Cyber security specialists work as advisors or employees of an organization and are responsible for the in-house IT system. They often work collaboratively, ensuring each team member and upper-level executive understands the importance of robust cyber resilience procedures. Additionally, they are responsible for monitoring the network, checking for vulnerabilities, and designing new defense policies independently. Their key role involves understanding how cybercriminals behave, predicting these attacks, and preventing data breaches.
Growing demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals
As technology continues to play an ever-greater role in offices, schools, and hospitals, new security concerns continue to emerge. The demand for specialists who can mitigate these threats and educate people about them will only grow. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that information technology is experiencing considerable growth, with 35% more jobs than average expected by 2031. Graduates hoping to pursue a career in this exciting role can begin with an online master’s in cyber security from St. Bonaventure University. The course has been designed by industry experts with real-world experience and is delivered virtually, so it will fit effortlessly around each student’s current commitments.
A constant process of checking and verifying the network
Once qualified, cybersecurity specialists are trusted to protect many different types of digital information. This could include the intellectual property of a large business with a unique product, the personal details contained in a customer database, or financial information. To do this effectively, they must remain vigilant. Regularly checking on the facility’s network, auditing user privileges, and managing software updates is essential. They look for malware of all kinds, as well as weaknesses that could be exploited, and ways of making the system hacker-proof.
A diverse role with a broad scope
No area of information technology is safe without adequate protection, from the apps people install to their passwords and even the anti-virus protection itself. Everything must be continually defended, by analyzing potential risks, considering the impact of new systems, and managing capacity. The focus of a cyber security employee is securing the IT infrastructure, the server it is connected to, and the data it holds. This requires a diverse set of skills and proficiencies including a natural curiosity for IT features and a talent for spotting anomalies. Here is a closer look at the key cybersecurity tasks and why they are important.
Also read: List of Top 10 Open-Source Firewalls
Developing firewalls to secure the network
Firewalls are one of the most recognizable of all cybersecurity solutions; they have been around for years, and most people have them on their PC at home. They prevent unauthorized entry to the system by forming a barrier between suspicious software and the user’s private data. Firewalls vary, with different levels of protection depending on the IT system they serve.
Experts choose one that is best suited to their client’s operating system, they ensure it is ready to manage network access protocols and support third-party software provided by managed service providers. Cyber security workers will choose a firewall that integrates with the software a company uses, so it is not intrusive for authorized personnel but will react quickly to identify threats. Companies with employees who are online regularly will need a firewall with robust web traffic management features, as they reduce the likelihood of a hacker gaining access through the server.
A door is left open without a functioning firewall
Finding the appropriate solution is vital as networks that are not fully or correctly protected become vulnerable. As soon as a PC, tablet, or smartphone is connected to the web through the company’s IT system, they open a door. This is especially true of businesses with combined resources between departments, allowing viruses to spread quickly.
Sometimes the best type of firewall is software-based. These programs are installed on every user’s device to filter out harmful traffic. Larger businesses may be better served by a hardware firewall; these are physical pieces of equipment that manage the area between a network and the internet gateway. Even when the firewall is in place, the analyst will monitor it regularly to ensure it remains compatible and can deal with new threats. Additionally, they will support a firewall with additional security, such as anti-virus software, to ensure it is optimally effective.
Developing and maintaining cyber protection plans
Cyber-attacks can be devastating. They lead to losses of productivity and data, as well as financial turmoil and reputational damage. Although there is no one strategy that a cyber expert can use to guarantee an attack won’t happen, there are ways they can proactively prepare a business. A sound protection plan allows them to cover all the bases in terms of safeguarding, but also mitigate the potential damage should a hacker gain access.
Step one is the risk assessment. This allows them to gain a detailed view of a new or current system. It considers what future threats might arise and how capable the business is, at present, of dealing with these. They look for gaps in procedures and map the various types of data which are stored and their value. If a problem occurs, this ensures they can prioritize the response and allocate resources to key areas.
Matching a response to the company’s budget
Next, the focus will shift to establishing or updating the company’s security goals. These need to be durable, but the costs must align with the available budget. It is useful to consider whether the suggestions will meet industry best practices, which is why the insider knowledge of a cyber analyst is useful. They ensure that their employer’s solutions are not outdated and can stay on top of the latest tactics used by hackers.
Once the framework is in place, IT security employees will review past policies that need to be changed and new procedures that should be implemented. The entire plan can then be executed under constant supervision, to begin with. Analysts will provide support and test the system thoroughly, to confirm it works as expected. Although upholding an organization’s cybersecurity strategy requires an entire workforce, key personnel such as the IT team are always needed to spot problems and fill gaps as the plan matures.
Reacting to and reporting incidents as they occur
Incident reporting is one of the most important tools a cyber security professional can use. It always forms part of a protection system and as a result, informs how future incidents are managed. Once an event takes hold, it can escalate so quickly that even the people at the heart of it don’t have time to gather information. Therefore, a readiness to record details, such as which link was clicked on, is vital for prevention. In the future and in the immediate aftermath, these details can be used to assess the potential risk and decide how it will be managed.
