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August 8, 2023 By Janet Alexander

Security analyst FAQ: everything you need to know for a career in cybersecurity

Security analyst FAQ

So, you want to be a cybersecurity analyst. You’ll be pleased to know it’s a profession with a strong job outlook, thanks to the increasing importance of cybersecurity. With the rise in high-profile data breaches, privacy concerns and rapid technological advancements, there is a greater demand for cybersecurity analysts now than ever.

And the demand for cybersecurity analysts is only expected to grow in the coming years—here’s why:

  • Cyber attacks targeting every industry are becoming more sophisticated, frequent and damaging.

  • Evolving regulatory compliance frameworks and audits require organizations to implement security measures to protect sensitive information.

  • Embracing digital transformation initiatives such as cloud computing services introduces new security risks that must be addressed.

  • Organizations are shifting from reactive to proactive security measures, like threat hunting and continuous monitoring.

  • There’s a shortage of skilled cybersecurity analysts with the necessary expertise and experience.

But before you get too far into pursuing this job, let’s look into the basics of this profession. Below, we answer the most frequently asked questions about becoming a cybersecurity analyst.

How does a security analyst differ from a cybersecurity analyst and an information security analyst?

The roles of a security analyst, a cybersecurity analyst and an information security analyst often overlap to some extent, and the job titles may be used interchangeably in different organizations. Here’s how to generally distinguish between the three:

A security analyst is a broad term encompassing professionals responsible for security analytics related to an organization's systems, networks and data. Security analysts focus on identifying and mitigating security risks, monitoring security events and incidents, conducting security assessments and implementing security controls. They may work on various aspects of security, including network security, system security, application security and data security.

A cybersecurity analyst protects systems, networks and data from cyber threats. They analyze and respond to cyber incidents, monitor networks for security breaches, conduct vulnerability assessments and implement security measures to prevent cyber attacks. Cybersecurity analysts work to identify vulnerabilities, engage in threat detection and apply mitigation strategies to defend against potential data breaches as the result of a well-implemented cyber attack. Cybersecurity analysts must remain vigilant for threats such as malware, ransomware, phishing campaigns, denial-of-service and supply chain attacks, just to name a few.

An information security analyst primarily protects an organization's information assets. They assess risks to information systems, develop and implement security policies and procedures, conduct security audits and ensure compliance with relevant regulations. Information security analysts may work on data classification, role-based access controls, encryption, incident response planning and security awareness training. Their goal is to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data within an organization.

The role and functions of cybersecurity analysts can vary between organizations and be used interchangeably.

What does a cybersecurity analyst do?

The primary role of a cybersecurity analyst is to ensure the security and integrity of an organization's digital assets by monitoring, analyzing and responding to various security incidents and risks. Key responsibilities of a cybersecurity analyst include:

  • Monitoring network and system logs, intrusion detection systems and other security tools to identify and investigate potential security incidents.

  • Conducting regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify infrastructure, applications, or systems weaknesses and provide recommendations to improve security and remediate vulnerabilities.

  • Managing and maintaining security posture infrastructure and tools such as firewalls, antivirus software, security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) and security information and event management (SIEM) systems.

  • Conducting root-cause analysis, assessing the impact or blast radius, and developing strategies to contain and remediate incidents.

  • Implementing security policies, procedures and standards within the organization to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and industry best practices.

  • Analyzing threat intelligence reports, security bulletins and other sources to identify potential risks and develop effective security measures proactively.

  • Contributing to security awareness programs and reviewing suspicious employee emails, and safeguarding sensitive information.

  • Documenting and reporting security incidents, including their analysis, findings and remediation measures to track trends, patterns and recurring security issues.

How much does a cybersecurity analyst make?

The salary of a cybersecurity analyst can vary based on experience, qualifications, geographic location, industry and the organization's size. We pulled average base salary information for cybersecurity analysts in the U.S. from Glassdoor, Payscale, and Indeed. We found that base compensation is generally between $80,311 and $109,515.

It's important to note that these figures are estimates and can vary significantly based on the factors mentioned earlier. Additionally, salaries may differ in different countries and regions around the world.

How do you become a cybersecurity analyst?

To become a cybersecurity analyst, you typically need a combination of education, relevant experience and certifications. For an entry-level position, many cybersecurity analysts have a bachelor's degree (four years of “experience”) in a field related to computer science, information technology, cybersecurity or a similar discipline. Some employers may also accept candidates with equivalent work experience or associate degrees. Developing a solid foundation in computer systems, networks, programming and information security concepts is essential during your education.

For those with a bachelor's degree, many universities offer master’s programs in cybersecurity that can be the springboard for a career pivot.

