Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Predicted spot spending on endpoint security tools at $ 128 billion by the end of 2020 and spending on cloud security tools at $ 12.6 billion and infrastructure protection at $ 24.6 billion in 2023, all of which represent productive growth from previous years.
With all these requests, there are many opportunities for those who want to enter cybersecurity. But what is the best way to do it? In this guide, we will look at the different types of cybersecurity and the skills and qualifications they need, how you can get opportunities, and whether a career in cybersecurity is right for you.
Various sectors for different interests and skills
As detailed below, cyber security can be divided into several main categories, each of which requires different skills and qualifications.
Network security experts ensure that all components of a company’s network are protected from threats and leaks by preventing unauthorized access. This is often the company’s first line of defense, and requires an understanding of routing and redirection, network security protocols, and general threats such as DoS attacks.
Information and data security ensures that business data – including user data – is protected from theft, change or destruction. A good information security expert will understand risk assessment and management, have knowledge of ISO policies and security architecture, and can implement appropriate defenses and guide the company’s response to violations.
Cloud security, which combines aspects of network and data security, ensures secure use of web applications and secure user data transmission. Cloud computing comes with its own set of challenges, and experts in this field want to get to know languages, like Python, and ecosystems, like Amazon AWS, which are relied on by most cloud architectures.
Application security specialists find and fix vulnerabilities in the source code of desktop, mobile and web applications, which are attractive targets for criminals. Application security specialists are very familiar with one or more programming languages and common vulnerabilities, and can be involved in everything from design and development to deployment, enhancement, and maintenance.
Endpoint Security ensures that servers communicate securely with endpoints, which can include personal and corporate devices such as computers and tablets, infrastructure such as street lights, and the evolving Internet of Things. Endpoint specialists are involved in configuring and using the protection platform and making sure the endpoints are appropriate and up-to-date. As such, they must be familiar with various vulnerabilities along the endpoint-server corridor.
How to become a cybersecurity analyst: formal education vs. self-taught
There are two main ways to get started in cybersecurity: You can go the traditional route and sign up for brick-and-mortar or online schools, or you can choose a self-taught approach. Or, if you already have experience in computer science and want to expand your expertise, you can focus on getting online certification by passing an exam or proving your knowledge.
Formal education in cybersecurity is still the most common route, and if you are looking for a more structured introduction, this is the way to do it.
Because your professors are paid, they are more willing and more able to dedicate time to answering your questions and can be an invaluable resource. They and your classmates also create great networking opportunities, like internships, where you can wet your feet and learn from your mistakes. Finally, I will have access to additional resources, through school library subscriptions, for example.
On the other hand, formal education can be time-consuming and very expensive, and not everyone learns best in the classroom. Plus, you have fewer choices for your curriculum. However, most programs are planned with a particular career path in mind, so it is often just a matter of finding the right one, and their reasonable design may cover important topics that you don’t consider.
That being said, formal education is certainly not the only way to start a career in cybersecurity. Many security analysts, especially freelancers, fully study on their own, although it is also very common to take several formal classes and equip them with informal educational resources such as Quora, SANS, NIST, Cybrary, StationX, and Udemy. However, around one third of security analysts in the US do not have bachelor degrees or higher.
Informal cyber security courses are far, far cheaper than a bachelor’s degree or certificate, and you can follow your own steps, making it easier to study while doing other work to pay bills. You can easily design your own curriculum to fit your goals, even though it’s a good idea to check the degree requirements and course content at least a few bachelor’s degrees. However, the main advantages here are price and flexibility.
However, you will have fewer opportunities to network, so you need to be more proactive about it. You won’t have much help if it’s stuck, so be prepared to spend a lot of time asking questions and wading through forums such as Stack Overflow. Finally, you will have fewer opportunities to (freely and legally) test your skills.
Is cybersecurity right for you?
This is most likely something you will find along the way, and remember that there are different types of cyber security that demand different skills and interests, as we have seen. However, there are some personality traits that can help you decide if it’s the right path for you.
Cybersecurity follows the classic arms race model: better security inspires new threats, which require new solutions, encourages innovative attacks, without limits, so you must feel comfortable by constantly learning new things. It also helps to be curious and very analytical. If you enjoy and have the talent to break down complex problems or systems into small parts, you must feel right at home.
Cybersecurity is also very team based, so the desire to collaborate is very important. Analysts are often asked to work with various levels of the company to educate, ensure compliance, assess vulnerabilities, and implement solutions. Old pictures of a closed computer hacker sitting alone in a cellar with little or no human contact at all outdated. Working away is certainly possible – just be prepared for ordinary telematics.
Finally, cyber security can and often does mean hours and hours of unusual work, so flexibility is the key. When vulnerabilities are discovered, violations occur, or companies are attacked, all will be called to deal with the problem, and that can mean endless, intense, and very stressful working hours. Most of your work will be prepared for these possibilities, but when it does, you must respond quickly.
Cybersecurity is an interesting and useful career path, and there are a number of ways to get started. Start by researching the different types of cybersecurity careers that are available, and the skills, knowledge, and certifications they need, then decide how you will