What Do Cybersecurity Professionals Do?
The digital world has a lot of unfamiliar terminology: cybersecurity, malware, phishing. But what does it all mean? How does it relate to you? Cybersecurity is the protection of data from hackers and other threats such as malware (malicious software) and phishing scams (fake emails & links designed to appear legitimate). You may not think cybersecurity affects most people in their daily lives, but you might be surprised. Cybersecurity is all around us, and you probably know more about it than you think.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity refers to the protection of cyber data. While this may sound simple, securing cyber data is more complicated than adding a special character in your password. A cyber-attack could come at any moment and from any source. Because nearly every business and individual use digital methods to store data, everyone is a potential target.
Cybersecurity requires a multi-faceted approach to be effective, which is why these professionals typically have a college degree in a technology-related field. Cybersecurity professionals are a major piece of the security puzzle but for their efforts to pay off, everyone involved must play their part to perfection.
What Do Cybersecurity Professionals Do?
Cybersecurity experts work to prevent cyber-attacks, actively combat hackers, and repair any damage caused by a cyber-breach. Ethical hackers are known as white-hat hackers, while the criminals they combat are known as black-hat hackers.
Black-hat hackers seek to steal information, finances, passwords, and so much more. Not all of them are motivated by greed. Hackers are a unique bunch who are difficult to predict or anticipate, sometimes citing personal or political motivations for their actions. Sometimes they hack simply because they can.
Cyber-attacks are so prevalent and unpredictable that a multi-pronged approach is required if a network has any hope of keeping intruders out and keeping data safe.
How Do Cybersecurity Professionals Protect Data?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.
A Unified Threat Management System takes a holistic approach to people, processes, and technology. An effective UTMS makes the hacking job more difficult, ideally reducing the likelihood of a breach. When all the threat management pieces are unified, it can be much harder for nefarious hackers to gain access.
Examples of Preventative Cybersecurity:
- Security Policies & Procedures: IT departments typically establish company internet policies and often provide safety training for new employees. This training may cover the types of hacking attempts employees are more likely to experience (such as phishing email scams, social engineering, and malware). When employees are educated against these common threats, the organization’s security is fortified.
- Firewalls: As the name might suggest, a firewall is essentially a “wall” blocking a secured network from an unsecured network—like the internet at large. This digital barrier monitors network activity, blocking traffic deemed suspicious by predetermined triggers. This network security device is programmed and implemented by cybersecurity professionals and is used to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to the secure network.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) & Encryption: By securing a private network and encrypting data, VPNs keep critical information hidden from sight, even as computer users browse online. VPNs are typically deployed by large corporations with substantial personnel and customer data, as well as confidential trade secrets to protect.
The best defense is a good offense, so the saying goes.
Active cybersecurity defense is as multifaceted as the rest of this technical industry. By ramping up preventative defenses while mounting offensive attacks, cybersecurity specialists can detect, monitor, and resist cyber-attacks in real time.
Examples of Offensive Cybersecurity:
- Penetration Testing: A common tactic amongst white-hat hackers, cybersecurity specialists will often attempt to hack their own system as an outsider. This helps them pinpoint system vulnerabilities before a hacker spots them. Then they can take action to patch them up. Regular penetration testing is a smart way for cybersecurity experts to maintain a secure network.
- Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR): Using automation, cybersecurity specialists establish rules of response and analysis for threat detection. This is an integrated solution which monitors activity continuously and collects endpoint data.
- Threat Hunting: Rather than waiting to be notified of a security breach, this tactic promotes active investigation. Human cybersecurity specialists (no automation to be had for this strategy) manually comb the network and its applications, hunting for signs of unauthorized access. Instead of looking for potential entry points as in penetration testing, the cybersecurity expert looks for evidence of previous entry.
Assess & Improve Security Posture
The overall state of an organizations’ cybersecurity level of protection is referred to as their Security Posture. It incorporates all the details and levels of an organizations’ security needs and assets, as well as the strategy moving forward. The Security Posture is a cybersecurity specialists' plan of action—and it works within a larger context and strategy.
