In an area as dynamic and fast-paced as cyber security it should come as no surprise that the skill set required for those needed to fill jobs in information security, risk analysis, IT risk and data analytics is constantly evolving. As technologies advance, the threats and types of attacks progress right along with them and so too the technological antidotes to thwart them; so what is the core criteria that makes for a great cyber security professional?
The ability to think outside the box is only one element of this skill, which also requires someone working in cyber security to keep track of developments in the field via news channels, the internet and social media. Cyber security is the metaphorical city that never sleeps so its worker bees need to stay tuned to the buzz to avoid missing valuable developments that may threaten the security of data. With the advent of a more complex mobile landscape, which sees the majority of people carry their entire life around with them in their pocket, new threats and weak spots have arisen. Mobile and Application Security are both valid areas of expertise within cyber security and due to both still being relatively young technologies, the right professionals with the necessary expertise are in short supply. Individuals with excellent coding skills and reverse engineering know-how are hugely in demand as Apps continue to encounter one-off errors that expose devices to external threats. However, having niche additional skills should not be limited to just security expertise alone, as cyber security crosses over into many more areas of business. Language skills, legal prowess and even psychology all lend valid strengths to a cyber security résumé.
Soft skills are just as important as the technical expertise required for cyber security jobs as much of what poses a threat to data security are the people to whom the data belongs. These are also the literal gatekeepers to a great deal of the data being accessed by cyber criminals. Cyber security professionals therefore need to be able to demonstrate effective communication skills, both verbally and written, in order to fulfil the educational component of their job in raising awareness of threats, such as the commonly used phishing campaigns. Within business, cyber security professionals need to be able to work closely with all departments, from HR to marketing, so people skills are a must and just as important as explaining is the art of listening and understanding others’ concerns and ideas. Making the pursuit of security defence a collaborative effort will make it a successful one.
To work in cyber security you essentially have to be a data whisperer. The bulk of what cyber security rests on is analysing large amounts of data so individuals with a scientific mind who are able to funnel data from multiple sources and unscramble it into something that makes sense are the ideal match for this field. Being proficient in big data is a huge advantage as is being able to sift through it to find that proverbial needle in the haystack.
To be a great cyber security professional it pays to understand who and what you are protecting. In cyber security there is no one size fits all strategy, you have to be adaptable both to the different businesses you’re working with and the constantly changing technologies and subsequent threats they encounter. Staying one step ahead of trends in the industry and understanding business-prioritised risks is the best way to identify potential weak spots in an organisation’s network. Familiarise yourself with all business systems so that you know what information is the most valuable and could pose the greatest breach to a company should it ever be lost or stolen.
Think like a Hacker
Many companies will hire what’s called an “ethical hacker” who essentially comes on board with the sole intention of purposely hacking into the company’s network in order to unearth their vulnerabilities. Thinking like a hacker is an important skill to have though, regardless of the type of information security you oversee, as ultimately being able to predict what and how a hacker will attack is the key to thwarting their efforts. Cyber security involves intricate attention to detail and a desire to examine situations from every possible angle in order to get the job done. There are also those within the cyber security profession who tackle the issue of IT from a forensic perspective in order to track the origin of a breach and thus what has been compromised. As hackers whittle down the platforms in play to filter the targets for their attacks, cyber security professionals have to be even smarter in safeguarding and preventing the attacks from occurring.