How to Become a Cybersecurity Analyst

 

Cyberattacks can be financially devastating. The internet provides practically unfettered access to massive amounts of information at lightning speeds, but such availability is often abused by scammers who bilk everyday consumers and businesses out of data and money they’ve accumulated over years of hard work. The global economic cost of hacked computer networks and database vulnerabilities is expected to balloon from $6 trillion in 2021 to $10.5 trillion by 2025, according to Cybercrime Magazine.

Even when basic security measures are implemented through software programs and safe web surfing practices, cyberthreats still loom large.

Fortunately, cybersecurity analysts are on the case. The information technology industry, as it pertains to data protection, is a massive field, and each security professional serves an important role. As cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated and hard to detect, the demand to fill cybersecurity analyst roles grows higher.

The Master of Science in Cybersecurity program at the University of Nevada, Reno, is a gateway into the cybersecurity field. It can help to supply you with the advanced technical and cybersecurity skills and enhanced theoretical knowledge to succeed — and to think two steps ahead of cyberattackers and their underhanded tactics.

What does a cybersecurity analyst do?

A key question is what does a cybersecurity analyst actually do on a day-to-day basis? A cybersecurity analyst basically serves as the point person for protecting a business’s computer networks and data systems. Their responsibilities include monitoring servers and networks for incursions, updating internet security software, installing firewalls, encrypting data and performing research on the very latest cyberthreats. Security controls that worked well as recently as a year ago may be insufficient by today’s standards due to cyberattackers’ ability to quickly adapt and alter their breach strategies.

One of the ways cybersecurity analysts aim to stay ahead of scammers’ subterfuge is through penetration testing. These are measures designed to simulate how an attack might present itself and what steps are needed to head them off. It may be something as simple as plugging vulnerabilities through smarter patch management, to more complicated efforts that involve network reconstruction. Whatever the strategy, cybersecurity analysts are charged with making it happen.

Steps to Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?

A cybersecurity analyst must typically have at least a computer-related bachelor’s degree to enter the field. However, earning an advanced degree such as a master’s in cybersecurity may be advantageous for long-term growth in the field, as some employers may prefer to reserve certain positions for those with a postgraduate education.

Gaining experience in the information technology field can also be a crucial step that can lead to a cybersecurity analyst role. It’s not uncommon for aspiring cyber professionals to first hone their knowledge and skills in a key IT role such as a network or computer systems administrator. Doing so can provide potential employers evidence of a candidate’s abilities in a real-world environment.

Another step current or aspiring cybersecurity analysts can take to further stand out is to earn certification. This could lead to further career opportunities, as some employers may list certification as a prerequisite for open cybersecurity analyst roles. Certifications such as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) offer general certification.

Cybersecurity Analyst Job Outlook?

Information and cybersecurity analyst jobs are continually being posted and aren’t expected to slow down any time soon. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 131,000 professionals in this occupation in 2019, but that number is expected to surge in years to come, potentially by as much as 31% by 2029.

Several organizations that are household names have been victims of cybercrime, including Target, Equifax, Yahoo, Facebook and others. However, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) notes that “Small businesses are attractive targets because they have information that cybercriminals want, and they typically lack the security infrastructure of larger businesses.” An SBA survey found that 88% of small businesses felt susceptible to attack.

Specialist insurer Hiscox reports the typical cyberattack costs businesses $200,000 to remedy. Some of these have been too costly to absorb, forcing those businesses to close.

Given the ubiquity of these breaches, more companies are hiring cybersecurity analysts to better protect themselves and develop a proactive rather than a reactive strategy for safeguarding data. Because so many businesses depend on the internet to function, many can’t afford not to have dedicated IT teams.

Cybersecurity Analyst Salary

Like most other positions, how much you stand to earn as a cybersecurity analyst is based on several factors, including your education and years of experience, as well as the industry in which you work. Those newly out of college, for example, may not earn as much as those who have been in the industry for several years.

The median cybersecurity analyst salary as of May 2020, according to the BLS, was $103,590. However, even those on the lower end of the salary spectrum can earn a good living. The bottom 10% of cybersecurity analysts made on average up to $60,060, according to the BLS, while the top 10% earned upward of $163,300.

Cybersecurity Skills

A successful cybersecurity analyst has a sound combination of both hard and soft skills. You would typically learn hard cybersecurity skills through a more in-depth curriculum via undergraduate and graduate degree programs. You would also learn how to integrate numerous soft skills that are considered essential to the role.

Some of the hard cybersecurity skills you can learn include:

  • Risk identification and management: The growing sophistication of phishing attacks can make it tough to shut them down. In fact, only 12% of respondents in a recent poll from information security association ISACA said they were confident in their ability to adequately differentiate phishing emails from legitimate ones. This is why it’s not only crucial to hone an ability to spot risks, but it’s equally vital to have the skills to mitigate any damage that may occur if an issue slips through the cracks.
  • Data analysis: As cyberattacks grow in sophistication, so do the strategies to prevent them and stop them. These strategies can often require gathering, analyzing and interpreting a wide array of information to consistently identify vulnerabilities.
  • Penetration testing: One of the more effective ways to protect a network or system is to approach an organization’s configuration like a cyberattacker. This skill can allow you to ethically hack into a system to identify vulnerabilities that a cybercriminal may be able to exploit.
  • Threat hunting: Some cyberattacks leave contextual clues that can reveal malicious patterns. Having the ability to proactively search for and identify these clues can disrupt these patterns, which could stop a cyberattack cold.

Some of the soft skills that are cultivated through an undergraduate and graduate curriculum include the following.

 

  • Ingenuity: Because attackers are constantly coming up with new ways to access sensitive data, professionals must counter these efforts by developing outside-the-box strategies that stymie those ploys.
  • Problem solving: Everything about cybersecurity involves recognizing problems and creating plans to solve them. Ideally, weaknesses can become strengths when analysts can seamlessly detect and defeat viruses and worms and the manner in which they developed.
  • Detail-oriented skills: Sophisticated cyberattacks typically contain nuanced differences in their information compared to regular system patterns. Being able to spot these subtleties can be the difference between a cyberattack that fails and one that succeeds.
  • Critical thinking: Data moves hyper fast in cyberspace, which makes it necessary for cybersecurity professionals to make important decisions quickly. Being able to think critically in high-pressure situations can make protecting an organization’s network much more effective.

The Perfect Time to Get Involved

The security measures that are needed to overcome data breaches are anything but ordinary these days. As cyberattacks grow in their complexity and sophistication, individuals with the knowledge and skills to consistently stay one step ahead of cybercriminals are vital to a company’s overall success.
The University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program can help provide you with the deep knowledge and skills employers look for to protect their data and private information at every turn. Contact us today to learn more.

 

Suggested Readings

Digital Forensics Analyst: What They Do and How to Become One

How to Get into Cybersecurity With a Master of Science in Cybersecurity

4 Types of Cyber Security Careers to Look into After Graduation

How Much Can Cybersecurity Professionals Earn with a Master’s?

Potential Forensic Accounting Jobs for MAcc Graduates

University of Nevada, Reno Online Master of Cybersecurity

 

Sources

CSO, “Top 10 In-Demand Cybersecurity Skills for 2021”

Cybercrime Magazine, “Cybercrime to Cost the World $10.5 Trillion Annually by 2025”

Herjavec Group, “The 2020 Official Annual Cybercrime Report”

Hiscox, “Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2019”

(ISC)2, Information Security Certifications

ISACA, “Few Professionals Are Fully Confident in Ability to Assess the Effectiveness of Their Phishing Defenses”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

U.S. Small Business Administration, “Stay Safe From Cybersecurity Threats”