A Cybersecurity Analyst is a complex role that’s so much more than sitting at a computer and sending test emails to employees to see if they click the bait. It’s about monitoring, investigation, implementation, and collaboration—all things that are needed to keep data and sensitive information safe.
Read on to see what a typical day looks like for a Cybersecurity Analyst, and how you can become one or level up your expertise in the role.
What is a Cybersecurity Analyst?
When you think of cybersecurity, you might picture a few different things. If you’ve seen some edge-of-your-seat action movies, you’re likely thinking of someone sitting in a dark room full of bright screens, wearing a headset, and stopping hackers in their tracks.
And you’d be wrong about most of that.
A Cybersecurity Analyst protects people and their data using processes and technology. It’s like a doctor keeping their patient’s body healthy—except in this case, the patient’s “body” is the computer system and its networks. Similarly, you can think of it like a TSA agent monitoring threats and vulnerabilities; but for a Cybersecurity Analyst, the threats and vulnerabilities are to systems and the data they hold.
In addition to the online protection of real-life risks, the main goals of Cybersecurity Analysts can be broken down as such: monitoring, identifying, remediating, and training.
Monitoring includes watching networks to spot and look into any security incidents or breaches. Once identified, they must be fixed. To prevent incidents from happening in the first place, Cybersecurity Analysts are responsible for training staff on what to look for and educating employees about security best practices, including how to protect the sensitive information that they may be working with.
Cybersecurity Analysts can work in any number of industries, including but not limited to non-profits, hospitals, agencies, start-ups, corporations, and government organizations.
What does the role of a Cybersecurity Analyst involve?
The role of Cybersecurity Analysts is dependent on where they’re working, along with the size and structure of the company. Below are a few of the duties that one might find themself responsible for in this role.
- Threat Analysis: Cybersecurity Analysts assess the potential of security risks, and are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities and threats. Their role is critical to the cybersafety of the business, which includes protecting digital assets and data by using a robust security plan. This includes analyzing an organization’s security status to see its vulnerabilities, then developing and implementing tools and strategies to minimize exposures.
- Threat Hunting: Have you ever received an email from a colleague that was meant to test your security knowledge? That colleague was likely a Cybersecurity Analyst. As part of their job, they can “ethically hack” the workplace to identify vulnerabilities and risks. This allows them to evaluate the cybersecurity of the business, and recommend ways to improve it.
Another form of threat hunting is endpoint management, where the goal is to make sure that only approved and authenticated devices are connected to the network, and that all parties know and follow the security measures that have been established to maintain cybersafety.
- Incident Response: Even the safest of networks can be breached. And when that happens, a Cybersecurity Analyst should be there to investigate, gather evidence, fix the problem, provide adequate solutions so the error can’t be replicated in the future, and deliver a full report. This includes an outline of what happened and the actions that are being taken to resolve the incident and protect the networks against future attacks.
- Awareness and training: Cybersecurity Analysts are a key part of the education and training of employees. They raise awareness about threats, like email scams and hacking, then train employees on how to protect information. Because cybersecurity threats are always evolving, training should be ongoing, both with new and existing employees. The training programs should also be up-to-date with current threats and tools and tactics to support them.
- Collaboration: As part of their role, Cybersecurity Analysts work with various teams and stakeholders, like IT and executive leaders, to develop security policies and procedures that keep information and data safe and confidential. This can involve briefing teams on potential exposures, working with leaders to develop plans to mitigate risks, or training new hires on what to look out for in email correspondence.
What type of training does a Cybersecurity Analyst need?
Traditionally, a Cybersecurity Analyst needed a bachelor’s degree in fields such as information technology or computer science. Some organizations also looked for candidates with a Master’s degree; others wanted employees with professional certifications like Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). The latter requires five years of experience before the exam can be taken, and training and education are both needed for the necessary CompTIA and AWS exams.
Today, the need for Cybersecurity Analysts has grown as much as the cyber threats that continue to put businesses and organizations at risk.
That means jobs in Cybersecurity are readily available, as well as alternative training to prepare new hires. Alternative types of education to the bachelor’s degree can include cybersecurity bootcamp or online programs. These are accelerated programs led by industry leaders to prepare students with the hands-on, real-time experience to move forward in their new roles. Depending on the program, students can even complete them while working full-time in their current careers.
The skills of a Cybersecurity Analyst
Cybersecurity Analysts require a variety of skill sets. Although not all are the same, a few skills are necessary.
These include but are not limited to: networking and system administration, operating systems, cryptography, security tools, cloud and programming.
For example, networking is critical to understanding the complexities of computer networks and being able to perform duties like risk analysis, responding to incidents, and designing security programs. Networking is what enables the Cybersecurity Analyst to do their job in protecting against cyber threats and keeping information safe.
A deep understanding of operating systems is also vital to the success of this role. This skill set allows the Cybersecurity Analyst to work with and test on different systems without the threat of exposing data or sensitive information.
Knowing the specifics of cryptography, translated to “secret writing”, is another key area of being a Cybersecurity Analyst. This is the process of protecting sensitive information, specifically when it’s not being used (at rest) or in transit, and ensures that the person for whom the information is intended can understand it and process it.
Another skill of a Cybersecurity Analyst is response. Although a lot of your time will be spent preventing attacks, you’ll also have to deal with responding to them. Being able to remain calm under pressure is critical to dealing with this level of responsibility, especially because most people in the organization will look to you, the Cybersecurity Analyst, for guidance and next steps.
Cybersecurity Analysts also need to possess “soft skills”. For instance, they need to be expert communicators and collaborators, especially since they’ll work with different stakeholders and team members ranging from volunteers and new hires all the way to IT teams and executives.
Whether they’re training via Zoom meetings or putting together written policies and reports, Cybersecurity Analysts must be able to clearly and concisely communicate risks, threats, programs, and solutions to all sorts of people—not just those who are well-versed in cybersecurity. This type of communication is crucial to maintain an adequate level of cybersafety across an entire network and workplace.
Although it seems obvious, problem-solving is another important skill for a Cybersecurity Analyst. Not only should they understand the ins and outs of threats and risks, but they should be able to think outside the box to analyze complex issues, then craft solutions that solve present and future threats.
These skills often require a level of motivation from the Cybersecurity Analyst. Because the field of cybersafety and the threats that accompany it are ever-changing, this role should be filled by a professional who is always on the hunt for more knowledge and training through a variety of sources.
Because the field of cybersafety and the threats accompanying it are ever-changing, this role should be filled by a professional who is always on the hunt for more knowledge and training through various sources. Learning through certifications, events, industry news, and even networking with other professionals and students are all helpful to keep Cybersecurity Analysts up-to-date on emerging trends and tactics, and the workplaces they’re supporting are safe and secure.
A growing field
The world is becoming more technologically savvy, and as it does, the need for Cybersecurity Analysts continues to rise. Companies across a variety of industries are looking for cybersecurity professionals who are well-versed, educated, and prepared to take on the ever-evolving future of a hidden digital world.
So, what do you say: mission accepted?