Technology plays a major role in the world around us and is something we are all comfortable using in daily life. From the latest smartphones to laptops, tablets, robotic hoovers, smart thermostats, and more, it is easy to see how we rely on tech more and more.
The business world also relies on technology heavily now, and this has caused the vast majority of organizations to head online over time. It has also caused more and more companies to use the latest IT systems and software in their day-to-day operations.
While this can bring some superb benefits, being present online and using the latest IT systems comes with the foreboding shadow of cybercrime. This is a specific type of crime and sees online criminals trying to hack into business systems, software, and databases.
As a result of the growing threat cybercrime offers, cybersecurity specialists have become very important in the modern business world. But what do cybersecurity specialists do, and why is it such a great career path to take?
What is a cybersecurity specialist?
In short, these are trained IT professionals who focus on protecting organizations from cybercrime. This can be in a variety of ways, but the most common is ensuring that business IT systems are robust enough to fend off any cybercrime activity. In order to achieve this, specialists in this role will spend their time looking at current system security to see where it is strong, where it is weak, and where it can be improved.
As you might expect, this a great role for anyone who enjoys working with computers and technology. The growing need for specialists in this field also means it is a job with a very bright career outlook. A projected information security analyst job growth of 35% by 2031 is testament to this and shows the type of role which cybersecurity can offer.
When you also factor in the generally-high salary levels that come with working in this niche and the different challenges it delivers each day, you can see why it is so popular as a career choice now.
Who should think about moving into a cybersecurity career?
Before making the decision to move into this sector, it is best to think about whether it really suits you. This will ensure you get the most from this kind of position and carve out a long, successful career in online security.
But who might be best suited to this sort of job? As noted above, it really does help to be interested in IT, computers, and technology. This means you will enjoy coming into work each day and dealing with cybersecurity issues. Having an interest in IT also means you are familiar with using computers and know about the latest industry news in cybersecurity.
In addition to this, the traits below are useful for a career in cybersecurity:
- Problem solving
- Good teamwork skills
- Calm under pressure
- Critical thinking and analytical mind
Although the above is not a complete list of every personal skill which is useful for this role, it does give a good overall feel for what it involves. As you climb the career ladder, leadership can also be very important. This is because it enables you to effectively lead a company’s cybersecurity team or department.
How do you pick up the skills required to work in cybersecurity?
If you are confident that this is the career for you, knowing how to break into it is sensible. Finding out more on how to become a cybersecurity specialist is a good first step and shows that following the right academic program of study is the best option. The online Master’s of Science in Cybersecurity from St Bonaventure University Online is one of the best ways into this career and teaches you all you need to know in order to succeed.
This is especially true when you think of the sorts of tasks which this type of role commonly involves. Both risk assessments and vulnerability scans are good examples of this and play an important role in how secure any organization’s IT systems are. They are usually best conducted by in-house staff who know the firm’s IT systems and structure.
Due to this, cybersecurity staff are increasingly in demand, and this role looks set for an even brighter future. When you also consider that tasks like this need to be carried out by trained cybersecurity specialists for best results, it is clear how crucial it is for businesses to have people with these skills.
What are cybersecurity risk assessments?
Although risk assessment and vulnerability scans in cybersecurity specialist roles may sound complex, they are simple to understand on a basic level. Risk assessments help organizations pinpoint where their IT systems security might be weak, what types of online attacks the company is most vulnerable to, and what steps they need to take in order to improve the situation.
In addition to this, it can also help a business understand which security measures are working well and which areas are well covered. This not only enables them to get a better overall knowledge of their whole IT security arrangements but also means they can replicate successful security measures in areas which might be struggling.
Cybersecurity risk assessments are also valuable for gaining a factual insight into the organization’s IT system security set-up, and it aids strategic decision making in this area. Due to these factors, it is a useful and commonly-used process within business.
What are vulnerability scans?
Vulnerability scanning is best understood as one part of an overall cybersecurity risk assessment. It uses automated software to proactively attack a business’s IT systems and detect any weaknesses it finds on the way. By doing this, the results can be sent back as part of the cybersecurity risk assessment for senior leaders in the company to review.
The most important benefit of vulnerability scanning is the insights given into which weaknesses currently exist in a firm’s online security measures. They can also give information about the effectiveness of the company’s protective measures against cyber threats. Vulnerability scans are usually done on a regular basis, as this helps the business in question pick up on any emerging threats quickly.
How do cybersecurity specialists carry out risk assessments on a company’s IT systems?
We have already noted that two of the key tasks involved in a corporate cybersecurity role are performing risk assessments and vulnerability scans on a company’s IT systems. With the global cost of cybercrime in 2022 coming in at an eye-watering $8.4 trillion dollars, it is clear to see why this is so important for all organizations now.
When it comes to risk assessments performed by cybersecurity specialists, there are specific reasons they are such an integral part of modern business. These include:
- Avoidance of data breaches
- Keeps a firm one step ahead of online hackers
- Provides better IT system organizational knowledge
- Reduces costs which data breaches or online threats could bring
- Avoidance of data loss
- Reduction of potential for online hackers causing system or website downtime
As the above shows, risk assessments come with many benefits and are vital in terms of keeping any businesses IT systems more secure. This in turn helps firms to recognize any potential weaknesses hackers could exploit in their online security arrangements and fix them before it’s too late.
