Cybersecurity is a challenge that every enterprise needs to address. With the increased frequency of highly sophisticated attacks, businesses have had to turn to security experts who can leverage best practices and better secure the company’s digital assets.
This scenario has led to an explosion in demand for security analysts. These professionals mitigate risk by continuously examining enterprise IT infrastructure to identify potential security exposures and vulnerabilities.
What Is a Security Analyst?
A security analyst plays a vital role in preserving the security and integrity of an organization’s data. To achieve this, security analysts must know everything about information security within the company and work across departments to identify and correct flaws in business security systems.
They are also charged with improving the company’s overall security posture. They do this by analyzing each security measure employed by the company to determine how effective they are.
Once identified, they have to work closely with administrators and IT professionals and recommend changes that can improve every aspect of the company’s security. Security analysts also have to conduct employee training workshops and create documentation that can assist response efforts during an active data breach.
In recent years, with the rapid expansion of the cybersecurity landscape, the role has been split into three different types of security analyst jobs:
- Application Security Analyst
- Data Security Analyst
- Security Compliance Analyst
As you can see from the above, the roles and responsibilities of security analysts are becoming more specific. For example, application security analysts focus on web applications, data security analysts concentrate on data, while security compliance analysts focus on regulation.
Although there is considerable overlap between these security roles, there are also some differences that make each position stand out on its own.
Application Security Analyst
An application security analyst (or a systems security analyst) is responsible for examining security systems and web applications by scanning them against known vulnerabilities and attacks.
These security professionals will leverage their skills and knowledge in web application security (like scanning and penetration testing) to actively identify and fix vulnerabilities. By regularly engaging in this activity, they help protect enterprise data from unauthorized modification or loss.
Education and Experience Requirements
Many employers prefer application security analyst candidates who hold at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or another computer-related field.
However, if you have considerable security experience, work history, and knowledge that’s backed up by some online courses or a cybsersecurity bootcamp, you can land an entry-level application security analyst job without a college degree.
Candidates who are hoping to enter this field need to be highly competent in threat detection, threat analysis and protection, OWASP security standards, glassbox scanning, broken authentication, cross-site scripting, and cross-site request forgery.
Potential candidates should also have some basic knowledge in web development, HTML, HTTP, and application security.
It can also be advantageous if candidates have participated in bug bounties sponsored by large companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. These events can provide much needed real-world experience, and as a bonus, you also get paid for discovering vulnerabilities.
According to Salary.com, application security analysts with a bachelor’s degree can command an annual median salary of $71,057 to $77,203. Candidates with a master’s degree or MBA can expect to be paid an annual median salary of $71,864 to $78,096. Those who possess a Ph.D. report an annual median salary of $72,187 to $78,453.
From the above, it’s safe to conclude that there’s not much difference when it comes to compensation and qualifications. However, if you look at Glassdoor’s overall national average, these days application security analysts can make as much as $91,015 per year.
Data Security Analyst
Data security analysts (or information security analysts) work across a wide range of industries including consulting, depository credit intermediation, and computer systems design. Their primary responsibility is to keep the information stored on computers and enterprise networks secure.
Data security analysts also have to ensure that sensitive data isn’t modified inadvertently. They are often tasked with the design, implementation, and enforcement of security policies as well as regular maintenance.
Those working in this field are also responsible for creating procedures for data access, backup, and protection. So whenever there’s a security violation, they will review and make changes to prevent future incursions.
Whenever the data is compromised, they will also be tasked with repairing the damage and eliminating the vulnerability that led to a breach.
These security professionals typically work under the supervision of an information technology manager. Although they are often expected only to work full-time business hours, some data security analysts are also asked to be on call outside of regular business hours.
Some other responsibilities include the installation and maintenance of security software, cybersecurity training, and keeping the network secure from a data breach.
As security threats grow, data or information security analysts will be expected to compile data for cyber forensics following a breach. Some additional responsibilities may include coding, system analysis, and telecommunications.
