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Is a computer security job in your future?

Mainstream media is filled with stories that cybersecurity personnel are in demand these days, which is convincing some people to consider a career in computer security.  But what type of jobs are available and what might interest someone like you?  Computer security jobs can be broadly categorized into these general areas:

Securing systems. A person is responsible for implementing security check lists, applying security patches, managing permissions to specific resources and checking log files. System and network administrators typically do this as part of their regular duties for the equipment they manage.

Architecting security solutions. These people design and engineer computer security solutions based on an organization’s requirements. The scope of work encompasses all aspects of IT and includes hardware, applications, data, mobile devices, remote access and B2B data transfers.

Performing risk assessments. There are two different types of risk assessments: technical and non-technical. Technical assessments involve reviewing architectures, doing vulnerability scans using automated tools and determining the likelihood that vulnerable systems will be compromised because of certain vulnerabilities. Non-technical assessments including looking at policy, processes and controls; evaluating the value and importance of information and how likely it is to be stolen by anyone (including insiders); evaluating non-technical threats such as natural and man-made disasters; and impacts resulting from compromise.

Managing security products. Individuals who do this job are typically responsible for managing enterprise versions of anti-virus systems, host-based intrusion detection systems, network-based intrusion detection systems, event correlation systems, Web content filtering systems, proxies and firewalls.

Testing security measures. This job is often referred to as penetration testing. A penetration tester tries to break into systems and applications using the same techniques used by hackers. This includes both technical and non-technical techniques (i.e. social engineering and breaching physical security).

Monitoring security systems. People doing this job analyze logs and alerts generated by various hardware, software and security products. Their job is to ‘triage’ the log files looking for evidence of network or host based intrusions. Once they find something of interest, they had it off to the incident response team.

Incident response. When a system is suspected of being hacked, an incident responder’s job is to collect information to determine if a system or application may indeed be compromised. This involves interviewing system administrators and users, collecting evidence, making a preliminary determination as to how a system might have been compromised and what information may have been compromised. Information is then turned over to a forensic analyst, who may be also be the first responder.

Forensic Analysis. The role of a forensic analyst is to determine exactly how a system was hacked, what malicious code was used and what information was compromised. Forensics encompasses both system and network forensics, and anything else that may be relevant to a situation. Forensics also involves looking for evidence of unauthorized activity or illicit content.  A forensic analyst documents evidence for use in a court of law.

Management positions. Someone needs to oversee day-to-day security operations, security operations centers and security personnel. Managers can lead small teams, departments, facilities or be head of computer security for an entire organization.

No matter what career you choose in computer security, you’re going to need industry certifications. A list of certifying organizations and the corresponding certifications they offer can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Computer_Security_Certifications

A college degree can also be very helpful in landing a job in computer security, especially if you have a degree in Computer Science, which is very different from a degree in Information Systems/Technology.

One thing to keep in mind, is that not all computer security jobs pay well. Some pay dirt while others pay a small fortune.  Before you head down any specific path, make sure you find out what organizations are paying for specific skill sets and certifications.

Good luck!

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