What Does a Cybersecurity Specialist Do? A Definitive Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 14, 2022

Cybersecurity is the practical application of technologies to secure systems, networks and programs from digital threats. If using technology in this way interests you, consider pursuing a career as a cybersecurity specialist. Learning more about what these careers can entail may also help you determine if training to become a cybersecurity specialist would suit your career goals. In this article, we define what a cybersecurity specialist is, discuss what they do, share four steps to help you become one and list potential roles to consider.

Related: Working in Cybersecurity: Definition, Careers and Skills

What is a cybersecurity specialist?

A cybersecurity specialist safeguards digital data. They prevent the loss of personal, financial or otherwise sensitive information from an organization, restrict viruses and cyber attackers from corrupting or accessing data and ensure the organization's systems are fully operational. Cybersecurity specialists examine defense systems and provide reports based on the tests they run. They often possess a high degree of training and knowledge, allowing them to advise and train others regarding cybersecurity best practices and relevant technological advancements.

Related: 15 Careers in Cybersecurity

What does a cybersecurity specialist do?

Cyberattacks often attempt to access, corrupt or destroy sensitive information, extort money from users and interrupt standard business procedures. To stop these types of incidents, cybersecurity specialists regularly:

  • Develop, test, implement and research security systems

  • Assess and fix software bugs

  • Combat security threats and find potential vulnerabilities

  • Create risk prevention measures

  • Produce security reports for managers and administrators

Cybersecurity roles to explore

There are many ways cybersecurity experts can use their skills in the security and technology industries. Here are some cybersecurity-related positions to consider exploring:

Information security analyst

Information security analysts work to keep sensitive data safe. They create security plans or policies and help implement them. They may review and update the policies periodically to ensure that the safety measures remain relevant and that other members of the organization follow these measures correctly. Analysts track the outcomes of the policies they create to find potential vulnerabilities. An analyst may also conduct security training for other personnel.

Related: Learn About Being a Cybersecurity Analyst

Software security engineer

Software security engineers create firewalls and intrusion detection systems for organizations using coding and programming languages. They develop the framework for new software solutions and perform ongoing testing to help mitigate security issues. Security engineers also maintain records of their processes and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Related: How To Become a Security Software Engineer

Security architect

A security architect identifies the strengths and vulnerabilities of a client's computer system. To effectively detect the strategies a hacker might use to infiltrate systems, security architects combine reasoning and creative thinking to eliminate these vulnerabilities. They may also create budgets, allocate resources, manage security IT teams and generate security reports.

Penetration tester

Penetration testers attempt to break through an organization's security protections using hacking skills and tools. Their primary responsibility is to mimic a cyberattack to test a client's security procedures and firewalls. Their conclusions are critical for the development of future system security policies. Penetration testers keep thorough records of their operations to provide reports detailing how they circumvented the security systems.

Related: 6 Penetration Testing Methods

Chief information security officer

The primary duties of a chief information security officer include project management, general security management and vulnerability management. Security officers often possess strong organizational abilities and design measures to reduce identified security threats. They also lead employees in finding, creating, implementing and monitoring practices that reduce IT risks across the organization.

Information security crime investigator

An information security crime investigator investigates cyberattacks and determines who or what triggered them. Investigators work closely with law enforcement and other legal entities that rely on the experts' extensive security assessments. They often recover data from computers used in court as evidence and may also testify in court when necessary.

Security consultant

Security consultants are independent contractors that provide network security expertise and advice to a variety of enterprises. They may organize meetings with different IT departments to resolve current and potential safety issues. Their work typically requires diverse technical, analytical, communication and computing abilities.

How to become a cybersecurity specialist

Here are four steps that may help you pursue a career as a cybersecurity specialist:

1. Earn a degree

Many cybersecurity jobs, which include a wide variety of work descriptions and responsibilities, require some sort of formal education. Professionals with a master's degree, bachelor's degree or an associate degree in cybersecurity may have an advantage when applying to roles as a cybersecurity expert. Technical degrees such as engineering, mathematics and computer science can also be extremely useful, especially if a job candidate also has relevant professional experience.

2. Obtain industry certification

Obtaining industry certification is an important part of pursuing a career as a cybersecurity specialist and staying relevant to the field. Consider the particular qualifications or certifications organizations often ask for in job listings. Here are six cybersecurity certifications professionals often obtain:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is an advanced certification for cybersecurity experts who have a minimum of five years of work experience. Engineering, management and architecture are some topics this certification includes.

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): This certification from the Institute of Supply Chain Management helps demonstrate your experience in identifying security vulnerabilities, planning and executing controls and reporting on compliance. Five years of security, quality assurance, IT audit, IS audit or control experience is necessary to qualify for the test.

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This certification addresses topics such as program creation, governance and risk management. Five years of expertise in information security management is necessary to take the CISM test.

  • Security+: The CompTIA Security+ certification is an entry-level security certification for cybersecurity professionals. The certification focuses on the concepts of threat analysis and risk management.

  • Network+: This basic certification concentrates on networking infrastructure and operations.

  • Certified Ethical Hacker: This certification is an advanced credential requiring several years of job experience. The purpose of this certification is to improve defense strategy and mitigation capabilities by learning how cyberattacks occur.

3. Gain experience

Obtaining a position as a cybersecurity specialist often requires demonstrating pertinent experience. You might do this by applying for an internship or finding relevant entry-level work experience. You can also enter cybersecurity competitions to test your skills against those of other learners and experts.

4. Network with other professionals

Expanding your professional network allows you to meet other cybersecurity professionals and learn from their expertise. Some professional cybersecurity career groups and organizations alert members about job openings and possibilities for professional growth. Local cybersecurity events and online seminars can also be helpful resources for connecting with fellow professionals, seeking career advice and learning about new developments in the field.

Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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