What does a cybersecurity analyst do?
Introduction: Taking on a role as a cybersecurity analyst
As cyberattacks continue to grow in frequency and malicious hackers apply increasingly sophisticated techniques, the demand for cybersecurity analysts remains high. And with a well-documented workforce shortage, this is a good time to enter the profession — especially when considering that information security analyst jobs are projected to increase by 28% between 2016 and 2026. So if you are looking for a future-proof career, then this might be the one for you!
Do you have what it takes to become a cybersecurity analyst and take part in a challenging and rewarding career path? These positions are often considered entry-level, but they do require strong skills and knowledge as well as drive for continuous learning.
Cybersecurity analyst responsibilities
Cybersecurity analysts are primarily responsible for the digital security of a company, organization or government agency. Typically, they evaluate, plan and implement the security systems that protect an organization’s IT infrastructure and data; this includes the safeguarding of digital assets by responding to incidents like viruses and breaches, reviewing suspicious activity and concentrating on the discovery of vulnerabilities. They also investigate alerts and implement threat protection measures and security controls.
Of course, these duties require knowledge in networks operations as well as hands-on abilities with applying exploitation and reverse-engineering techniques. However, the technical know-how is not enough. Sound customer service and communication skills are also necessary to develop and implement policies and communicate them to management and users. Let’s take a closer look at what a CSA might be tasked to do.
As a security analyst, a professional will determine if any weaknesses exist in the establishment’s security system and, if so, determine proper corrective measures. This position is also expected to investigate security alerts and provide incident response. To do so, cybersecurity analysts (also often called security analysts) gather intelligence and collect evidence on targeted systems to scrutinize incidents. They monitor attacks, intrusions and unauthorized or illegal activity, including the events of any security intrusions, in order to identify the cause. They will also look at unsafe employee practices with the goal of relaying facts to the workplace management so they can make improvements or implement corrective action.
The analyst could also be held responsible to evaluate the adequacy, effectiveness and efficiency of the organization’s processes to assure compliance with regulatory requirements (CCPA or GDPR for example) as well as industry standards. They would then be responsible for implementing measures, such as firewalls and encryption, to help protect the company’s data and sensitive information. In addition, they will likely be responsible for assisting with internal and external audits and assessments, engaging in testing/evaluating security products or performing penetration tests on IT solutions.
Other responsibilities include evaluating the efficacy of the security policies in place, the effectiveness of proper security protocols, and relevance of training programs and modules to educate employees on all security-related information. They can identify and relate best practices that match the company’s setup and requirements.
However, a CSA is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the company’s digital assets are protected from unauthorized access. As Ellen Zhang, the Acquisition Marketing Manager at Digital Guardian, explains: “[it] includes securing both online and on-premise infrastructures, weeding through metrics and data to filter out suspicious activity, and finding and mitigating risks before breaches occur. If a breach does occur, security analysts are often on the front line, leading efforts to counter the attack.”
Cybersecurity analyst roles
A cybersecurity analyst’s main job is to keep intruders, attackers or hackers out of networks in order to protect digital files and information systems against unauthorized access. This means their job duties will vary according to the organization they work for, how large the staff they belong to is, and how the company infrastructure is built: they might be tasked to assess any damage to the infrastructure (software, hardware and networks) as a result of security incidents, or they can be assigned to gain network visibility to derail breaches before they happen by conducting security assessments through vulnerability testing and risk analysis. They might be asked to devise appropriate protective measures and controls, such as a network-based firewall, in place to prevent any cyberthreats from successfully breaching the system.
However, they will also be asked to provide direction to management on what would be best for the protection of the organization, as well as advising on safety measures, policies and training needed. They can also have different type of roles: as an external consultant, offering advisory services to clients in keeping their computing safe, or hired in-house to find ways to protect the company’s information systems against hackers.
Cybersecurity analyst positions have sometimes evolved in similar roles to include:
- Security analyst
- Malware analyst
- Network analyst
- Cybercrime analyst
- Data security analyst
- Information assurance analyst
- Risk analyst
- Security compliance analyst
- Web security analyst
- Virtual systems security analyst
Cybersecurity analyst skills
Those who are already or wish to become an entry-level cybersecurity analyst must possess a handful of technical and analytical skills in order to identify security patterns and trends. The job requires more than just reviewing logs categorizing circumstances or events that might highlight a system breach or malware; it might include data mining and more in-depth diagnosis. In addition, security analysts are expected to use network analysis tools to identify vulnerabilities and document their findings.
The effectiveness of a cybersecurity analyst depends largely on his or her technical (hard) skills. However, soft skills — including the ability to communicate findings and explain problems — have been increasingly listed as important in more and more job vacancies.
Having the right person with the right mix of hard and soft skills on board is indispensable in a role that goes beyond simply assessing security measures and spotting flaws and problems. Analytical skills are paramount when having to decide whether an observed event is worth noting or when asked to evaluate the installation of appropriate tools and countermeasures (e.g., intrusion detection and prevention systems).
Problem-solving ability is also an essential quality of CSAs, as they may need to identify security loopholes in a network’s infrastructure. For the same reasons, CSAs need to be extremely detail-oriented in order to be able to identify and correlate the smallest anomalies while devising new ways to protect systems and meeting the information technology requirements of their clients.
The experts say is important that the cybersecurity analyst have the right communication skills to fully understand the needs of management and users from various departments and also, of course, to convey effectively to the organization their recommendations to best protect data, assets and systems.
With cyberattacks on the rise and the increasing need to secure information systems from breaches and threats, the analyst’s role has become much more crucial. It’s often the CSA who is responsible for providing the business with a recommended security path forward that will allow them to make immediate gains towards protecting the company’s cybersecurity architecture. In general, a security analyst helps deliver immediate insights into threats against the organization.
As a valuable member of any workforce team, the security analyst may be called on to assist in deciding the scope of the analysis that will discover vulnerabilities in practices and activities and the probable actors, as well as evaluating the organization’s capacities in areas such as workplace training and countermeasures.
To sum up: It is important to employ a CSA that has the cleverness and expertise required for successful performance in such a crucial job role. They must have the flexibility to carry out their job, whatever the company infrastructure is.
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