Cybersecurity analysts are primarily tasked with the responsibility of evaluating and protecting a company’s IT infrastructure from cybercrime and unauthorized access. This article explains the role of a cybersecurity analyst in detail and lists the key skills needed to succeed in this job role in 2022.
Role of a Cybersecurity Analyst in an Enterprise
In today’s modern world, traditional security systems are no longer effective amidst the latest ultra-sophisticated threat landscapes. Our dependence on technology is far more pervasive today than it was a few decades back. While the accelerated growth of digital transformation and cloud computing brings endless opportunities, it also leaves us to protect numerous vulnerabilities. There is an undeniable need for qualified security professionals to handle threats.
Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for evaluating and protecting a company’s IT infrastructure from cybercrime. Being the first line of defense against security threats, a cybersecurity analyst works toward preserving an organization’s confidential assets by adopting strict measures to prevent a breach. They detect security threats, analyze suspicious events, monitor false alarms, and create contingency plans to find vulnerabilities within the organization.
Role of a Cybersecurity Analyst in an Enterprise
1. Manage breach prevention
A cybersecurity analyst protects and audits an organization’s computer network from any suspicious activity, data breaches, and human errors. They do so by configuring network settings, diagnosing network vulnerabilities, performing penetration testing for any compromises made to the security system, and analyzing the inbound code, in addition to installing firewalls and backups.
The role of a cybersecurity analyst also includes creating new security protocols and making security recommendations to safeguard critical data. So, having an in-depth understanding of cloud security and ethical hacking is beneficial.
2. Ensure compliance
A cybersecurity analyst looks after the entire corporate security strategy. This includes making long-term security decisions and verifying their viability. They assess corporate security risks and drive cybersecurity awareness programs while ensuring that the organization adopts adequate safety measures to meet all the necessary compliance requirements.
They ensure and verify that corporate data measures follow internal policies as well as legal and federal regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA. These standards apply to federally regulated industries such as finance and healthcare. Cybersecurity analysts prepare a plan of action to prevent the risk of data breaches that would violate these regulations.
3. Implement incident response
One of the primary roles of a cybersecurity analyst is to prevent security breaches and control them immediately when they happen. At the time of an attack, cybersecurity analysts need to be on their toes to assess the cause of the breach, minimize its effects, neutralize threats, and restore any affected systems. They do this by monitoring systems for threats, performing penetration tests, and carrying out digital forensics. Their core role entails developing a foolproof incident response, studying new threats, and creating contingency or recovery plans before the occurrence of any intrusion.
4. Manage software
A cybersecurity analyst looks for errors in the host architectures of mobile and web applications and ensures that they are developed in the most secure manner across all devices and operating systems. They do so by evaluating claims for unauthorized access, analyzing security vulnerabilities, performing penetration testing, and conducting an application risk assessment. Another important responsibility they are tasked with is blacklisting risky or unsafe apps. It’s also crucial for cybersecurity analysts to watch out for SaaS-related risks.
5. Guarantee security maintenance
A cybersecurity analyst’s responsibility includes the maintenance of system integrity, finding potential loopholes in security, and implementing threat-control and disaster management policies during incidents. They study previous incident reports and plan new incident responses. They look after launching upgrades for IT infrastructure and the cost and benefits of employing new security solutions.
6. Facilitate reporting
A cybersecurity analyst should determine the current state of the network and assess its strengths. Learning to read such reports is an essential skill for cybersecurity analysts. They also need to alert users about any type of unexpected network activity.
7. Perform ethical hacking
Ethical hacking is another tool in the security analyst’s arsenal. Instead of breaking security to steal data for themselves, cybersecurity professionals use this method to find security flaws and fix them before attackers can exploit them. Cybersecurity analysts perform penetration testing using software programs like Kali Linux and Metasploit, which expose vulnerabilities across computer systems.
8. Implement security protocols
Since security affects everyone in a business, everyone must understand and follow security rules irrespective of how non-technical their professions are. A cybersecurity analyst creates these security protocols for the entire organization and its digital ecosystem while keeping in mind that a network’s security is only as strong as its weakest links.
See More: What Is Whaling Phishing? Definition, Identification and Prevention
7 Key Skills Needed for Success in 2022
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of cybersecurity analysts is projected to grow 33% from 2020 to 2030, which clearly shows a very high demand for these professionals. However, today’s companies want experts who can equip them to not only detect threats but also prevent them from occurring. Organizations are also moving from a more conventional method of shielding their network perimeter (protecting just their business assets) to a more zero-trust strategy (protecting users, data, and business assets).
A cybersecurity analyst configures systems, monitors networks, performs penetration tracking, and knows ethical hacking and white hat techniques to take on various roles and perform a wide range of responsibilities. However, it’s important for cybersecurity analysts to possess the necessary skills to perform their jobs well. They must possess a strong suite of hard skills along with sharp interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
Skills Required for Cybersecurity Analysts
1. Networking, scripting, and hacking
It’s important for cybersecurity analysts to think like a hacker to prevent cyberattacks. So, they must sign up for ethical hacking courses and acquire relevant certifications to diversify their knowledge, understand threats to protect systems efficiently.
2. Application design & operating systems
Designing a secure application requires a cybersecurity analyst to have functional knowledge of creating an architecture. In addition to this, they must remember to test the interface throughout the entire software development lifecycle. It is imperative for a cybersecurity analyst to have a solid understanding of all platforms and operating system architectures, including Windows, iOS, Linux, and Android, to rewrite code, patch errors, and conduct malware analysis.
