What Is A Cybersecurity Engineer And What Do They Do?

Cybersecurity protects businesses from being compromised online.

In July 2019, Capital One, a bank holding company discovered a breach in their system which led to personal details of 100 million customers being compromised. About 140,000 social security numbers, and 80,000 bank account numbers, were also compromised in the attacks. Luckily, no credit card account numbers or log-in credentials were stolen during the attack. Nevertheless, the attack was estimated to have cost the bank $150 million. 

This is just one of the numerous data breaches that have happened to businesses and organizations around the world. In 2018 alone, businesses lost about $45 billion to cyberattacks. According to research carried out by the University of Maryland, cybercriminals are constantly trying to hack into computer systems, according to the research, an average of 2,244 times a day. All these data points to the importance of cybersecurity in all businesses and organizations. This is where a cybersecurity engineer comes in.

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What Is A Cybersecurity Engineer?

A cybersecurity engineer is an information security professional tasked with the job of protecting a company’s computer and network systems from data breaches and cyberattacks by cybercriminals. Every business has data it needs to protect. Data breaches come in several forms. It could occur as unauthorized access by an employee of the company, or as an attack by an outsider for malicious reasons. It is the job of a cybersecurity engineer to create and monitor solutions to secure this data from unauthorized access. 

To achieve this, cybersecurity engineers carry out several operations to ensure the safety of a company’s network and data. Some of these operations include:

  • Analyzing a company’s network system to fish out vulnerabilities.
  • Creating solutions to secure a company’s network systems.
  • Carrying out regular penetration testing on the company’s system to ascertain the security of a system.
  • Dealing with data and network breaches in the event of an attack on the company

And so much more.

Skills Needed To Work In Cybersecurity

The skills needed by a cybersecurity engineer can be divided into two categories; soft skills and technical skills. While the technical skills are a must-have for every cybersecurity engineer, soft skills are also very important. A cybersecurity engineer needs to be able to communicate technical concepts to non-technical people. This is especially necessary when communicating with C-suite executives.

As for the technical skills, there are several skills a cybersecurity engineer should possess. Listing all these skills would significantly extend this article, but below are some of the essential ones.

Programming knowledge:  Every cybersecurity engineer should understand programming principles. They should know how to navigate their way through software application source codes and understand it. This is important as it allows them to detect vulnerabilities in a company’s product. It is also helpful in writing out tools and scripts for penetration testing. Some languages cybersecurity engineers should know are C, C++, Java, Python, Perl, and so on.

Understanding databases: Databases are integral to customer-facing products as they need to store information about their users. It is, therefore, necessary for a cybersecurity engineer to understand how databases work and how to secure them from unauthorized intrusions.

Knowledge of operating systems: Cybersecurity engineers should also understand how major operating systems such as Windows, macOS, and Linux work. 

Cloud security: A lot of the web applications created in modern times are hosted on cloud services like AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, and the likes. It is vital that these cloud services are configured properly before hosting applications on them. A cybersecurity engineer should have a good understanding of cloud security to ensure the security of a company’s application.

Penetration testing: This is perhaps a skill most people are more familiar with. It is sometimes referred to as offensive security. It is more popularly known as hacking. A cybersecurity engineer should know how to penetrate systems by exploiting their vulnerabilities.

Other skills required of a cybersecurity engineer are risk analysis and mitigation, malware analysis and reversal, and so much more.

Asides these skills, it is also essential to have relevant certifications. This way potential employers have concrete proof of your skillset. Some of these certifications are:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP)
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional  (OSCP)
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • Certified Information Security Audit (CISA)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Tools Used By Cybersecurity Engineers

This will be an exhaustive list as there are numerous tools used by cybersecurity engineers in their profession. These tools have varying functions from network security monitoring to penetration testing. To shorten the list, here are some of the popular ones.

Wireshark: Wireshark is a network analysis tool that has been in use for several years in the cybersecurity field. It is very good at analyzing data packets on a network and can be used to detect suspicious activities on a network.

Aircrack-ng: When it comes to penetrating wireless networks, particularly Wi-Fi networks, aircrack-ng is a tool that has proved useful countless times. It is quite easy to get through weak wireless encryption protocols such as WEP and WPA with aircrack-ng. 

Metasploit framework: This is a collection of tools designed to make penetration testing very easy for cybersecurity professionals. The framework comes along with several modules that can be combined together to carry out penetration tests on their computer systems.

Cain and Abel: This is a Windows-based software developed for password retrieval on windows systems. It is one of the few good security applications you can find on Windows OS (Most are Linux based). It can recover passwords on Windows systems using methods such as cryptanalysis, dictionary attacks, brute force and so on

There are several more tools used by cybersecurity engineers in their field. These are but a few of them.

Career Paths In Cybersecurity

There are several cybersecurity professionals in the cybersecurity field, and a cybersecurity engineer is just one of them. In fact, it would take you a couple of years to get to the position of a cybersecurity engineer. But before then, there are several roles you can take on in the cybersecurity field. These roles include:

  • Cybersecurity Administrator
  • Cybersecurity Analyst
  • Penetration And  Vulnerability Tester
  • Cybersecurity Technician
  • Incident Analyst

Cybersecurity professionals get paid well for their job. According to Cyberseek, an entry-level cybersecurity professional such as an Incident Analyst earns as much as $89,000 annually. According to the same source, a cybersecurity engineer earns an average of $106,000 per year. 

Cybersecurity engineers work either as freelancers, or full-time employees at a company. There are currently several job openings available for qualified cybersecurity professionals. Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that there would be 3.5 million available jobs globally by 2021. So it is clear that there is a need for cybersecurity professionals.

Why Start A Career In Cybersecurity?

With more and more cyberattacks occurring globally, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. According to Gartner, worldwide spending on cybersecurity is expected to reach $170.4 billion by 2022. Asides the fact that cybersecurity professionals are so much in demand, the field also has an appeal of its own. It provides you with the opportunity to solve problems and meaningfully impact businesses around the world by preventing attacks that could cost millions of dollars in losses.

Final Thoughts

One thing you would learn while pursuing a career as a cybersecurity engineer or any cybersecurity professional whatsoever is that Hollywood’s impression of the job is very far off in most cases. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to arrive at a solution to a security problem. Nevertheless, it is a very fulfilling job.