Certifications can be a substitute for conventional degrees. Common certifications to consider are the following:

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) by (ISC)² - an intermediate cybersecurity certification that requires candidates to have one year of paid work experience in an IT security domain to qualify for the exam.

CompTIA Security+ - considered the first certification any aspiring or new cybersecurity professional should complete, as it validates your qualifications for an entry-level cybersecurity position. It’s recommended that you first pass the CompTIA Network+ exam and have two years of relevant experience in IT administration before obtaining this certification.

GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC) - for security professionals and managers, operations personnel, IT engineers, security administrators, forensic analysts, penetration testers, and auditors.

CyberSecurity Fundamentals Certificate (ISACA) - This certificate is great for students and recent graduates, rising IT professionals, and teams and people looking to upskill.

Aside from degrees and certifications, practical experience in cybersecurity demonstrates your skills and knowledge to potential employers. Focus on developing skills in network security, operating systems, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, vulnerability assessment and incident response. Without a conventional degree, it’s generally recommended that you have at least three years of relevant experience.

As you begin forging a career in security analytics, some types of work experience are more valuable than others. Entry-level positions such as cybersecurity analyst, security operations center (SOC) analyst or junior security consultant provide hands-on experience in monitoring, detecting and responding to security incidents.

How long does it take to become a cybersecurity analyst?

Gaining expertise and proficiency in various security domains can take a few years. As you gain more experience and demonstrate your skills, you can advance to higher-level positions within the cybersecurity field, such as senior analyst, security architect or cybersecurity manager.

Becoming a cybersecurity analyst is not solely defined by a specific timeline. It is a continuous learning process, and individuals progress at different rates based on their background, dedication, available opportunities and the ever-evolving nature of the field.

What kind of education does it take to become a security analyst?

In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, universities, technical schools and online learning platforms offer specialized cybersecurity programs and certifications. These programs often focus on cybersecurity topics and can provide targeted knowledge and skills in network security, digital forensics, penetration testing or incident response.

Industry-recognized certifications can enhance your credibility and demonstrate your expertise in specific areas of cybersecurity. These certifications cover different aspects of cybersecurity and can vary in terms of prerequisites and difficulty levels. Research the certifications that align with your career goals and consider obtaining one or more to enhance your credentials.

Some popular certifications for cybersecurity analysts include:

  • CompTIA Security+

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

  • Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

  • GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA)

It's important to note that while education is valuable, practical experience and hands-on skills are highly sought in cybersecurity. Employers often seek candidates with practical experience from internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer work in security-related roles. 

Other valuable areas of experience are:

  • Incident and digital forensics, investigating security incidents, analyzing attack vectors, preserving and analyzing digital evidence and coordinating with other teams to mitigate and recover from incidents.

  • Knowledge of information security standards (e.g., ISO 17799/27002, etc.), rules and regulations related to information security and data confidentiality (e.g., HIPAA, etc.) and desktop, server, application, database, network security principles for risk identification and analysis.

  • Working knowledge of ISO 27001 or ISO 27701 or NIST Cybersecurity Framework or CIS 18 controls.

  • Vulnerability and risk assessments and penetration testing to identify security vulnerabilities, exploit them, and recommend remediation measures.

  • Compliance obligations and implementing appropriate security measures that align with regulatory requirements.

  • Cross-functional collaboration, effective communication and translating technical security concepts into understandable terms.

Get certified in Cloud Security Analytics with Sumo Logic

As a cloud-native SaaS analytics platform, Sumo Logic works with many security analysts who use our platform. Getting certified can show employers that you are equipped to work with our platform and set you up for success –– whether you're already an analyst or looking to transition into that career.

Here’s what you can expect from the course:

  • Build dashboards that monitor logs for various threats and alert on indicators for brute force attacks, land speed violations and malicious IPs.

  • Create queries for detecting, investigating or responding with advanced search operators to analyze your logs.

  • Create parameterized lookup tables for easy panel or dashboard pivots.

  • Monitor malicious activity across the world through advanced operator queries

  • Detect and investigate malicious IP addresses through lookup tables utilizing CrowdStrike data.

Start learning basic SOC operations by taking the Cloud Security Analytics course from Sumo Logic. Explore the Security Learning Path. Sign up for certification courses now.

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Janet Alexander

Janet Alexander

Copywriter and content strategist

Janet is a copywriter and content strategist with a multidisciplinary background in video production, journalism, content marketing, and copywriting. She has over a decade of professional experience helping B2B tech F500s and startups create more value across UX and marketing.

More posts by Janet Alexander.

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