Information Security is a fundamental cornerstone of modern businesses, both physical and digital. Be it for yourself as an individual, or for a household, or even a business, it can be hard to function without information systems security. That’s why all of us take some kind of steps to ensure this safety and security for ourselves.
We might have passwords on our phones, and extra locks on our doors. However, have you ever thought about how big businesses and large organizations ensure security for themselves and their data? After all, their reputation and profitability in on the line, and they could potentially lose millions and billions of dollars just because of a single security breach.
It is precisely these risks why cybersecurity has become such a hot topic today. It is why you’re here, trying to learn how to become a security analyst. Moreover, as time goes by, jobs like these will only become more critical.
What Does A Security Analyst Do?
Businesses and organizations have many different kinds of assets, such as cash, people, equipment, etc. However, one of the most vital assets they have is their electronic data. Moreover, they would want to protect this at all costs, and that’s where the security team comes in.
Each day brings new threats and risks which are entirely different from their predecessors and need to be dealt with accordingly. That’s why we have security analysts who can understand these threats and can help an organization protect its most valuable digital assets.
The cybersecurity analyst role is often the first role cybersecurity professionals start after becoming qualified, it’s considered entry-level, but it’s not without its challenges.
Those looking to build a strong technical understanding that you can build upon as you progress in your career are strongly recommended to start their career path as a cybersecurity analyst.
The role might be considered entry-level, but the responsibilities, tasks, and scope of the work are essential to the business and are unlike any other roles within the business.
We’ve already covered how to become an information security analyst in the rest of this article, so in this section, we’ll closely look at what an information security analyst does.
Duties of a Cybersecurity Analyst
The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) defines the duties of a cybersecurity analyst as the following:
- Planning, implementing, upgrading, or monitoring “security measures for the protection of computer networks and information systems.”
- Ensuring “appropriate security controls are in place that will safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure.”
- Responding to “computer security breaches and viruses.”
These tasks will require the cybersecurity analyst to have in-depth knowledge of networks, computers, telecommunications as well as softer skills such as customer service and an excellent understanding of the English language.
Day of a Security Analyst
In a typical day, a cybersecurity analyst might spend time reviewing events and incidents related to potential information security procedure breaches. Additionally, they could attend meetings discussing future improvements to the business information security posture as well as participating in project deliveries.
Other tasks might involve compiling reports, statistical analysis, liaising with 3rd party suppliers, or managing customer expectations.
Cybersecurity analysts may utilize several tools during the day, including network monitoring applications, event log monitors, proxies, firewalls, and antivirus applications. While you might not be expected to be an expert in any one of these, you might need to have a solid understanding of the outputs or how to understand their data and how they work.
You may also need skills within related fields such as application development and risk.
To break it down further, we can divide a security analyst’s work into four areas:
Maintaining Data Security
Security analysts have to understand the whole computer network and system structure of the business.
They have to look at the information security system from various aspects, digging into vulnerabilities or weaknesses. If there are any weak points, they have to take steps to mitigate the associated risk and then keep monitoring the situation.
Moreover, they have to investigate and probe into any potential breach attempts and then try to prevent it from happening again.
They tend to have a deep understanding of how the whole network runs and what dangers it is vulnerable to. They might be tasked with actively testing the network for vulnerabilities.
Improving Security Measures
Not many people realize this, but there are hundreds and thousands of different viruses and malware out there, with more coming every day.
An information security system might be equipped to stop the known viruses. However, it might fail tomorrow in the face of these new threats.
That’s why a security analyst’s job also involves continually improving the information security posture. This might involve updating virus definitions, but it also might involve investigating suspicious behavior that could indicate a compromise.
As the business grows, it requires additional information security measures, and the security analyst analyzes these needs and can come up with measures to mitigate the associated risk.
Most probably, the work of a security analyst will not be a one-person job. Even the smallest of companies will require a couple of people to handle the security of the company. Therefore, an information security analyst will be working with a team.
Within that team, he will often have to conduct training sessions for the other members to teach them about new protocols and procedures. This way, everyone will be on the same page and more efficient in their jobs.
As cybersecurity leaders, we have to create our message of influence because security is a culture and you need the business to take place and be part of that security culture.
Furthermore, an information security analyst will not just have to train people from the cybersecurity department. Instead, sometimes he might even have to train people from other departments as well, improving cybersecurity awareness. This way, every department will be able to better understand cyber risks and take measures to decrease their exposure.
Other Administrative Tasks
A security analyst might have to do some other administrative tasks as well within the company. For instance, he might have to write up reports of any breaches or incidents. He might have to come up with proposals to pitch an idea to the upper management.
Additionally, he might have to document specific steps and measures to establish an emergency protocol.
Creating playbooks, procedures, and processes is likely to be a significant portion of the job.