But how is a risk assessment normally performed?
- Work out information value
As information value is often considered the most crucial part of conducting a cybersecurity risk assessment, it is no surprise to see it as the first step in the process. This sees cyber specialists working out which information is most valuable to their company and how much it would cost to obtain.
Once the value of data has been calculated, it is then possible to put a figure on its overall worth. This in turn helps those carrying out the cyber risk assessment to create a comprehensive picture of their company’s cybersecurity status.
- Highlight and prioritize company assets
The next step would normally be to highlight any systems/assets which need protecting and prioritize the most important. This involves thinking about how vital any asset is to the company – be it the website, the CRM database, or the call handling system. Although this is a cyber risk assessment, you can also think about the impact of a malicious online attack to your brand’s reputation.
After pinpointing the most valuable assets, it is then time to order them by value. Doing this involves thinking about which assets are most crucial to your operations and which would have the biggest impact if breached by an online hacker. This list will then help you see which assets should be given most resources in terms of future IT system security.
- Highlight cybersecurity threats
A major part of any cyber risk assessment in business is highlighting the potential threats faced by your company. This part of the process involves sitting down and thinking about the possible dangers your current IT system security faces. As well as any holes which may exist in your current set-up, it also involves thinking about the most common threats to it which exist.
This can be internal (via lax staff attitudes about online security, for example) or external (from common threats such as DDOS attacks, malware, or ransomware). It is also key at this point to research any emerging cyber threats which you need to plan for in the future.
- Run vulnerability scans
It is often common for vulnerability scanning to be used next. This is because it helps to confirm or dismiss any thoughts you have around potential external cyber threats to the businesses IT systems.
Vulnerability scanning also gives hard, factual information to work from when carrying out the whole assessment and can present potential threats you had not considered before. As we have alredy noted, this type of scanning is usually performed via automated software which attacks the firm’s systems to find weaknesses.
The results are compiled into a report which can then be reviewed by cybersecurity staff and senior business figures to pinpoint which potential threats need attention moving ahead. This in turn helps business leaders to divert resources into the areas which are most pressing and which give the best return on investment.
- Document and analyze results of risk assessment
One of the most crucial parts of any cybersecurity risk assessment is to document it properly. This not only makes it easier to review at the time by a range of relevant figures in the business but also means you have it written down to look at in the future. This can be especially useful if you need to see what the vulnerability scan showed in 12 months’ time, for example, or which threat was pinpointed as most serious to deal with.
Risk assessments can be documented in a number of ways, but many cyber specialists will use software like MS Excel to help. If you also combine this with something like MS Word for compiling written information on the risk assessment, you should have an accurate record to keep for the future.
It is also very important to thoroughly analyze the risk assessment once it has been conducted and documented. This helps cybersecurity specialists to see what it tells them about current security measures for their organization’s IT systems and which areas they might need to focus on in the future. The risk assessment may also be passed to senior managerial figures in the business for analysis and review.
- Implement and track any changes needed
Fixing problems is something we all do in life on a regular basis – from simple DIY jobs around the house to resolving Apple Pay issues or working out why the TV won’t come on. Problem solving is also essential in business, and this means implementing changes to address problems highlighted by the risk assessment is key.
This could involve making enhancements to current measures around a certain threat, educating staff more about IT system security, or setting up new measures to deal with emerging threats. At this point, decisions can also be made around any new hardware, software, or staff which need to be addressed per the results.
Making any necessary changes to IT system security is not the final task in this process, though. Cybersecurity specialists will also need to note the changes made and track them over a period of time.
This enables them to see if the changes are having a positive effect and are working as intended. It can also give early warning of any new measures which are not working as planned or have actually made the systems more vulnerable to attack in practice.
- Set a date for the next risk assessment
Although this might be something which is easy to overlook, it is key for any cybersecurity specialist to set a date for the next review. Taking the time to set a concrete date for the next assessment helps ensure it is not missed, forgotten about, or pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. It also highlights to senior figures within the company how important it is to perform.
Although there are no hard and fast rules around this, most firms will conduct one every 12 months at least. If you feel it is needed, though, you can carry out risk assessments more frequently. Avoid running an assessment too often, though, as it interferes with the results of previous changes.
As previously noted, vulnerability scans can be run more often outside of a full risk assessment. This can often give a quick way to double check there are no pressing issues around system security or flag problems which cannot wait until the next risk assessment.
Cybersecurity is increasingly key for modern business
Any modern organization will have an online presence and use various IT systems as part of their daily operations. Whether it is servers to power their IT network to Cloud-based work platforms or VoIP telecoms networks, this is becoming ever truer as we move forward.
While using online systems and software brings many advantages to firms, it can also bring the threat of cybercrime. This is something which can bring serious repercussions and not only cost companies a lot of money but also see their hard-won reputation damaged.
Due to this, cybersecurity specialists who are able to keep businesses safe from online criminals are in high demand. This fast-growing role is ideal for anyone who likes to work with computers and the latest software/hardware. If you do move into this field, carrying out risk assessments and vulnerability scans are two tasks you will come across. As the above shows, they are not only vital for anyone moving down this career path but also something businesses now must pay attention to.