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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 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 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.
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