Skills Every Cybersecurity Professional Needs

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By DeVry University

December 8, 2022
8 min read

In an increasingly digital world, protecting data, systems and networks against cybercrime is more important than ever.

Deterring threats from malicious hackers is often a top priority of corporate, e-commerce, healthcare, banking and financial systems operators who use cyber security skills to ensure customer data like payment information, passwords and medical records, as well as trade secrets are protected. Without this protection, successful cyberattacks can result in catastrophic results including loss of data, fines and other penalties, lost revenue, pirated intellectual property and diminished consumer confidence. 

As businesses, healthcare systems and government agencies try to stay ahead of cybercriminals, the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. Individuals pursuing a cybersecurity career may be interested to know that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for information security analysts is projected to grow 35% on a national level from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations1.

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security, also known as information technology (IT) security, is a blanket term that describes the technology and practices involved in protecting critical systems and sensitive information from digital attacks. Cyber security measures are designed to combat threats against networked systems and applications, whether they originate from inside or outside of an organization, and are an essential part of any organization’s risk management strategy.

According to Statista, in fiscal year 2020, the number of cyber security incident reports by federal agencies in the United States was over 30,000, an approximate 8% increase from the previous year.

What Does a Cybersecurity Professional Do?

Cybersecurity professionals, also known as information security professionals, perform a variety of technical and administrative tasks required for the daily protection of IT systems. According to Cloud Academy a partial list of the tasks they may perform includes:

  • Monitoring operations and infrastructure to identify irregular or suspicious activity.
  • Maintaining security tools and technology to ensure security practices are compliant and performing the necessary audits to confirm compliance and identify areas of weakness.
  • Using ethical hacking technics to identify weaknesses and loopholes in an organization’s cybersecurity protocols that could be exploited by cybercriminals.
  • Monitoring internal and external policies to ensure that vendors and employees work within policy guidelines.
  • Working with different departments within an organization to reduce risks. For example, working between the IT and HR departments to educate employees on how to identify suspicious activities.
  • Evaluating and implementing new technologies that would diminish cybersecurity risks.
  • Creating and submitting regular reports to senior-level management.

Technical Skills Cybersecurity Professionals Need

Cybersecurity professionals use a variety of technical, workplace and interpersonal skills in their day-to-day activities. If you have a background in IT, you may already have some of the technical skills required to pursue a cybersecurity career, like: 

Coding and Scripting:

Coding is the process of using programming language, or code, to build websites and web applications. Unlike coding, which is essentially static, scripting is a type of coding in which you make a program do something, like making images and text move around. Cybersecurity professionals should have a working knowledge of front-end programming languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, as well as back-end programming languages like PHP, Java, C# and Python.

Framework Knowledge:

A cybersecurity framework provides a collection of policies, best practices and protocols designed to help secure an organization’s data and business operations. The frameworks you might use as a cybersecurity professional will vary depending on your organization’s type, size and industry. Some of the most popular cybersecurity frameworks include:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Center of Information Security (CIS)
  • System and Organization Controls 2 (SOC 2)

Operating Systems:

Because security threats are equal opportunity offenders that transcend all operating systems and devices, you should develop a deep familiarity with MacOS, Windows, Linux and their commend-line interfaces. And because consumers are increasingly managing so many aspects of their lives using mobile devices, it would also be helpful to study the threats and vulnerabilities confronting mobile operating systems like iOS and Android.

Cloud Security:

Many functionalities like data storage that were once based in computer hard drives or wired networks have migrated to the cloud. Devices that enhance convenience and entertainment experiences, like voice assistants and fitness watches, involve a technology called IoT (Internet of Things). As a cybersecurity professional you will be expected to be knowledgeable in cloud security. This means monitoring access and ensuring the company’s data storage and sharing is secure within common cloud providers such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud and Oracle. You may also work with IT departments to create safe internal cloud systems for an organization.

Network Security:

Encompassing all policies and procedures used to prevent and detect unauthorized access, misuse or modification of an organization’s data system, network security is a general term that defines a broad set of basic cybersecurity skills. To pursue a career as a cybersecurity analyst, you will need to be familiar with firewalls and their implementation, and various ways in which network traffic is monitored to identify threats. 

