How to Become an Information Security Analyst
As the Internet gains an increasingly prominent role in modern life and hackers employ more sophisticated means to breach websites and databases, cybersecurity becomes increasingly critical. The primary role of an information security analyst is to plan and institute security measures to protect an organization’s digital assets from cyber attacks. Information security analysts are tasked with continually monitoring a company’s computers and digital networks for infiltration and attacks; developing effective responses to breaches; keeping current with strategies to combat malware and computer viruses, and correcting flaws in a company’s security system. The consistent execution of these tasks is the backbone of any successful career as an information security analyst.
The Information Security Industry
The Information Security, or InfoSec, industry is a protection-minded field charged with designing and implementing processes that prevent the breach of private, confidential, or sensitive data. This prevention keeps vital information from being obtained by unauthorized groups that may seek to misuse, disclose, modify, disrupt, or destroy data.
InfoSec professionals fulfill a variety of roles in service of their mission to prevent catastrophic breaches. They may keep electronic banking records confidential, safeguard military computer networks, maintain firewalls, and monitor personal computers for viruses. They can also defend against cyber attacks, which are commonplace. Data security provider Arbor Networks estimates between September 2017 and February 2018, the U.S. experienced 3,870 daily Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, where perpetrators attempt to temporarily or indefinitely disrupt the connectivity between a host computer or network and the Internet.
Information security analysts design and implement the data systems and computer network infrastructures that prevent cyber attacks and other security breaches. They monitor these systems to ensure they are sound and develop plans for when systems fail. In addition, these professionals verify the security of any external parties who have access to a company’s systems and advise them on security requirements and protocols. InfoSec can be a demanding industry, especially when a computer network is under attack, a cybersecurity system has failed, or new software or upgrades roll out.
Qualities of an Information Security Analyst
Individuals suited for a career as an Information Security Analyst are drawn to computers, have excellent math or science skills, and possess an investigative streak driven by technical curiosity. However, these elements must be married to the following skills to be successful as an information security analyst:
Critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision making. These professionals use logic and reasoning to determine the strengths and weaknesses of current and new systems to pinpoint potential security issues. They also must be able to use critical thinking during an attack to ensure each decision they make is informed and anticipates the potential next steps in an attack.
Attention to detail. Because cyber attacks can be nuanced, it’s essential to have the capacity to catch subtle fluctuations in computer system performance. Picking up on these issues sooner rather than later can be key in neutralizing suspected attacks before they become grave issues.
Systems analysis, vulnerability testing, and breach prevention. InfoSec analysts use tactics like data analysis and ethical hacking to scrutinize and stress test a security system’s proper functionality, and whether changes in conditions can affect outcomes. These strategies help them expose system weaknesses and identify potential threats, allowing them to stay one step ahead.
Communication. An information security analyst needs strong verbal, written, and listening skills, as they must be able to convey cybersecurity issues in a way that management and employees can comprehend.
In addition to these skills, information security analysts should have an in-depth knowledge of systems and systematic processes designed to provide automated security solutions, such as firewalls, application security, and cyber and network security. They should also have a thorough understanding of the tools associated with various forms of security policy. These can include security architecture, security engineering, and security information and event management.
Information security analysts typically possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Career prospects can improve with an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Cybersecurity. These analysts often acquire additional certifications in different areas of cybersecurity to broaden their knowledge base, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Beyond industry certifications, these professionals can hone in on a specific security metric, such as systems auditing.
For 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked information security analyst second in the category of Best Technology Jobs and sixth in Best STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Jobs. Opportunities for advancement are also above average and wide-ranging. A graduate can progress up the ranks in this field from a security analyst to security architect, security engineer, security manager, and security consultant. Professionals with extensive experience in cybersecurity can ascend to senior management positions, including security director and chief information security officer (CISO).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median salary for information security analysts in 2017 was $95,510 per year. The bureau predicts the demand for these professionals to grow by 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, resulting in 28,500 more jobs.
An Important Position for the Future
The Internet and system networks are two permanent fixtures of modern business, and the need to protect these essential components against increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks is more pressing than ever. Obtaining an advanced degree like a Master’s in a computer science-related field can be a major step toward entering the InfoSec field as an information security analyst. Such degrees allow students the opportunity to apply their skills as information gatekeepers to a wide host of industries, to the ultimate benefit of citizens and consumers.
As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities. At Norwich University, we extend a tradition of values-based education, where structured, disciplined, and rigorous studies create a challenging and rewarding experience. Online programs, such as the Master of Science in Cybersecurity, have made our comprehensive curriculum available to more students than ever before.
Norwich University has been designated as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Through your program, you can choose from the five unique concentrations that are designed to provide an in-depth examination of policies, procedures, and overall structure of an information assurance program.
Information Security Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics
What is an Information Security Analyst, U.S. News & World Report
What is a security analyst? Responsibilities, qualifications, and more, Digital Guardian
United States, Arbor Networks Atlas
Information Security Resources, SANS