How to Start a Defensive Cybersecurity Career

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Companies regularly face cyber threats because a lot of them have digitized their operations to increase efficiency and productivity. This is unlikely to change anytime soon because the benefits of this newfound efficiency outweigh the negatives. Nevertheless, businesses are taking the necessary steps to mitigate cyber threats and protect their IT infrastructure.

To stay protected, they need skilled defensive cybersecurity personnel to monitor their systems, create threat response plans, and perform disaster recovery. Unfortunately, these skilled personnel are in short supply, prompting companies to pay top dollar to persuade the ones available to join their blue team. This dynamic has made defensive cybersecurity a lucrative career field that anybody can go into if they have a passion for technology.

What is a Blue Team in Cybersecurity?

A blue team in cybersecurity is a group that is tasked with protecting a company’s IT systems from threats that can compromise its integrity. They do this by maintaining the existing defensive posture of the IT system and adding safeguards to address newly detected vulnerabilities.

Members of the blue team have to understand their company’s security objectives and develop effective strategies to meet them. Part of their job is to carry out risk assessments to determine how potential attacks will affect the system. They also participate in attack simulations where the “red team” will mimic real cyber attackers and try to penetrate the system. During this exercise, the blue team has to ensure the IT system can withstand these attacks. If not, they will take note of the weak points and strengthen them.

Core Functions of a Blue Team

Cybersecurity in a company is mainly divided into two: the offensive side (red team) and the defensive side (blue team). The red team’s job is to find vulnerabilities in the IT system and exploit them to gain unauthorized access. They do this through ethical hacking, penetration testing, and other offensive cybersecurity actions.

The idea is to assume the motives of a real cyberattacker and simulate their likely actions.  The blue team defends the IT systems from these simulated attacks from the red team, preparing the company for a real encounter with a cyberattacker. Their core functions include the following:

Vulnerability Scanning

This is the scanning of a company’s IT infrastructure to detect vulnerabilities that can give malicious actors unauthorized access.

Employee Cybersecurity Training

Defensive cybersecurity personnel tell employees the potential impact of successful cyberattacks. They also teach them to detect, avoid, and report threats because cybercriminals can use them to gain access to the system.

Risk Assessment

They assess the risk posed by existing vulnerabilities and measure how much damage can result from an attack that results from that vulnerability. This will help them prioritize the resolution of each vulnerability.

Security  Tool Installation

As defensive cyber security personnel discover new threats, they will install the right software programs to detect and counter them before they can cause damage to their company’s IT systems.

Formation of Incident Response Plan

Whenever a threat is detected or a cyber attack occurs, there needs to be a response plan to address the situation before it escalates. The defensive cybersecurity team is responsible for creating an effective response that is compatible with their organization’s IT infrastructure.

Defensive CyberSecurity Job Roles

To work as a defensive cybersecurity personnel, you should identify a suitable job role that matches your interest and skill set. Many job roles fall under defensive cybersecurity, and here are some of them:

Threat Intelligence Analyst

Threat intelligence analysts know how different forms of malware behave, so they use this knowledge to research and analyze threats to their organization’s IT infrastructure.  They compile their findings in a report and present them to their company executives and suggest the best way to deal with said threats. They also use the threat intelligence reports they generate to predict and prepare against similar cyberattacks.

Insider Threat Analyst

Insider threat analysts focus on potential threats that emanate from within a company. They gather and assess threat data and information from employees, executives, third-party service providers, and business partners. This threat assessment will help them identify patterns and trends indicative of suspicious activity. They will use their findings to prepare a report and present it to senior management.

Data Loss Prevention Engineer

Data loss prevention engineers ensure that they keep their company secure. Data breaches and leaks can cost a company its reputation and make it lose money. The engineers are aware of this, so they create and maintain a data loss prevention system. They back up valuable company data and make sure this backup is available during disaster recovery.

Cybersecurity Instructor

These instructors are tasked with training junior cybersecurity professionals so they can become more efficient at their jobs. They also educate employees in companies so they know how to spot cyber threats and work in a security-conscious manner.

Identity and Access Management Engineer

Engineers in this role are responsible for implementing and optimizing their company’s identity and access management systems. As new technologies become available, they will help their company adopt them so their security becomes tighter. They are also expected to maintain the IAM system and resolve any issue that occurs before it disrupts regular business operations.

Cloud Security Engineer

Cloud security engineers are needed in companies that conduct their operations on cloud computing platforms. They uphold the security of these cloud platforms by monitoring them to detect suspicious activity and applying mitigation measures where necessary. They also scan the cloud system regularly to detect vulnerabilities so they can patch them. They also develop cloud security strategies to safeguard the system against new threats they discover.

Vulnerability Analyst

Vulnerability analysts are tasked with scanning their company’s IT infrastructure to find exploitable vulnerabilities and raise awareness about them. They also work with other cybersecurity professionals to find solutions for eliminating these vulnerabilities. Vulnerability analysts are sometimes responsible for threat management.

How to Get a Defensive Cyber Security Job

Once you identify the job role you want to focus on, consider following the steps below:

Take the Relevant Courses

You need to take online courses that teach the skills you need to function in the defensive cybersecurity role you want. These courses are available on educational sites like Udemy and Coursera. You have to pay for them, but if you want to learn for free, you might find useful videos on YouTube and similar platforms.

Become Familiar With the Basics

Cybersecurity is a field where you will constantly learn new things, so do not expect to know it all at first. However, you need to understand the fundamentals and use them as a foundation to build your knowledge.

Join a Bootcamp

After being acquainted with the basics of defensive cybersecurity, it will help to join a bootcamp. Bootcamps are intense learning programs that teach the core aspects of a tech discipline and provide a practical learning experience so students will be ready to work upon completion. These programs typically last for three to six months. They are an alternative to college programs, so you should enroll in one if you do not have formal cybersecurity education.

Get the Required Certifications

Some jobs require you to have specific certifications to be employed. Find the certifications that apply to your defensive cybersecurity dream role and get them. You will need to take exams that test your skills and knowledge before you will be granted those certifications.

Gain Experience

To land a high-paying job, you need experience. You can get this by pursuing internships, volunteering, and building a portfolio. There are internship opportunities on job boards, so consider looking for suitable ones there and applying.

Understudy a Mentor

Find a mentor that has a career similar to what you want and understudy them.  There is no right or wrong way to find a mentor. They could be a superior in your internship company, a seasoned professional on social media, a relative, a friend’s colleague, or anyone who respects your professional journey and is willing to guide you.

Prepare Your Resume and Find a Full-Time Job

At this stage, you should feel ready to take on the job market, so draft your resume and include all the job positions, skills, and certifications you have attained so far. Go on job boards and look for full-time junior defensive cybersecurity roles that match your skill set and apply for them. Ensure you personalize your resume to match each job description. Use the necessary keywords to optimize your resume so it does not get screened by the filters recruiters use on application tracking systems.

Conclusion

Defensive cybersecurity is a worthwhile career path that benefits those who are passionate about technology. Many job roles in this field can pay professionals over $100,000 a year if they are dedicated and play their cards right. Many companies are ready to hire skilled personnel and add them to their blue team, but there are not enough available professionals. You can take advantage of this by following the steps above to gain the necessary skills and certifications that will make you eligible for a full-time defensive cybersecurity role.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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