The cyber security team will put together a comprehensive response plan which becomes part of standard procedure. To enhance their work, many will also install an incident reporting tool that is useful for escalating the response to an attack. This software captures each aspect of the event and provides information that can be used to report it to an authority.
Knowing when to act and record the event
In terms of malware or ransomware attacks, escalation can make the difference between a distressing incident and a body blow. According to Microsoft, these events can move from a phishing email being opened to an entire network being held to ransom in less than an hour. Therefore, knowing when to act decisively and when to disrupt productivity is crucial. This can contain the threat, even when the severity level is high, and minimize the damage it causes.
Incident reporting is the cyber security equivalent of drawing a map. It gives the team context and a foundation when it comes to controlling a breach, protecting the company, and establishing a recovery plan post-attack. It is also about learning which approaches work best and having clear instructions for different departments, so everyone knows what is expected. Records and plans can also be useful for sharing discoveries with the team and stakeholders. They allow experts to evaluate the incident and lessen the impact of future attacks.
Granting permissions to authorized users only
Not everyone who works for a company needs access to its most important assets and all the data it owns. By providing the minimal level of access or permissions a person needs to do their job, a cyber security professional makes the IT system more secure. This will be applied to every connected device, application, and system used in the workplace, allowing a select group to manage and control the flow of information. They will work with a larger team to establish a balance between the needs of each employee and effective cybersecurity.
This demands a high level of skill because when too many privileges are revoked, people cannot complete their tasks, and productivity is impaired. As a result, managers ask for more and more passwords and access codes to get things moving again. Once these additional accounts are set up, even if they are only needed for a short period, they are rarely revoked. This is because managers are busy and forget to let the IT department know that certain passwords are no longer needed. In time, security loopholes can form that leaves the business vulnerable.
Tackling internal and external threats
The cyber security team works to streamline the process of handing out privileges by auditing the entire system regularly. They check that passwords, access keys, and accounts are still active and delete any that are unnecessary. Moreover, they are just as careful to ensure everyone has the privileges they need to work effectively. Once they are confident in the system, they will create a plan for rotating passwords. This makes it harder for passwords to be guessed by a hacker and prevents keylogging software from recording them.
Cyber experts work on the assumption that no one can be trusted implicitly. That includes people inside and outside the organization. Therefore, they encourage their employer to make everyone who accesses the system verify their identity before they connect, as this is an effective form of protection.
Ensuring the system and software are constantly updated
Many people need prompting to upgrade the software on their smartphone, tablet, or PC. Some people constantly put off upgrades because they don’t understand why these time-consuming updates are needed. For employees, the inconvenience and disruption updates cause makes them something to be avoided. Nevertheless, even if they do create an hour or so of downtime, software patches, and updates are essential. They prevent incompatibility problems, computer crashes, and cyberattacks, so IT analysts will always push the team to get them done.
Even the most robust cybersecurity plan has its weakness. Frequently, this is revealed to be an employee who has inadvertently opened a viral email or a remote desktop hack that has allowed criminals access to the network. Both these incidents could result in a full-scale breach and the loss of data. Along with advanced computer administration skills, hackers rely on older software to complete the job.
Preventing remote access hacks
Updated browsers and anti-malware plug-ins often flag up malicious sites because they have been reported by previous victims. This information is included in downloads, so the software is ready to block the site or warn the user when they click. Even if a hacker does have some initial success, the system will create an alert before the problem worsens. Updated software can form the first line of defense here too. It plugs the holes which have already been noticed by developers, to limit the effectiveness of hacks and prevent the loss of data.
Detecting potential threats
Cybercrime can be undetectable, and many criminals rely on the element of surprise. This allows them to sneak in and start work without interruption. However, to the trained eye of an expert, there are many types of glitches and anomalies that act as early warning signs of potential data theft. When an external threat is invading, it may present with an individual computer running slowly or the entire network experiencing latency. People may become locked out of their accounts and emails may be sent from the company’s domain without their knowledge.
AI speeds up the detection process
However, internal threats, such as an unhappy employee acting maliciously or the theft of data by a visitor, look different. Cyber analysts will scan for indicators such as someone accessing unusual areas of the system, an increased movement of data, or sign-ins at unusual times. To identify this type of activity at the earliest stage, experts will often use AI combined with machine learning applications. This advanced software can monitor the data stream, analyze traffic, and then provide a notification if certain events occur. A behavior analytics application can also help to set a baseline for expected processes and activity, making it easier to discover possible violations.
Part of the cyber professional’s role in warding off threats to data is preventative. They will create a series of policies in collaboration with the leadership team and then distribute this information amongst employees and answer any questions. When people are familiar with what they can share and how security procedures work, policies are easier to enforce and there are fewer slip-ups. This solution is about changing the culture of a business, to make people aware of cybercrime and less likely to put their employer at risk.
An essential role in the digital age
People in cybersecurity use their passion for computing for a lasting career that offers excellent prospects. They contribute insight and practical support to their employer’s cyber security network, ensuring the team knows what is expected of them and that sensitive data is protected. This is a growth industry, with opportunities in various markets across the US and the wider world. Qualified individuals are in high demand, and they can expect a generous salary and excellent prospects for promotion as they become more experienced in their roles.
How cyber security specialists protect data from digital attackers