Examples of Cybersecurity Strategy:
- Get the Full Scope: Review the company’s security posture to understand what you’re dealing with. If there is no documented security posture, you may want to create one. Take inventory of the devices and systems which need protection. This inventory should include both hardware and software. It should be prioritized by vulnerability level and categorized by each systems’ level of impact upon the daily operations.
- Understand the Assignment: As a cybersecurity professional, you must understand unique business/client needs in order to determine what combination of strategies will work best for them. A national financial institution would require a much different approach than a local religious organization. Both have data worth protecting, but the tools and strategies required may vary greatly. The size of the organizations, the type of people they serve, and the industry in which they operate—all of these have a part to play.
- Put the Plan into Motion: The cybersecurity expert must familiarize themselves with the security posture, grasp the scope of devices to be protected, and understand the client goals. Only then can they launch their strategy, implement security measures, and establish policies and procedures.
Cybersecurity Policy & Procedure
Creating a cybersecurity policy affects more than the IT department—it should affect the entire organization. Because it doesn’t matter if your firewall is impenetrable, your penetration testing constant, and your automation flawless. If system users are careless, hackers will find a way in.
Examples of Policy & Procedure:
- Password Requirements: Setting and enforcing password requirements is a must. Be sure to include some password storage key software for ease of access. The more difficult the login process the more likely users are to cut corners (Password123, anyone?) which could put your overall security at risk.
- Restricted Internet Access: Many organizations limit employees’ access to certain websites and social media platforms. This is not only to aid in productivity—it is also to protect the organization’s digital assets. Reputable sites are typically safer sites.
- Rules for New Technology: IT departments usually must vet new hardware and software programs before implementation or installation. This helps ensure that nothing new clashes with any existing equipment, crashes any systems, or creates any new vulnerabilities.
How Does Cybersecurity Affect Me?
Cybersecurity is very important to the global economy as well as ...
- Individuals & families
- Religious institutions
- Small businesses
- Academic institutions
- Medical facilities
- And more!
Not only do companies have a lot to lose if their data is stolen or compromised, but so do regular people. To say that cybersecurity affects everyone is not an exaggeration. Anyone who uses the internet (even indirectly) is at risk of cyber-threats. For commercial businesses, that risk is exponentially larger.
That’s why cybersecurity is now a formal major at many educational institutions. As data protection grows more complex, so do the skills required to accomplish it. Those interested in learning about cybersecurity should consider earning a cybersecurity degree from an academic institution.
Cybersecurity Degree Programs
There are various levels of formal education for cybersecurity professionals. A novice may want to pursue an associate degree in cybersecurity to get their start, while an industry veteran may want to earn a master’s degree in cybersecurity to pursue a leadership role.
For those looking for a comprehensive cybersecurity education, a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity may be the right option for you. Although it sounds complicated, just remember: You can do tech!
How Do I Become a Cybersecurity Professional?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is a great first step to learning the skills that could lead to you entering this industry. In a cybersecurity degree program, you could learn how to establish a secure network, defensive/offensive strategies for protecting it, how to create security policies and procedures, and so much more.
Once you’ve earned a cybersecurity degree, it is important to pursue industry certifications to stay current with evolving technological trends. At some universities, you can earn your cybersecurity degree and the certifications employers value—at the same time.
Are You Ready to Get Your Start in Cybersecurity?
Contact ECPI University to learn more! Our cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program can be completed in as little as 2.5 years—and you can earn certifications at the same time. Contact our friendly admissions representatives and ask about our Bachelor of Science in Computer & Information Science with a Major in Cyber Information Security Technology in the Cybersecurity Track.
It could be the BEST Decision You Ever Make!
The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated ECPI University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) for the Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science: Cyber and Information Security Technology major, Cybersecurity Track through academic year 2023. Designation Letter can be viewed here.
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