How to Become A Security Analyst
As you can tell from the job description above, a security analyst’s work revolves around a lot of areas. It’s not strictly restricted towards only the technical stuff. Rather it includes administrative tasks as well as some soft social skills and interactions. Therefore, the requirements for this job are also quite diverse.
You will need a combination of the right skills, the proper education, and the relevant experience. All of these will equip you with the expertise necessary for you to not only get this job but also perform well on this job.
Moreover, as time goes by, the requirements, expected skillset, and technologies will like change. Therefore, it’s imperative that cybersecurity analysts work to continuously improve their skills and knowledge.
The precise skills will vary from company to company, as each organization will have its own requirements. However, generally, these are the skills to look out for.
- Strong understanding of computer networks and systems security
- Knowledge of various information security methods, policies, regulations, and IT solutions
- Ethical hacking
- Performing multiple tests such as penetration and vulnerability tests
- Data recovery
- Identifying information security risks
- Monitoring breaches and threats to the digital system
- Knowledge of programming languages such as C, C++, Java, PHP
- Installing different software and program
- Knowledge of data integrity and hardware
- Team management
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Analytical thinking
- Creative thinking and ingenuity
- Research skills
- Auditing skills
- Project management
- Training and development
It’s important to note here that both hard and soft skills are incredibly important here. You could be the genius at setting up firewalls and encryptions. However, if you’re not good at working with other people or communicating, you won’t do too well at this job.
Some of the skills needed for this job can’t be simply learned in a day. You have to start building those skills from an early stage. One way to do this is to enroll in the right programs or degrees. To start off, you’ll need a college degree or bachelor’s in computer science or something related to information technology.
An IT-related degree will help you get acquainted with all those programming languages, operating systems security, important theories, etc. This will help form a strong foundation for IT-related skills. Later on, you can also pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D. in a specific field within computer science or information technology.
The projects and coursework of these educational degrees will help you learn important concepts and make you more familiar with the world of cybersecurity.
Some companies will also require you to have some prior experience before they hire you as a security analyst. This experience will help you get out of the world of theory and get some practical knowledge. The hands-on experience will help you get familiar with the real-life cybersecurity problems.
In addition, you’ll get a chance to hone your interpersonal skills and learn to work with others.
Since the job requires a deep understanding and knowledge of a lot of technical stuff, you can really benefit from getting some additional certifications. These will help you learn new concepts, polish old ones, or even specialize in a certain area.
Certifications will also look great on your resume and give you that extra edge over other candidates. Unlike entire degrees, certifications don’t usually take that much time or money. You can easily work on getting one alongside your job or internship. Some certifications you can go for are:
- Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA) by Cisco
- Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP Security) by Cisco
- McAfee Institute’s certifications related to cybersecurity
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) EC-Council
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) ISC2
- CompTIA Security+
- Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA)
The job of an information security analyst is pretty extensive and wide-ranging. You might not work just as a security analyst. You might be hired to work for a specific area. For instance, you might start off as a systems analyst specialist. This role will probably have a lesser scope of work, and you’ll probably be working with others to plan and execute strategies.
After that, you might go to a more senior-level information security analyst position. Then, when you’ve got enough years and experience under your belt, you might be promoted to a much higher position, such as a systems analyst specialist.
Other than that, your career path may also take you towards something more specialized. For example, you could become a data security analyst or information security compliance analyst.
Since the job requires some technical skills and a lot of hard work and critical thinking, it does pay you quite nicely for it too. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for information security analysts in 2018 was $98,350. Moreover, they expect this occupation to grow more than 30%, which is much higher than the average, from 2018 to 2028.
According to Payscale, the average salary is around $68,000, but you could end up earning as high as almost $100,000. The exact salary can vary according to the place, which industry you’re in, and the organization itself.
For instance, information security analysts in areas such as Seattle, New York, and Houston have a chance to make more money than in areas such as Dallas or Tampa.
In case you’ve still got some questions left, we’ve answered some of your frequently asked questions.
How long does it take to become a security analyst?
It depends on your own pace, but it could roughly take you around six to eight years. You’ll have the four years for your bachelor’s, two years for your masters if you decide to go for it. Then, one or two years for some work experience.
Can I become a security analyst without getting a degree?
Technically, you can. You might not be able to get a job at a very fancy company or big business, and it might take more time. Moreover, you will need some certifications as a replacement to show that you’ve got the skills needed. Therefore, technically, you should be able to become a security analyst.
If you’re fresh out of college with a degree in computer science or something similar and are wondering what to do next, this is it.
A master’s degree or a Ph.D., and a couple of certifications later, you could find yourself as an information security analyst at an excellent company. You’d have a handsome salary and lots of opportunities to further enhance your career.
Even if you’re already working somewhere else but want to switch to some other industry, cybersecurity can be a fantastic choice. More specifically, an information security analyst will be a great profession to choose. Now that you know how to become a security analyst, it shouldn’t be too hard to make a decision.