What are the Essential Skills for Cyber Security Professionals in 2024?
Sarah GilchriestSarah Gilchriest

What are the Essential Skills for Cyber Security Professionals in 2024?

Where should you invest time and resources to drive success when it comes to the must-have skills and tools for senior leaders in the industry.

By Sarah Gilchriest, Chief People Officer of Workforce Learning, the group encompassing QA, Circus Street and Cloud Academy

Cyber security has become one of the most important aspects of any business or government organisation. The world is becoming increasingly digital, meaning that more and more sensitive information is kept on devices or in the cloud. The UK Government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2023 found that there were “approximately 2.39 million instances of cyber crime and approximately 49,000 instances of fraud as a result of cyber crime in the last 12 months” across all UK businesses, meaning an ever-increasing need for cyber security professionals. Sometimes referred to as information security technicians, security analyst or security engineers, cyber security professionals are part construction manager, part doorman, part detective and also part undercover police investigation officer – in other words the heroes of the stability of the internet. The skills they need to cover the scope of the role are wide-ranging and continue to evolve as technology moves on and it can be hard to know where best to invest time and resources to progress in this career, but this article will explore the key areas that a cyber security professional should be thinking about today.

Technical expertise

Cyber security professionals enable security in IT infrastructure, data, edge devices, and networks. Many are programmers, systems or network administrators, or have backgrounds in math and statistics. Such skills are required for the role of an IT security professional, but equally as essential are critical thinking, curiosity, and a passion for learning and research. Furthermore, hackers are creative by nature; therefore, cybersecurity pros need to be, as well, to outsmart them.

It perhaps goes without saying, but technical proficiency is key. It is essential to understand how networks function, and have the ability to secure them. This should include knowledge of firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, VPNs and more. Coding and scripting is also crucial, with proficiency in languages such as Python, Java, or C++ invaluable for cybersecurity professionals.

The tools to turn to

There are a range of tools that top the charts for cyber security, and professionals in the industry should be seeking to upskill themselves to use if they do not already do so. These include the prevalent penetration framework Metasploit, which can be used to accomplish objectives such as managing security evaluations, discovering vulnerabilities, and formulating defence methodologies. Nmap, the open-source tool for scanning networks and systems for vulnerabilities, and performing mapping of network attack surfaces is another, along with Wireshark, which can scrutinise the details of network traffic, and Aircrack-ng, which analyses the weaknesses in a WiFi network. There are a number of other such examples, and will always be new ones emerging, and so to stay at the top of their game, continuous learning is key. A cyber professional needs to be live to identifying the most effective toolkit and making sure they have the skills to benefit from them.

Fixing vulnerabilities

People in this sector do not just need to be able to use and understand security tools and technology, but also oversee their maintenance. Coding skills can enable professionals to analyse, identify, and fix vulnerabilities in software and systems, essential when carrying out effective audits of security practices. It will also be needed for evaluation of new technology being integrated into the business, to implement controls to diminish any risk in its operation.

Data analysis

There’s no escaping the fact that data in general is the lifeblood of modern business. As a result, every cyber security professional will benefit from learning data analysis skills. This does not mean becoming a data scientist, but upskilling in areas such as statistics that can have a profound impact on your job. At the very least you need to be able to understand what the data is telling you. Otherwise, you’re simply following what other people – usually in the data team – tell you. Without the ability to understand data, you cannot spot errors, see opportunities for further analysis or make the most of the insights data analysis generates.

Communication is key

It is important to focus on more than the technical skills involved in this industry though. To really succeed in this career, there are certain so-called soft skills that need to be focused on. Communication skills are fundamental, to allow the translation of complex technical information for the average lay person in a clear and effective way. Cyber security professionals will have to work closely with different teams to reduce risks, educating non-technical employees on how to identify suspicious activity and implement security measures. The ability to think critically and strategically is also a key attribute for anyone working in this industry. High-level security protocols often require cyber professionals to perform strategic evaluations of the workflows, requirements and resources.

In conclusion, a successful career in cybersecurity requires a combination of technical expertise, analytical skills, and a commitment to continuous learning. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, cybersecurity professionals play a critical role in safeguarding our increasingly interconnected world. By developing and honing these essential skills, aspiring cybersecurity professionals can contribute to the ongoing battle against cyber threats and help build a more secure digital future.

About the Author

What are the Essential Skills for Cyber Security Professionals in 2024?Sarah Gilchriest is the Chief People Officer of Workforce Learning, the group encompassing QA, Circus Street and Cloud Academy.

Sarah can be reached online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahbromley/ and at our company website https://www.qa.com/

March 26, 2024

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