The severity and impact of cyberattacks are intensifying. On the other hand, companies lack IT employees with the expertise to deal with cybercrime. For this reason, organizations are opting to place their IT security needs with third-party security providers, such as cybersecurity consultants.
A cybersecurity consultant is an IT professional tasked with keeping systems and networks safe from internal and external attacks. Cybersecurity consultants do this by:
- Regulating access to systems by, for instance, creating security clearance levels
- Implementing security programs to protect information
- Keeping up-to-date with approaches used by cybercriminals, such as phishing, viruses, hacking, ransomware, etcetera.
Cybersecurity consultants play the role of defenders. But to do so effectively, they must also understand how attackers work. As such, cybersecurity consultants often explore systems for weaknesses that can be exploited by cybercriminals. They then use this information to develop security solutions to strengthen networks and systems.
If you are a cybersecurity expert and have gained experience working in the field for years, you can become a cybersecurity consultant. Some other roles in this field include:
- Security architect
- Penetration Tester/Ethical Hacker
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). This is the head of security in a company.
Why companies invest hugely in data security
There are various reasons why companies invest in data security for the following reasons:
Cybercrime is costly to manage
The cost of cybercrime is increasing. In 2015, costs stood at $3 trillion; this figure is expected to rise to $10.5 trillion by 2025. The burden of these costs is borne by the companies whose systems are breached. A big part of this cost goes to litigation, as affected customers sue for damage caused.
Diminished investor confidence
Whereas there are many adverse effects of data breaches, perhaps the biggest one is that incidents of cybercrime dilute investor confidence. For instance, in 2016, a cyber-attack on yahoo was discovered in the middle of an acquisition deal with Verizon. Yahoo was forced to accept a closing price of $300 million below its original asking price of $4.8 billion.
For investors and members of the public, cybersecurity is now a criterion for deciding which companies to invest in. As part of their due diligence, they seek to understand a company’s strategy for managing risk and want assurance that their money and information will be safe.
Also, the attacks by hackers on fortune 500 companies have sent the message that everyone is vulnerable. As such, investors are cautious now more than ever. For companies, the impact on their stock valuation can have lasting effects from the ensuing customer loss and loss of finances either directly due to the attack or indirectly as shareholders and investors pull out their funds.
To conform to business regulations
Cyber-attacks change business regulation rules, ultimately affecting how companies run their operations. A case in point is the attack on Equifax, a consumer reporting agency. The 2017 attack compromised the information of 143 million consumers, causing an outcry among the public, security companies, and the government.
After the Equifax attack, the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act was introduced. The bill seeks to give policing rights to the Federal Trade Commission and the power to fine credit reporting agencies and ensure they compensate victims.
Greater demand for privacy
Data breaches have left the public asking for one thing: privacy. Governments have responded by putting strict privacy laws in place.
Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires companies to delete consumer data upon request. Companies that utilize customer data for targeted marketing will have to change how they market. The impact will be even more significant if such privacy rights enter huge markets like the US.
Roles of a cybersecurity consultant
Individuals and businesses face cyber threats on their networks and online systems. The main role of a cybersecurity consultant is to identify such threats and prevent them from happening.
Though you can be employed directly by a company as a security consultant, as a beginner, you will most likely work for a cybersecurity company. Organizations pay such companies for their expertise. It will be the job of the security company you work for to decide whether your skills and experience level measure up to a contract.
What are the tasks of a cybersecurity consultant?
Ensure the online security of any clients allocated to you. Depending on your employer’s structure and work model, you may work with accounts from different industries or specialize in government contracts, banks, insurance, and hospitals, among others.
Assess your clients’ systems and identify security issues unique to each client. Based on your findings, create a business case recommending security architecture and strategies that should be deployed to prevent threats and address vulnerable areas.
Explain the existing threat to your client, why you need to deploy architecture to protect them and how your deployments will protect their business.
After getting buy-in from clients, test and deploy solutions.
Provide user training to your client’s employees. To ensure long-term security, you must maintain a relationship with teams and offer ongoing assistance.
Stay updated with current cyber threats, trends, and technologies to outdo cybercriminals. You need to constantly stay up to date with:
- Hardware authentication. This will help you to control log-in procedures. To log in, a user needs a username, a password, a device, and a token. A token provides additional authentication, making it harder for unauthorized users to get into a system even if they have a user name or password.
- Behavior analytics. Analyzing user behavior can tell you whether log-in credentials have been compromised.
- Deep Learning. This will allow you to identify deviations in user behavior.
To succeed in these roles, you need the following skills:
- Knowledge of information security
- Understand security technology
- Be a great lister and communicator
- Ability to explain technical issues to users
- Great team player
- Problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Able to work under pressure and meet project deadlines
- Project management skills
More so, to take advantage of job opportunities, you need to have relevant work experience. For instance, if you are a database administrator, you stand a better chance of landing a job managing database security than someone with no prior experience with databases.
What’s next – countless career options for cybersecurity consultants
As cyberattacks have grown, so has the demand for cybersecurity consultants among government agencies, banks, medical institutions, and insurance companies.
But reports from researchers, security bodies, and governments maintain that the skills gap in cybersecurity is still glaring. An article from the US Bureau of labor statistics estimates a projected growth of 28% for information security analyst jobs from 2016 to 2026. The article also notes that the demand for managed security service providers will rise as companies cannot still handle cyber threats.
Trends show there is and always has been a shortage of cybersecurity talent. For example:
- In 2014, the Cisco Annual Security Report stated that by 2014, there would be a shortage of 1 million cyber security professionals globally.
- In 2015, Symantec CEO, Michael Brown, said that by 2019, though the demand for cybersecurity professionals will have risen to 6 million jobs, there will still be a talent shortage of 1.5 million.
- In 2016, ISACA conducted a skills gap analysis that estimated a 2 million cybersecurity professionals shortage by 2019.
- Current job forecasts still show that the industry cannot cope with the increasing demand for cybersecurity jobs. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that by 2025, 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will be unfilled.
If a direct role in cybersecurity is not quite right for you, maybe being a cryptocurrency security standard auditor – and we have written on the topic of CCSS recently in the following articles: