What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?

BrainStation’s Cybersecurity Analyst career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in the field. Read on to find out more about what a Cybersecurity Analyst does.

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A Cybersecurity Analyst is responsible for planning, evaluating, and carrying out security measures to protect an organization from breaches. They monitor networks and servers to ensure that assets are safe, and they work to quickly secure data in the event of an attack.

Cybersecurity Analysts can work in various industries, so their day-to-day duties can vary. Generally, the tasks that Cybersecurity Analysts perform can be organized into five categories.

Monitor Networks

  • Regularly monitor network security to stay informed about all activity taking place
  • Monitor attacks or unauthorized access in order to identify the cause of security breaches

Manage Software

  • Install, manage, and update security software, such as firewalls and encryptions
  • Ensure that all software has proper security measures implemented

Test Security Systems

  • Perform vulnerability testing and risk analysis to assess and evaluate current security and see where standards need to be improved
  • Undergo penetration testing and simulate attacks to determine a network’s vulnerabilities
  • Conduct internal and external security audits and assessments
  • Evaluate the organization’s compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards

Report Findings and Develop Plans

  • Update the organization’s disaster recovery plan
  • Ensure that the organization has backups in the event of a cyber attack
  • Develop and implements cybersecurity best practices
  • Discuss system weaknesses and improvements with management and IT staff
  • Report on the causes and recommendations for security breaches
  • Assist and educate other employees with cybersecurity training

Research Security Trends

  • Stay up-to-date on trends, advancements, and best practices in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Skills

Cybersecurity professionals should be well-versed in computer systems and networks, and should have the ability to solve problems and communicate solutions.

Despite the wide variance in job responsibilities across different cybersecurity roles in different industries, studies have shown that certain skills are universally essential for cybersecurity professionals.

A recent study from labor market analytics firm Burning Glass showed that application development security and cloud security skills were the most in-demand for cybersecurity professionals, with five-year projected growth rates of 164 and 115 percent respectively. Those skills were also lucrative, each coming with a $12,000-15,000 average salary premium. Risk management skills were next with a 60 percent expected growth rate and a $13,000 cybersecurity analyst salary premium.

Other skills that cybersecurity and security analysts need include:

Cybersecurity Technical Skills

  • Networking. Understanding how computers connect and interact with each other is a key skill to succeed in cybersecurity. In a survey by The SANS Institute of more than 500 cybersecurity professionals, 85 percent of respondents ranked networking as a critical skill. Understanding elements like network architecture, routing and switching, network protocols, firewalls and virtual private networks is key to planning security policies.
  • Operating systems and database management. Cybersecurity professionals need to understand information technology fundamentals for a range of systems, including Linux, Window, and macOS. They should be knowledgeable on how operating systems and databases work and how to keep them secure.
  • Threat detection. The threat landscape in cybersecurity is constantly evolving. Threats and vulnerabilities, big or small, can come at any time and remain undetected if not carefully analysed. Cybersecurity professionals need to know how to use the right tools and strategies to ensure that threats are identified and swiftly managed.
  • Risk management. In their role, cybersecurity professionals identify and mitigate any incoming security risk. Should a data breach occur, they need to be able to recover quickly so that damage is minimized.
  • Threat intelligence. This is evidence-based knowledge about existing or emerging threats to assets.
  • Incident response. Some specialize in creating an organized approach to addressing and managing the aftermath of an attack or security breaches.

Cybersecurity Soft Skills

  • Communication. Cybersecurity professionals need to communicate information, both written and verbal, about security standards. They also often educate employees about how to protect data. Some employees will have different levels of technical background, so cybersecurity professionals should be able to communicate complex topics in clear, straightforward and engaging ways.
  • Attention to detail. Cybersecurity professionals have to be vigilant and notice any and all details on the systems they are protecting. They regularly monitor networks, so it’s important that they pick up on any new changes in order to identify potential issues.
  • Analytical and problem solving. Cybersecurity professionals have to tackle complex challenges across various technologies and systems. They need to think logically and apply creative forward thinking to ensure that they are always ahead of potential attacks.
  • Curiosity and a desire to learn. Cybersecurity is a field that is constantly evolving as new technology and standards are developed. A cybersecurity professional needs to be committed to keeping up with the latest trends and best practices. They should be able to learn and apply information quickly to ensure that systems are always protected.

A Day in the Life of a Cybersecurity Analyst

In a typical day, Cybersecurity Analysts prepare for and respond to cyberattacks, planning, evaluating, and executing security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems from attacks or breaches.

A typical Cybersecurity Analyst job description includes finding and reporting on vulnerabilities and breaches, installing encryption and firewall tools, educating stakeholders on the importance of security, and even sometimes simulating attacks to evaluate the performance of a system.

Though the day-to-day tasks will vary by job description and industry, a day in the life of a Cybersecurity Analyst will usually involve:

  • Monitoring network security to stay on top of security flaws or breaches
  • Managing and updating security software including encryptions and firewalls, while making sure that other software is being used in a secure way
  • Identify flaws and vulnerabilities through thorough testing, simulated attacks, and risk analysis evaluations
  • Evaluating company performance against industry standards and regulations
  • Developing plans and reporting finds of internal and external audits and assessments
  • Creating backups in event that the company is attacked
  • Educating stakeholders and employees on both how to stay vigilant against possible cyber threats and also the overall importance of cybersecurity
  • Researching emerging trends in cyber attacks and cybersecurity

Do Cybersecurity Analysts Code?

For most entry-level cybersecurity jobs, coding skills are not required. However, as cybersecurity professionals seek mid- or upper-level positions, coding may be necessary to advance in the field.

Though many jobs in cybersecurity do not require extensive coding skills, it can still be very useful to have programming knowledge. Not only can learning to code open up more opportunities, but it can also help in better understanding core concepts in information security. A successful cybersecurity professional often has to think like a hacker to identify potential vulnerabilities. Understanding a hacker’s programming tools can be helpful in adopting this mindset.

For someone who is new to cybersecurity, it may be advantageous to gain basic programming skills and then continue to grow your coding knowledge as you gain more cybersecurity experience.

Python for Cybersecurity

Python is a popular and preferred programming language for cybersecurity because it is highly functional for many cybersecurity tasks, such as malware analysis and penetration testing. Some of the reasons Python is popular in cybersecurity include:

Python is easy to learn

Python is more user-friendly compared to other programming languages. It requires minimal code and is straightforward to learn, so learning Python is especially ideal for cybersecurity professionals who may have less programming experience.

Python is easy to debug

Python has less code, and therefore increased readability. This makes it easier for cybersecurity professionals to find errors and debug code, allowing them to solve problems quickly.

Python is open source

Python is a free open-source language, making it a top choice for many developers. There is a lot of information available about Python, and it is supported and advanced by a strong community of developers.

Python’s library is extensive

Python has an extensive standard library, which means that cybersecurity professionals can access tools that are readily available.

Python is multifunctional

Nearly all cybersecurity tasks can be completed using Python code, including malware analysis, scanning, accessing servers, penetration testing, scripting and automating.

Python is popular with hackers

Python is widely used by hackers, making it an essential language for cybersecurity professionals to understand.

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