Education and Experience Requirements
Data security analysts are generally required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, information assurance, or a related field. However, many companies prefer candidates who hold a master’s degree in business administration in information systems.
Preference is also given to those who hold additional certifications ranging from general information systems security to systems auditing. In addition to education, enterprises also want candidates who have experience working with information technology.
While it’s rare, candidates who don’t hold at least a bachelor’s degree are also hired if they have years of experience in the field and hold cybersecurity certifications that can demonstrate their level of expertise in the area.
These professional certifications include the following:
- CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker — introduced to theory and concepts around how to conduct ethical hacking (penetration testing)
- CISM: Certified Information Security Manager — promotes international security practices and recognizes the individual who oversees and assesses an enterprise’s information security
- CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional — confirms an individual’s knowledge in the field of information security
- CompTIA Security+ — demonstrate competency in network security, compliance and operational security, threats, vulnerabilities, access control, and more
- GIAC Certified Penetration Tester — penetration-testing methodologies, the legal issues surrounding penetration testing and how to properly conduct a test, as well as best practice technical and non-technical techniques
- GSEC: SANS GIAC Security Essentials — demonstrates an understanding of information security beyond simple terminology and concepts
According to Salary.com, early-career data security analysts usually get paid an annual median salary that falls between $50,020 and $67,516. What candidates get paid depends heavily on factors like education, certifications, years of experience, and additional skills.
At the higher end, according to Glassdoor, a data security analyst can make an annual median salary of $91,015. Sometimes even interns in the field can make as much as the equivalent of $85,923 per year while gaining valuable experience.
Security Compliance Analyst
Depending on the region and type of industry, businesses have had to add compliance protocols to ensure conformity with regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the General Data Protection Regulation. This has created the relatively new role of security compliance analyst.
These security professionals are primarily responsible for the supervision and management of all activities related to the development, deployment, and maintenance of systems that handle individually identifiable information.
Security compliance analysts are also responsible for creating and deploying well-documented security policies and procedures, best practices, staff training, and developing a robust response plan to ensure timely resumption after a serious disruption. They also have to conduct gap analysis and risk analysis on a regular basis to identify potential vulnerabilities.
These people also have to work with key management personnel, from the compliance officer to the legal department, to ensure that enterprise systems and networks are compliant with security and privacy regulations (and state and federal laws that protect individual confidentiality and privacy).
To avoid non-compliance, they develop risk-management strategies. It’s an important role in the healthcare and finance industries as maintaining compliance ensures business continuity and relevance.
Education and Experience Requirements
The minimum educational requirement for the role is a bachelor’s degree. However, to get hired, candidates also need to have a significant amount of field experience outlined on their resume.
While the other security analysts roles listed above best suit individuals from a programming background, security compliance analysts also need to be highly detail-oriented to ensure that the organization meets regulatory expectations.
If you look at leading job sites, you’ll notice that most employers are seeking candidates who hail from an accounting and business background. However, technology companies expect candidates to have some software engineering experience.
As the job requires the implementation of operational functions at the highest level of management, candidates are also expected to have excellent communication and writing skills.
For the most part, employers prefer to hire candidates who have at least three years of industry-specific experience. If you can demonstrate strong problem-solving and decision-making skills, that can also be the key factor in landing a job.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a security compliance analyst is $69,601. At the higher end, according to PayScale, the annual median salary for this role is $93,478.
What these professionals actually make will come down to factors like education, industry-specific experience, and their managerial track record. For these types of jobs, online courses and certification can also boost your chances of getting hired as you will be up to date on the latest regulations.
Is cybersecurity the right career for you?
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The course will culminate in a multi-part capstone project that you can highlight on your resume for prospective employers or use to demonstrate your technical knowledge in your job interview. The learning materials will also help prepare you to pass the globally-recognized CompTIA Security+ certification so you stand out when applying for cybersecurity roles.
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