A Cybersecurity Engineer (or Security Engineer) Is responsible for the security and protection of systems, network infrastructure, and applications which store and utilize enterprise data and the data of customers and partners. Cybersecurity engineers generally implement the security controls that provide visibility detection prevention and remediation of intrusions and breeches. In addition, cybersecurity engineers are usually responsible for planning, executing, and measuring the effectiveness of implemented cybersecurity measures.
Cybersecurity Engineers are part of a large team. Sometimes they are residents in the information technology department; other times, they may be found within a dedicated department or the Security Operation Center (SOC). Additionally, cybersecurity engineers may work directly for the company where their services are employed or work for outsourced clients through a managed security service provider (MSSP).
Key Cybersecurity Engineer Responsibilities
Critical responsibilities for cybersecurity engineers cover many areas:
- Implementing security controls and other defensive measures. Cybersecurity engineers can install and configure firewalls, intrusion detection software, cloud access security brokers, data encryption, and complex security controls. They may be experts in configuring and setting up one or more of these security controls. Cybersecurity engineers are also tied to policies and governance which must be implemented. These policies will impact how these devices are set up and integrated within the ecosystem. The overall goal is to protect infrastructure resources and sensitive corporate and customer data while maintaining the integrity of enterprise operations.
- Cybersecurity Plan Development. Cybersecurity engineers work with information technology, business units, and the compliance and governance teams to build an overall plan to defend the enterprise. It is their job to bring best practices into this planning cycle to minimize the probability of any breach. Cybersecurity engineering managers must also work to match the plan execution to overall budgets and resource availability. Cybersecurity engineering managers may face personnel constraints on their team, which can impact their ability for the team to protect the enterprise. In addition, the shortages of qualified cybersecurity engineers in the market today can affect the overall execution of the cybersecurity plan.
- Policy Planning and Implementation. Cybersecurity engineers must work with compliance and governance to understand the policies implemented within the cybersecurity environment. Beyond those policies driven by compliance and governance, cybersecurity engineers must also enforce digital policies related to the best practice implementation of cybersecurity defensive techniques.
- Vulnerability Testing and Penetration Testing. One of the critical responsibilities of cybersecurity Engineers is to run vulnerability testing frequently. Sometimes this involves the use of tools, such as scanners. It may also involve the use of a breach and attack simulation system. Or maybe in the form of penetration tests which cybersecurity Engineers on the red team execute to discover new vulnerabilities. Similarly, Blue team cybersecurity engineers will frequently assess their equipment to determine if it is configured correctly to minimize exposure. All of this regular testing is essential to understanding the organization’s defensive posture.
- Monitoring, Logging, and Reporting. Most security controls and tools under the purview of a cybersecurity engineer provide extensive logging and reporting. Cybersecurity engineers must maintain constant visibility of this data and find those anomalous or malicious behaviors that may require additional investigation. This vigilance often requires configuring alert tools that work with the security controls, the SIEM, and the SOAR to help identify malicious activity quickly. The goal is to mitigate the threat before it becomes a significant problem and impacts enterprise and customer data.
- Alert Triage and Investigation. Commonly, cybersecurity engineers spend most of their day triaging alerts and investigating them to see if they have additional merit. They require a high degree of skill to recognize something which may appear random as being something that is perhaps targeted and malicious. In supporting an investigation, they may use threat intelligence, data from many third-party sources of information, and more to correlate the behavior to which they were alerted with patterns that imply increased risk and perhaps the compromise of the organization.
- Post Security Event Analysis. All significant security events should go through a post-security event analysis. Compromised or not, cybersecurity engineers need to determine what lessons were learned from the event, how to improve the resiliency of their defenses, how to improve the integrity of their care process, and how to minimize the chance of risk from this type of event in the future.
Key Cybersecurity Engineer Attributes
Cybersecurity engineers require specific experience and intellectual attributes to make them well-suited to meet the challenges of their day-to-day work. These include:
- A degree in computer science, electrical engineering, systems engineering, information technology, or a closely related degree provides sufficient background in information technology and information security.
- Experience can be critically important. Some of the best cybersecurity engineers come from other information technology disciplines and develop a strong background in networking, application administration, configuration management, and other areas that directly impact cybersecurity. Experience in incident response, threat intelligence, and computer and/or network forensics can be highly valuable. You may also be a deep specialist in one particular area of cybersecurity. In many organizations, one or two experts in each primary type of security control by the vendor have deep expertise in configuring and optimizing the use of that vendor’s control. For example, it takes tremendous knowledge and experience to configure a Palo Alto next-generation firewall correctly.
- Most senior cybersecurity engineers have extensive experience with programming at some point in their careers. They should be familiar with languages like C++, Java, Python, PowerShell, and Ruby. They should also have experience building their Scripts and perhaps developing their tools.
- Cybersecurity engineering is often combative, and this can be stressful. You have a job where most of your day is spent defending your enterprise against malicious attackers of both criminal and nation-state origin who want to steal your data, steal your funds and compromise your organization. Being a cybersecurity engineer is not a low-stress job, so you have to have the personality traits to meet and successfully defeat these threats. In addition, you need to make sure that you and your organization have the best tools for success. You don’t want to go into a battle that you can’t win. You want the best tools to go into those battles and win.
Cybersecurity engineering can be a gratifying career path. Unfortunately, there is a massive shortage of cybersecurity engineers at this time. Trained entrants into the job market will find a career that will offer job satisfaction and compensate them exceptionally well for the foreseeable future.
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