Why and How to Become a Security Analyst

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The main role of a security analysis within an organization is to help it prevent any potential cyber threats. Your daily tasks will be mainly to investigate through the organization’s system and see whether there are any uncovered weaknesses in the infrastructure to further protect the organization from them. You will be dealing with weaknesses in the hardware, software, and networks of the organization.

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There are several responsibilities that a security analyst will be required to do for his organization. The following list attempts to point out the main responsibilities that you should expect as a security analyst.

  • You will be responsible for all the security measures and controls within the organization in terms of planning, implementing, and upgrading them.
  • It is your responsibility to define the security protocols to be adopted inside the organization such that all the digital files and information systems are completely secure against any threats of modifying them, or destroying them, or even getting any unauthorized access to them by any means in the first place.
  • You have to keep on monitoring and maintaining the data to avoid any data breaches. In the same regard. You should always monitor security access to the systems.
  • Your role involves a lot of tasks related to vulnerability assessment, risk analysis, and security evaluations.
  • You are also involved in the acts of security audits run through the organization’s infrastructure which both includes internal and external audits.
  • You should work hard to predict any potential threats through paying attention to any security alert arising anywhere in the organization’s systems or networks. All the security incidents should be anticipated before their occurrences at least to the best that you can do, and so their numbers should be kept minimal as much as possible.
  • On the other hand, in case of any occurrences of security breaches, you should always investigate immediately to mitigate their effects, and further provide a concrete analysis of the reasons why such breaches occurred.
  • It is your role to manage all the intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention systems deployed within the organization.
  • You are responsible for deciding on the security tool and countermeasures that you think are appropriate to get installed and integrated within the system.
  • You have to define the security policies that should be applied within the organization. In the same regard, you should take part in implementing them and of course maintaining them afterward.
  • You have to raise the security awareness amongst your colleagues in the organization. This could be achieved through organizing several trainings and sessions to stress on several security concepts and make sure they are conveyed to the employees.

You should coordinate security plans with outside vendors.

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The difference between a security analyst and a security administrator could be sometimes confusing. They are in fact peers, but their job functionalities are different.

  • A security analyst is usually more into analyzing data and proposing any changes that could be applied in order to improve the system’s security. The main concern here is to figure out the points of weaknesses that an attacker could exploit and recommend to eradicate such points. However, the implementation and actual application of these recommendation are not usually of the concern of a security analyst.
  • A security administrator is more into the implementation aspects of security designs. To elaborate, a security administrator is responsible for making sure that all the systems work as what was previously designed. Any changes to the system could be implemented by a security administer such as applying patches or setting up new admin users. All in all, a security administer is really concerned to make sure that all systems are up and running appropriately.

It is worth mentioning that both of these positions are usually supervised directly by a Security Manager.

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In fact, you could start your career as a Security Analyst, and from there you can step up the ladder of position hierarchy to get one of the following jobs:

  • Security Architect
  • Security Engineer
  • Security Manager
  • Security Consultant

After gaining the sufficient experience and knowledge from one of these jobs, you may consider one of the senior level positions in the security department such as:

  • Security Director

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

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The job of a Security Analyst is the origin of some other common jobs that are not really of the same responsibilities but they have several tasks in common. The following list gives examples of such similar jobs.

  • Data Security Analyst
  • Information System Security Analyst
  • IT Security Analyst
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I would say you should expect an average salary of $65,261 as PayScale states. The minimum payment to expect for this job according to the figures is around $44,285 per year while the highest payment you should expect is around $95,851 per year. It is needless to say that all pay figures include your base annual salary, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable. Higher figures do not include benefits.

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In fact, the experience required for this job may vary from an organization to another depending on the security needs of such an organization. The range of years is something between 1 year to 5 years to be a good candidate for the position as a Security Analyst. Getting the experience after years, you may become an Incident Responder, yet many people decide not to do that because of the amount of stress associated with that job, and so they rather decide to stay in the same job as a Security Analyst for the length of their career life. From the employer’s point of view, it is usually a good idea to accept such person with a more than five year of experience as a Security Analyst.

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I would say that a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Cyber Security or a related field is sufficient to have for this job. Nevertheless, there is no existence of a specific degree requirement for the job of a Security Analyst. For instance, there are several examples of people who were able to get hired impressively as security analysts even without having any technical background or a technical degree. They just relied on the experience and gained several trainings as well as professional certifications in the filed of cybersecurity. As a result, they were able to impress the employers with non-technical degrees or backgrounds.

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There are several technical skills that you should be well founded in before applying for a Security Analyst job position. The following list gives you an idea of the most required technical skills to have for this job.

  • You should be comfortable using and implementing Intrusion Detection or Intrusion Prevention systems.
  • You should be skillful in both penetration testing and vulnerability assessment tasks.
  • You should be completely aware of protocols used for intrusion and prevention detection as well as firewalls.
  • You should be comfortable dealing with network protocols and security tools used for packet analysis in the network.
  • It is needless to state that you should be aware and comfortable using both Windows and Unix like operating systems.
  • You should also have a solid knowledge when it comes to the most commonly used programming languages in the field such as C, C++, C#, Java and PHP.
  • You should have a solid knowledge about computer networking concepts from the perspective of security such as routing, switching, and TCP/IP protocols.
  • You should have a solid knowledge aided with experience when it comes to concepts like Data Loss prevention (DLP), anti-viruses and anti-malware software tools.
  • You should be confident when making use of cloud computing, and in particular SaaS model.

Knowledge of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is really useful and desirable for a security analyst to function perfectly in her position.

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You should be a good public speaker, understandable writer and teacher. In addition, you should have strong oral and communication skills. You should expect to be dealing with upper management positions and explain to them why your recommendations would be beneficial for the organization and how they will improve the security levels of it. You should particularly address them in the whole corporate picture and show how they fit perfectly.

Furthermore, employers desire those security analyst candidates who are creative thinkers and who have a great passion in dealing with security tools and coping with the pace in which they are developed and improved.

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I would say that getting a recognized certificate is always a privilege to have on your resumes and they add greatly to your chances of getting hired. Nonetheless, certificates are not always the sole way to get certain jobs. Some employer for instance do not necessarily require a professional certificate for the job of a Security Analyst given its requirements and responsibilities. The reason why this is the case is that getting accredited by valuable certifications usually takes years of experience and preparations, like the case of getting a CISSP certifications. However, the following list displays the mostly desired certifications for this job or similar jobs.