Top 10 job-ready technical skills needed to be a successful cyber security professional

ART-0015 AU IOD ‘Top 10 job-ready technical skills needed to be a successful cyber security professional’

We find ourselves increasingly connected to a digital realm. Being ever-online, we connect more of our lives to the internet giving up more personal and private information to new solutions and devices. Often that information is tracked, and we expose sensitive information, including personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, health information, even things we consume, our interests, travels and daily routines.

Individuals must know what information they provide to who, where and how it will be used. Keeping up with the complexities of sensitive information that ends up online combined with trending convenience and usability makes for increased cybercrime opportunities. 

Individuals, companies and even government bodies struggle to keep up with the proliferation of cyber-attacks. With organisations facing cyber risks that can cripple them overnight, cyber security is taking a seat in many boardrooms. Moreover, it is becoming embedded within companies’ management as it grows as a recognised business enabler.

Practical cyber security draws from various fields and faculties such as psychology, sociology, technology, other sciences, and soft skills. It is a field that has opened its door to a variety of individuals coming from technical and non-technical backgrounds. 

For those looking to ace their next role as a cyber security specialist, here are 10 job-ready technical skills you need to have.

1. Security Analysis

This is a vast and evolving field that involves understanding foundational information technology (IT) theory, network security and technical cyber security. To work efficiently as a cyber security specialist, one must know various security tools – how to use them to monitor network environments, systems, and conditions. 

Additionally, there’s the requirement to help identify and articulate security gaps, recommending action items to minimise the number of cyber-attacks. Security analysis helps identify the conditions that make cyber-attacks more likely, provides greater capability to respond to real-time cyber security breaches and helps to mitigate attacks. 

Many cyber security specialists start their careers working as security analysts, with plenty of entry-level roles available and numerous opportunities to upskill and progress. As a result, security analyst skills are among the topmost in-demand skillsets that a cyber security professional can have to propel a successful cyber career.

2. Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC)

In this domain, a cyber security professional requires the skills to assist an organisation from boardroom to basement with identifying and assessing risks, establishing controls, continually working to comply with regulations and improving security holistically.

Risk management in cyber security is an ongoing cycle of assessment, treatment, testing, and evaluation driven by the continuous introduction of new risks regularly. Organisations will typically work risk management within a set framework and align mitigation processes to minimise the chances of cyber security incidents occurring.

Risk assessment and management is a crucial aspect of GRC, and cornerstones the ability to assist an organisation’s adherence to regulations or standards such as The Privacy Act 1988 of Australia, The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) CPS 234, ISO 27001 Information Security Management System, ISO 31000 Risk Management, COBIT, SOX, PCI DSS, FISMA and GDPR. 

Security audit and compliance knowledge and understanding are crucial for every cyber security professional. Hefty fines and penalties can be incurred by an organisation failing to meet its obligations. Additionally, GRC professionals are often tasked with security awareness training and empowering an organisation’s people as the first line of proactive defence against cyber-attacks.

3. Incident Handling and Response

Incident handling and response is an in-demand skill set crucial for a cyber professional to protect IT environments and assist the organisation in a critical time of need. Cyber security professionals must be capable of handling the imminent threat of violation of a company’s security policies and standard practices.

Cyber security incidents can be technical and sophisticated such as ransomware, phishing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, web application attacks, database breaches, or Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). Incident handling and response also extend to less technical, often unintentional acts that may lead to or be a data breach, for instance, emailing PII to the wrong person or accidentally publishing commercially sensitive information online.

4. Intrusion Detection/Prevention

A cyber security professional must be comfortable operating intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS). These systems allow identifying suspicious traffic that has entered the network or assisting in thwarting intrusion attempts and other security policy violations. 

An IDS protects networks and devices from malicious and unauthorised incidents from external and internal agents. IPS goes beyond simply alerting an administrator or security operations centre (SOC) of detected intrusions. It also works to prevent intrusions by performing actions such as shutting down network ports or quarantining suspicious email attachments and other corrective actions based on system configurations.

5. Data Science and Data Analytics

Since big data hit the industry, every organisation has been implementing data science tools and techniques into their business operations. Increasingly, cyber security companies have also started to implement data science, analytics and machine learning tools into their products, from firewalls to anti-malware programs.

A cyber security professional is expected to leverage various analytics tools and intelligence to detect attacks as soon as possible. Analytics and intelligence assist cyber professionals in aggregating network environment and application data to prevent future cyber-attacks and understand user and threat actor behaviour better. 

6. Digital forensics

The growing complexity of cyber-attacks with increased pressure to catch threat actors has lifted the demand for cyber security professionals who can employ forensic tools and investigative methods. Digital forensics skills are needed to discover digital evidence, anomalies, or malicious activity undertaken on an organisation’s network and devices in their files or other business areas.

7. Cloud Security 

All research points to cloud computing security as having been a top skill sought after in 2021, just as reported it would be in Forbes’ What Are The Fastest Growing Cybersecurity Skills In 2021? CXO Today recently released the Most In-Demand Tech Skills for 2022 and Beyond, listing cloud computing as the number two skill following cyber security.

The persistent migration to cloud services by thousands of existing businesses and the boom in new online businesses and services spurred by the COVID19 pandemic means there is a severe skills shortage of qualified cloud security experts who can protect companies and consumers.

Security architects and engineers are sought after by most organisations and often have lucrative contracts and day rates in the cyber jobs market. Cyber security professionals can build on a theoretical cyber security foundation with cloud service provider (CSP) courses and content from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

8. Threat Intelligence

A trending responsibility tasked to cyber security professionals is anticipating cyber-threats, targets and how threat actors and criminals will behave. As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure. Cyber threat intelligence is about understanding the current cyber threat landscape, what is going on in the dark web, which APT actors are targeting, and which types of organisation. It also requires staying on top of critical vulnerabilities, zero-day notifications and state-sponsored cyber security threats. 

Cyber security professionals with training and experience in threat intelligence are seen as invaluable to advanced cyber security operations centres, cyber security firms, incident responders, and government and national security agencies.

9. Application Security Development

DevOps (the compounding of Development and Operations) is the intersection of software development and IT operations. DevOps are cross-departmental teams that integrate software development and operations specifically for companies that need agile and rapid deployment for applications they are creating. Facing heavy pressure from cyber experts to evolve and incorporate a specific security function of this necessary resource, it is now most recognisable as DevSecOps. 

DevSecOps involves software development and coding according to industry best practices and a recognised standard for security, such as the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) DevSecOps Guideline and OWASP Maturity Model.

Finding, fixing and preventing vulnerabilities of any application is a must-have skillset for a cyber security professional. Additionally, DevSecOps cyber professionals must know how to test and validate during the software development lifecycle, mitigating vulnerabilities before the application is deployed.

10. Advanced Malware Prevention

A cyber security professional must also be able to take advantage of advanced malware protection (AMP) software to identify, detect and prevent advanced cyber-attacks that might impact traditional security systems like anti-virus, firewalls and IDS/IPS. AMP software takes traditional malware prevention practices to the next level by layering them with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to provide sophisticated and adaptive behavioural detections and preventative actions.

Apart from the above listed technical skills, a cyber security professional must also develop solid non-technical skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, curiosity and customer service abilities to have an edge in the industry. Committing to developing some or all these skills will see you comfortable applying for that dream job in no time.

There has never been a better time to build a robust cyber security foundation and attain in-demand technical skills to secure a cyber security job. 

If you want to get ahead and protect organisations from dangerous cyber threats, it is time to get trained in the essential job-ready skills of a cyber security professional. 

Download the Cyber Security course outline today to find out how you can jump-start your training.

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