Why and How to become a Security Consultant
A security consultant is someone who is aware of every aspect of cybersecurity, working as a guide, an advisor, and an experienced practitioner. In addition, you will also have the role to define and implement the best security solution for the organization that you work for in case you are an expert consultant.
Your main function is to consult the organization with any arising IT security threats and also help them achieve their goals in terms of maintaining a secure system and networks within the organization. You should expect most of the following responsibilities as a security consultant.
- You are responsible for designing an efficient method or strategy to protect computers, networks, software, data and information systems within the organization against any inner or outer potential attacks.
- You should always keep in touch with the security staff and heads to decide on some particular security issues.
- You should perform some tasks of vulnerability assessment and risk analyses of the organization’s internal systems.
- It is your responsibility to be always up to date when it comes security standards, security systems and authentication protocols.
- You should be able to determine the required cost for the planned IT security projects, and you should further make it clear to the IT managers about what potential issues will be faced upon integration of these projects.
- You are also responsible to make great designs for security architectures required for the assumed IT projects.
- You should always make sure that any security solutions are really beneficial and will not have side effects on the system by the time they get integrated into the system. They should adhere to the criteria set by industry security standard analysis.
- You should technically report to the Security Director or the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) about what you found in the testing process.
- You should supervise and always guide the security teams of your organization.
- You should define the corporate security policies that should be implemented and make sure they are maintained within the organization.
- You should always be there for any potential security incidents. Your response should be immediate and you should analyze what happened and what caused such an incident to occur and make clear documentations about that.
- You should always make sure that all the security systems of the organization are kept updated and upgraded for the best security.
- Sometimes it is your responsibility to monitor and maintain every single security plan to be implemented within the organization.
- You should always be in collaboration with the IT project managers and the Security Manager of the organization if there is any.
It is finally worth mentioning that the responsibilities may vary from an organization to another, depending on the security threats they are to face, which depends on the type of business they provide. In all cases, the consulting contract exactly specifies what is required from a security consultant to do for the organization.
There are a bunch of intermediate level jobs that I think you should consider before taking the step up in your career and become a security consultant. This is meant to give you the sufficient preparation and experience for this important job. Some of these jobs are given in the following list.
- Security Administrator
- Security Specialist
- Security Analyst
- Security Engineer
- Security Auditor
After getting the experience in the position of Security Consultant, you can consider a higher-level position that can make more involved in both the technical and managerial domains from a higher level. Also, they will pay you more, giving you a more financial stability. Some of these jobs are:
- Security Architect
- Security Manager
- IT Project Manager
Finally, you should afterwards shoot for the most upper level jobs such as:
- Security Director
In most of the cases, the job of a Security Consultant is referred to in a more specific way by attaching one more word before it. Some of the related job postings are given by the following list.
- Information Security Consultant
- Computer Security Consultant
- Database Security Consultant: here you are more into defining practices with databases and issues related to them to make them much more secure.
- Network Security Consultant: here you are more involved in the network of the organization and you deal more with how to make such networks secured as much as possible.
I would say you should expect an average salary of $80,072 as PayScale states. The minimum payment to expect for this job according to the figures is around $46,384 per year while the highest payment you should expect is around $146,663 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.
First of all, you should be carrying a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Cyber Security or a related field (e.g. Engineering). Remember that this is a very critical job for the organization which needs a lot of technical background and of course a strong security knowledge and practices.
On the other hand, if you are already a graduate student with no technical background, then I would recommend that you pursue a master’s degree in a technical field with an IT security concentration. However, an employer in this case will need to see amazing work experience in the field along with several professional certifications that you got as well as IT security trainings and workshops which you attended and participated in.
It is usually the case that employers want to see experience of range 3 to 5 years in the field of IT generally and security in specific. These years of experience are in fact fair enough to consider to get the sufficient skills for the 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 knowledge of all the practices used for secure coding. Also, methodologies of ethical hacking and threat modeling should be of your knowledge.
- It is needless to state that you should be aware and comfortable using both Windows and Unix like operating systems.
- You should understand the performance tuning views, indexes, SQL and PLSQL.
- You should always be updated with any emerging trends or methods used for securing applications or encrypting data and information using the most advanced technologies and standards.
- You should be comfortable when dealing with frameworks like ISO 27001/27002, ITIL and COBIT.
- You should be experienced with the common compliance assessments such as PCI, HIPAA, NIST, GLBA and SOX.
- You should have hands-on experience working with different programming languages like C, C++, C#, Java and PHP.
- You should be aware of network concepts such as subnetting, DNS, VPNs, VLANs, VoIP and other network routing methods.
- You should be aware of protocols used for networks and in web in general such as TCP/IP, UDP, IPSEC, HTTP, HTTPS, routing protocols, etc.
You should finally be concerned with Advanced Persistent Threats (APT), social engineering and different methods used for phishing in order to protect the organization’s systems and networks form such attacking techniques.
You will be consulting many security teams within the organization for the best practices of cybersecurity. If you don’t have the necessary leadership skills, amazing oral and communication skill, this job cannot be appropriate for you. You should be a good negotiator who can convince employees from a technical background to follow and apply some certain strategies over the others. Moreover, patience is a great virtue, and for this job it is a must. You have to be really patient when dealing with a client and respect their knowledge as well as their attitude.
In addition to all the mentioned cool skills, you should have excellent problem-solving skills along with some creativity traits. You are similar to a Security Engineer or a Security Architect who need to design the best security practices for the system and also efficiently assess the security systems within the organization.
You should be fully aware of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC). A proof of IAPSC could be required by some big organizations before considering hiring you as their security consultant. In addition, there are a bunch of certificates that you should consider taking for this job. The following list gives some of the suggested certificates which are really helpful for this job requirements and desired skills.