Security Auditing:

This aspect of cyber security involves analyzing systems and reporting on their condition in audits that offer deep insight into where existing cybersecurity systems are performing well, and where improvement is needed. The ability to provide unbiased evaluations, make recommendations regarding changes to infrastructure and develop cost-benefit analyses for senior management and other stakeholders are skills that come into play here. 

Soft Skills Cybersecurity Professionals Need

Working in cyber security certainly requires a robust set of technical skills, as described above. But they are not the only skills to put in your toolbox as you prepare to pursue a cybersecurity career. Soft skills like attention to detail and communication can be more important than you might think. 

Problem Solving:

Cyber security has problem solving at its core, so it’s no surprise that problem-solving skills are first on the list of soft skills you may require to be successful in this career pursuit. As a cybersecurity professional, you may be called upon to make high-stakes decisions about your organization’s security and use problem-solving skills daily, finding creative ways to confront cyberthreats as they present themselves across existing and emerging technologies. 

Critical thinking is required in problem solving. Developing your critical thinking skills can help you to:

  • Ask the right questions
  • Evaluate and assess data
  • Identify your assumptions
  • Consider alternatives
  • Understand context
  • Draw data-driven solutions

Communication Skills:

Strong verbal and written communication skills are qualifications that frequently show up in job descriptions, and for good reason. Communication skills go hand-in-hand with problem-solving skills as the cyber security professional often needs to explain a vulnerability or other problem they’ve found, or the solution they propose to individuals who have limited technical background or experience. This is a skill that can serve you well throughout your career, as you might need to communicate with stakeholders by email, phone or in person, and have the ability to make complex subjects understandable to them, enabling them to make decisions and form action plans.

Adaptability:

Technology moves quickly and new types of cyberthreats arise frequently. Cybersecurity professionals need to keep pace with new vulnerabilities that crop up with the emergence of new technologies, and the evolving tactics that cybercriminals will undoubtedly use. The ability to learn new technologies quickly and adjust processes and systems with ease is an essential skill. Adapting the mindset of a lifelong learner can help you stay a step ahead of these challenges.

Detail-Oriented:

As a cybersecurity professional, you’ll likely be responsible for continuous network monitoring. Being able to defend your organization against cyberattacks may require you to be not only highly vigilant, but also very detail oriented to detect and confront vulnerabilities. 

Attention to detail is a skill that you’ll also likely use to ensure that your verbal and written communication with both the stakeholders within your organization and with external audiences is accurate and concise.

Hacking Skills:

To fully understand how a system could be breached and create effective solutions to thwart attacks, cybersecurity professionals should know how to be ethical hackers. This means understanding how malicious hackers work, and using the same cybersecurity skills they use to perform penetration tests to identify cyber security flaws and the vulnerabilities they cause.

Computer Forensics Skills:

To be able to effectively safeguard your organization’s digital assets and prevent security breaches, you’ll need to have a solid understanding of what happens if your efforts fail and how compromised data can be recovered. Cyber security and computer forensics are two separate disciplines, with the latter typically associated with law enforcement’s efforts to recover information on computer hard drives as part of a criminal investigation. But in this way the two are closely related. Acquiring a foundation in computer forensics can help you excel in your cyber security career.

Conclusion

As new technologies emerge and more data systems shift from hardwired networks to the cloud, the field of cyber security continues to grow, driving a level of demand for cybersecurity professionals that is projected to remain strong through the next decade. Every cybersecurity professional needs a mixture of hard skills, which are required mainly through technical training, and soft skills, which are sometimes referred to as people skills. If you’re preparing to pursue a cybersecurity career, acquiring them is a great first step. 

Pursue a Career in Cyber Security

Learn what it takes to defend networks, applications and systems against cyberattacks through one of our multiple degrees and specializations, including our Online Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security, Associate in Cybersecurity and Networking, or Bachelor’s in Information Technology and Networking with a Specialization in Cyber Security.

Our knowledgable faculty provide real-world perspectives of the challenges and opportunities facing cyber security professionals, and have the experience and tools needed to make online learning productive and engaging. Some curriculum elements are even aligned with industry certifications to help you grow your knowledge and skills as you prepare to pursue certification exams. Start building your future now. Classes start every 8 weeks.

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1 Growth projected on a national level. Local growth may vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm  

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