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Security Researcher

Security researchers are skilled computer experts that use their technical knowledge to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities

What is a security researcher?

Security researchers are skilled computer experts that use their technical knowledge to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities within an organization or industry. A security researcher must keep up with the latest data, developments, and trends in the cybersecurity world. Generally, they have responsibility for investigating malware, analyzing and understanding their capabilities, documenting the incidents of compromise (IOCs), and understanding the best steps for mitigation of the threat. They may also have highly specialized industry expertise.

Security researchers spent considerable time reviewing source code and malware and reviewing incident reports to understand threats better. Malware can present a difficult challenge. It takes patience and strong analytical skills to disassemble malware, reverse engineering it to know how it works, and design mitigations. The job of a security researcher is almost without scope as the variety, depth, and breadth of malware variants is massive. In addition, repacking and remanufacturing of existing malware has led to an almost exponential increase in malware. For this reason, security researchers must have a strategy to focus their efforts on the areas that will most likely reap benefits for their organization.

Examples of security research

Examples of security research are often focused on industry sectors. For instance, municipal utilities have already experienced attacks on network and operational technology systems. Serious flaws could result in the shutdown of critical infrastructures such as power generation, municipal water supplies, and more. Moreover, the number of attacks in the public domain continues to increase every year. 

Another area that has merited focused security research is the public transportation sector. Utilities such as railroads have been attacked by various cyberattackers, from criminal gangs to shadow organizations sponsored by malicious nation-states. Security research will identify and fix flaws in the internet of things (IoT) infrastructure, which is part of every modern railroad and commuter system. IoT is pervasive in communication systems and control systems within modern railroads.

Security research in medical devices has become a priority given the continued escalation in cyberattacks on healthcare institutions. In addition, recent news continues to report on massive breaches of patient records, especially as documented within the United States.

Security researcher vs ethical hacker

The term “security researcher” is often used interchangeably with ethical hacker, white hat hacker, or hacker. These terms describe a cybersecurity professional who uses their skills to identify and address security vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, or applications. Unlike malicious hackers (also known as black hat hackers or threat actors) who exploit vulnerabilities for unauthorized access or malicious purposes, ethical hackers work with the permission of the system owner to assess and improve security.

The primary goal of an ethical hacker is to proactively identify weaknesses in a system’s defenses before malicious actors can exploit them. Ethical hackers use various tools and techniques to simulate potential cyber attacks, assess vulnerabilities, and recommend security measures to strengthen the overall security posture of an organization. Their work helps organizations prevent data breaches, protect sensitive information, and ensure the integrity and availability of their systems. Ethical hacking is an essential component of proactive cybersecurity efforts to stay ahead of evolving threats in the digital landscape.

At Bugcrowd, we primarily use the phrase “hacker” to describe “the good guys.”

Resources for security researchers

Security researchers play a critical role in the early identification, documenting, and reporting of vulnerabilities across many organizations and industries. Yet, the pool of security researchers that can be hired by anyone organization is often minimal.  Vulnerability disclosure programs and crowd-sourced penetration testing have provided an enhanced strategy for organizations to use today to leverage a broader set of security researcher resources. 

Want to learn more? Check out our FREE Bugcrowd University to sharpen your hacking skills.

Organizations the world over need your help! Join our researcher community to connect with hundreds of organization programs focused on finding their security vulnerabilities. Our vast directory includes programs for all skill levels, across many industries and from around the world.

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