A cyber security analyst’s main responsibility is to help protect the company from all manners of digital threats including data breaches, unauthorised access, intellectual property theft, fraudulent transactions and so on. The challenge is to differentiate between a potential attack and the thousands or millions of genuine transactions.
The overall responsibility to guard against cyber threats may be broken down into three main areas:
At the strategic level, cyber security analysts are responsible for crafting the company’s cyber security, data, and access policies. This would also include the formulation of back-up plans, training modules, audit strategies and so on. For larger companies, this role is restricted to medium or senior-level cyber security analysts. But for small or medium enterprises, a cyber security analyst or engineer would be expected to perform all roles from planning to execution.
This is the phase where all the company’s cybersecurity policies are actually implemented and adopted throughout the firm. This involves supporting all stakeholders like the IT department by installing the right tools and access controls and the HR department with preparing the right training modules. Cyber security analysts might be expected to develop tools to monitor and measure data which is relevant to digital security or to liaise with external vendors for the same.
Monitoring and response
The day to day monitoring of all the transaction and other digital interactions will form the bulk of your daily routine early in your career. This might involve looking at any suspicious patterns or analysing transactions that get flagged by the system. In case of any issues, the cyber security analyst would be required to lead the response effort to minimise the impact of the breach, assess its impact and immediately initiate countermeasures.
A day in the life of a cyber security analyst
The day to day responsibilities of a cyber security analyst depends greatly on the type and size of the company and their level of experience. At the entry-level, a good deal of time would be spent learning and studying the policies of the firm and monitoring all transactions and digital contact points for any breaches. Essentially, you would have access to a large set of data that you would be required to analyse and report your findings to your superiors. The company might be using some software for this as well, so cyber security analysts and engineers would be expected to be able to use such tools.
For medium or senior-level executives, a greater focus would on the strategic aspects of cyber security. They would spend most of their time assessing new threats and how to tweak their policies to protect against these threats. They would also spend time dealing with exceptions and queries that would be directed at them form junior analysts or from elsewhere within the organisation.
You might spend your day doing one or more of the following:
- Reading up on the latest news and events in cyber security and learning about any major incidents
- Looking at various daily reports of flagged or suspicious transactions
- Preparing reports for senior management and other stakeholders
- Answering queries from other departments on cyber security matters
- Preparing formal training for staff directly or in coordination with third-party vendors
- Coordinating with various vendors on cyber security-related matters
- Trying to find potential security loopholes in the system through various means and then patching those vulnerabilities directly or with outside support
In case of an actual security issue, the cyber security team would have to enter crisis mode. Such incidents are extremely time-sensitive and would require coordination as well as analytical and stress management skills.
Why choose a career in cyber security?
CEO’s often cite cyber security as one of the biggest threats facing their business. Considering the massive reputational damage that many companies have faced recently over data breaches, this is not really a surprising development. Because of this, cyber security continues to be one of the fastest-growing business verticals and engineers/ analysts can expect a lot of options for growth.
Cyber security threats have evolved significantly and now require a broader approach to combating threats. It’s not just a matter of IT expertise anymore, but also dealing with behavioral issues. After all, the majority of cyber security breaches happen because of employee error – not having a secure password or not following access protocols, etc. This means that the role of a cyber security analyst has become more strategic, rather than purely technical and this means that companies are willing to pay more than ever for the candidate with the right experience. You can find a more detailed breakup of cyber security salaries here.
Cyber security career prospects
- Cyber security analysts and engineers can expect to grow organically to eventually end up as something like a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) although some organisations might just have a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) role to cover cyber security as well. Below the CISO, there may be team leader type roles depending on the size of the organisation
- Another career path is to become an independent cyber security consultant and then help multiple client companies. This can be extremely lucrative but generally requires substantial technical expertise in the field of information and cyber security. There are even roles where security consultants try and attack a company’s cyber defences themselves in order to help find vulnerabilities and patch them. Forensics investigators and auditors also fall in this category of external consultants and are usually brought into the picture on a need basis
- Lastly, there is the option to work for a cyber security software/ tool development company as an architect, coder, implementation engineer, etc. Some of the largest companies even have in-house teams developing cyber security tools for their internal use.
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