is a Cyber Security Engineer Responsible for?
The job of a cyber security engineer varies widely from company to company. However, there are certain things that all digital security professionals have in common.
Protecting the Organization from Data Breaches and Leaks
A company’s data is often its most valuable asset. A special element of a cyber security engineer’s job is to make sure data is secure, reliable, and accurate.
This involves keeping data behind firewalls that protect it from exfiltration. Also, to maintain that data’s accuracy, companies must protect it from those who want to alter it to harm the business or benefit the competition. In addition, a security engineer makes sure that only users who need to access certain areas have the clearance to do so. In this way, the number of people who use or see sensitive data is minimized, thereby reducing the threat of a breach or leak.
Preventing the Misuse of Sensitive Data
The data held by a company may be vulnerable to attackers, who can use it in various ways. Often, an organization keeps proprietary information regarding critical elements of its technology or business model. If someone were to steal that info, it could give their competition a significant advantage. Further, a competitor could misuse the plans a company has to expand their services or partner with others in an attempt to gain a strategic advantage. A cyber security engineer’s job involves keeping this data from getting into the hands of malicious actors.
Unfortunately, many companies face an even bigger threat: the theft of sensitive customer information. Customers’ names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and answers to common security questions can all be valuable to hackers. While the hacker may not use this info themselves, they may sell it on the dark web. A cyber security engineer’s goal is to prevent the misuse of this kind of data, particularly because hackers can use it for identity theft. In some cases, a thief doesn’t need complete customer profiles — they only want certain elements to correlate with other information they already have. For this reason, even companies with basic customer info in their systems require the services of a cyber security engineer.
Furthermore, cyber security professionals protect sensitive financial information. Hackers often target credit cards, bank accounts, or other financial data of customers. If they find a way to gain access to databases storing this information, they can either sell it or use it themselves to make illicit purchases, transfer funds, or engage in other types of fraud. Using an array of security tools, a cyber security engineer assesses an organization’s vulnerabilities, designs a protection plan, and implements the strategy. They then have to evaluate to what degree the measures were successful and make any necessary adjustments.
Performing Risk Analyses
Cyber security engineers frequently find themselves identifying risky areas of a network, as well as assessing the attack surface of an organization. This requires an in-depth knowledge of current hacking techniques and malware. Knowledge of how criminals penetrate systems is then applied to figure out the weakest elements of a company’s security architecture.
Risk analysis involves more than examining the structure and tools of a company’s cyber security. The value of individual digital assets plays a key role. A cyber security engineer needs to ask questions about the nature of the business a company engages in so they can understand which assets require the strongest protection. For example, a retailer that accepts credit cards may need the most stringent security measures to protect its customers’ names and card numbers. Further, if several people have access to this information, a cyber security engineer should understand who needs to use or see this info and who does not need access. This minimizes the company’s risk.
Once a security professional identifies an organization’s attack surfaces and specific vulnerabilities, they can recommend or design an approach to protect the most valuable assets and defend the weakest elements of the existing security architecture.
Protecting Against Internal Threats
Some of the most dangerous threats come from within an organization, so a cyber security engineer needs to be able to assess these and reduce the risk. Not all internal threats stem from people seeking to abuse their access privileges. At times, a simple mistake can expose login credentials that someone else can use to penetrate the network.
Consequently, one of the best ways to limit risk is to implement a multifactor authentication policy. This requires people to produce more than one type of identification before they’re allowed access to the network, a specific area of the network, or an application. It usually involves at least two of the following: something a person knows, something they have on their person, or a biometric trait like a fingerprint or facial features. There are several technologies a cyber security engineer can use to implement this kind of security measure. Working knowledge of the most recent multifactor authentication measures is, therefore, a key qualification for cyber security professionals.
Hard Skills Cybersecurity Engineers Need to Develop
To enhance your marketability as a cyber security professional, there are certain skills you need to possess. Here are some of the skills essential to the job of a security professional.
The Ability to Work with a Variety of Operating Systems
The computer tools of choice vary from one company to another, so a security expert needs to know several to make sure they can adapt to different network architectures. These include Windows, Linux, Unix, and macOS.
Cyber security engineers often engage in what’s called white hat hacking. This involves hacking a system to determine its vulnerabilities. The organization is informed ahead of time about what the “hacker” is going to do, and they’re given a full report after the hack. During the simulated attack, the security expert examines the network for vulnerabilities, including those within individual systems, work stations, or devices. The information gathered is then used to design a more secure environment.
An Understanding of Network Architecture
The architecture of a company’s network refers to the basic structure that allows it to send, receive, and exchange digital information. This often involves an intranet, which connects computers and components within a building, a local area network, or a wide area network. In addition, network architecture may include cloud computing as well as a hybrid structure, which incorporates private or on-premise servers with cloud architecture.
With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the need for low-latency connections, many companies are using software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). This allows them to control their network with software. A cyber security engineer needs to understand SD-WAN architecture, particularly because it is an increasingly common business solution.
Performing Computer Forensics
Computer forensics involves figuring out how cybercriminals attack and penetrate systems. A key element of this is ascertaining indicators of compromise (IoC). These alert a cyber security professional to a cyber event that has compromised or will compromise the network. The complete forensic process requires a security professional to identify attacks, figure out how the hackers executed them, outline the affected systems, and propose ways of preventing similar attacks in the future.
Soft Skills Cybersecurity Engineers Need to Develop
In addition to the hard skills, there are softer skills that play a crucial role in the life of a successful cyber security professional. These often involve interacting with others on a day-to-day basis or working within an organized team.
A cyber security engineer is often responsible for managing specific projects and the people who are working to complete them. The security expert may be given a high-level objective and have to figure out what they need to do to accomplish it. They then have to select different people or teams to get individual tasks done. They also monitor progress and try to create an environment conducive to the success of each task.
Cyber security engineers may be positioned as thought leaders within an organization, guiding thinking around security and networking issues. They may also have to lead individual people or teams. Both of these roles involve communicating ideas clearly, motivating others, and understanding their needs and concerns.
Even brilliant ideas can be ineffective if you don’t communicate them properly. A cyber security engineer has to communicate with other security professionals, the IT team, the CIO or CTO, and other C-suite members. They also have to teach other staff members about security-related issues and strategies.
Cyber security engineers need to be able to communicate effectively with regular employees and not just the C-suite executives. This is a very commonly overlooked soft skill for cyber security engineers. Too many times, cyber security engineers are only concerned about the security of their company data without considering how their security systems or policies might affect the productivity of the employees. As such it is now essential for any cyber security engineer to be able to understand how their fellow employees perform their daily tasks as this will help them be able to develop cyber security policies that strikes a fine balance between effective security and employee productivity.
A security professional needs to be able to identify problems, conceive solutions, design plans to execute the solutions, implement them, and then follow up to assess their effectiveness. This involves a combination of knowledge and deductive reasoning. Problem-solving also often includes using others to attack challenges, which requires leadership and communication.
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