3. Firewall installation & information assurance
Cybersecurity analysts must possess a deep understanding of hardware/software firewall structures to maintain firewalls and protect network security. Analysts need to develop new strategies to store an organization’s vital information in a safe and secure electronic format. This activity ensures that information systems work as expected when needed and that only authorized users have access to them.
4. Vulnerability assessment & penetration testing
To determine whether the system is vulnerable to any known vulnerabilities, a cybersecurity analyst needs to assign severity levels to those vulnerabilities and, if necessary, offer remediation or mitigation. The vulnerability assessment process consists of four steps: vulnerability identification, vulnerability analysis, risk assessment, and remediation.
A cybersecurity analyst tests systems for exploitable vulnerabilities by simulating a cyber attack to augment a web application firewall (WAF). It involves breaking into various application systems (e.g., backend/frontend servers, application protocol interfaces (APIs) to discover vulnerabilities, such as unsanitized inputs used in code injection attacks.
5. Decision making & project management
Cybersecurity analysts must have strong decision-making skills to navigate challenging situations, think on their feet, and propose unique solutions to deal with any security problems.
Security analysts must have critical thinking and design thinking skills to manage complex problems and troubleshoot software issues.
They also need to perform tasks to reduce the risk of vulnerabilities while assisting the organization’s growth. These include monitoring vulnerability management efforts and the need to apply security fixes on a timely basis.
6. Collaboration & communication
The collaborative nature of their role requires cybersecurity analysts to work in synergy and cooperation with other teams. As such, having good interpersonal skills and facilitating teamwork are highly valued in this domain. Since cybersecurity analysts need to collaborate with many non-technical teams, they must be able to explain technical concepts in a simple and easy-to-understand manner instead of using jargon. Being strongly skilled in written and verbal communication is a must and would come in handy at any given point.
7. Updated with trends
While cybercrimes such as ransomware, trojan, and phishing are particularly well-known, 2020 saw a rapid rise in crypto-mining attacks, giving cybercriminals an easy entryway into company networks. The ever-changing nature of this field requires cybersecurity analysts to be curious and hungry to learn continuously. They need to always be on top of new threat trends and be adaptable to change.
Most often, security threats do not present themselves in the most revealing manner. They are complex, hidden, and minute. However, even the tiniest threat could be enough to initiate a cyberattack and wreak havoc across an organization. Hence, cybersecurity analysts need to be observant and attentive to detect threats before they can break through the security walls of the organization.
See More: What Is Advanced Persistent Threat? Definition, Lifecycle, Identification, and Management Best Practices
Industry Salaries: What to Expect
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a cybersecurity analyst’s median salary is $103,590, as per data in December 2021. It’s interesting to note that professionals in the cybersecurity field earn twice as much as their counterparts in the information technology (IT) industry.
1. Salary Based on Experience
Experience plays a major role in determining an individual’s salary, be it any industry or job role. When it comes to cybersecurity, in-field learning and hands-on experience become crucial factors in determining the salary. As per data acquired from the job site PayScale, here’s how the level of experience can impact your salary.
- Entry-level (less than one year): $63,235
- Early career (1 to 4 years): $71,942
- Mid-career (5 to 9 years): $88,596
- Experienced (10 to 19 years): $102,002
- Late career (20+ years): $112,984
2. Salary Based on Industry
As companies across varied industries get more and more conscious about the safety of their assets, the need to employ a cybersecurity analyst has become all the more crucial. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certain sectors and industries tend to pay more than others.
- Information: $107,310
- Finance and insurance: $106,430
- Computer systems design and related services: $104,820
- Management of companies and enterprises: $102,330
- Administrative and support services: $99,860
3. Salary Based on Job Location
Locations most definitely impact salaries. While average salaries in major cities such as New York and Washington D.C. might be higher, it is also important to note that the cost of living and expenditure is also higher in these cities. Let’s look at the average annual salary according to the job location, as per PayScale.
- Washington DC: $85,265
- San Diego, CA: $81,794
- Dallas, TX: $73,757
- New York, NY: $87,582
- Chicago, IL: $77,153
*All figures mentioned above were derived in December 2021.
Regardless of a cybersecurity professional’s precise title, their role encompasses multiple areas of responsibility and vigilance. Since information security is inherently unpredictable, certain activities, such as keeping up with the latest security news reports, will always need to be performed. Cybersecurity analysts are likely to encounter various security difficulties that will demand an extensive investigation.
Some industries will require a security clearance, especially if it is a government agency or a private company that deals with extremely sensitive data. Cybersecurity professionals in these domains may also be restricted regarding what they can say about their work to the outside world.
See More: What Is Unified Threat Management (UTM)? Definition, Best Practices, and Top UTM Tools for 2021
Businesses and their data are constantly surrounded by security threats and malware risks. To minimize their impact or eliminate them completely, organizations need to do everything in their power to maintain the security posture of their networks. The foremost step here is to bring onboard a qualified cybersecurity professional. It is now up to the cybersecurity analyst to lead the change, navigate threats, and ensure complete data protection.
Contrary to popular belief, cybersecurity roles are not just dependent on a particular skill-set but also on the entire cybersecurity landscape. Hence, cybersecurity analysts must bring their A-game by keeping themselves updated with the latest security tools, technologies, policies, and protocols across the landscape.
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