May 19, 2022

Essential Skills for Cybersecurity Analysts

What skills does a cybersecurity analyst need?

Cybersecurity analysts use a combination of technical and workplace skills to assess vulnerabilities and respond to security incidents. If you have a background in information technology (IT) you may already have some of the technical skills, and many of the workplace skills carry over from a wide variety of occupations. 

1. Scripting

Scripting is a type of coding in which you make a program do something. The difference is that coding is static, whereas scripts can make images and text move around. Knowing how to build tools and automate repetitive tasks with languages like Python or PowerShell empowers you to become a more efficient analyst. Python in particular ranks among the most prevalent languages in cybersecurity. As a bonus, it’s also among the easiest to learn. 

2. Controls and frameworks

A cybersecurity framework provides a collection of best practices, policies, tools, and security protocols designed to help secure an organization’s data and business operations. A control is a measure your company uses to protect itself from vulnerabilities and attacks. 

The framework you use will vary depending on your organization and industry. You may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the most common cybersecurity frameworks, including:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

  • Center for Information Security (CIS)

  • System and Organization Controls 2 (SOC 2)

3. Intrusion detection

As a cybersecurity analyst, a big part of your job will involve monitoring network activity for possible intrusions. Knowing how to use intrusion detection software—security information and event management (SIEM) products, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS)—enables you to quickly identify suspicious activity or security violations. 

4. Network security control

Many cybersecurity attacks take place across a network of connected devices. The same technologies that allow companies to collaborate can also lead to security vulnerabilities. To keep an organization secure, you’ll need an understanding of wired and wireless networks, and how to secure them. 


. Operating systems

Security threats exist across all operating systems, both on computers and mobile devices. Set yourself up for success as a security analyst by building a deep familiarity with MacOS, Windows, Linux, as well as their command-line interfaces. You might also find it helpful to study the threats and vulnerabilities associated with mobile operating systems, like iOS and Android. 

6. Incident response

While prevention is the goal of cybersecurity, quickly responding when security incidents do occur is critical to minimize damage and loss. Effective incident handling requires familiarity with your organization’s incident response plan, as well as skills in digital forensics and malware analysis.

7. Cloud

As more and more businesses move to cloud environments, professionals with cloud expertise are in demand. According to data from GIAC Certifications, having cloud security skills can come with a salary premium of more than $15,000. The need for cloud security skills is expected to grow by 115 percent over the next four years, making it the most lucrative skill in the industry [1].

8. DevOps

Security risks often exist within applications themselves. More and more companies are adding a security focus to their software development and operations (DevOps) phase to help ensure that applications are secure from the start. 

9. Threat knowledge

“Know thy enemy.” General Sun Tzu could have been talking about cybersecurity. You can be a more effective cybersecurity analyst by keeping up-to-date on the threat landscape. If you’re new to the field, get started with the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10—a document that outlines the top 10 web application security risks.

10. Regulatory guidelines

Cybersecurity has to protect an organization from attack, theft, and loss, as well as comply with industry regulations. If you’re working for a company that does business around the globe, familiarity with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could be beneficial. Cybersecurity analysts in the health care industry will need to understand how to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)—a US federal law that helps protect the privacy of medical records. Some states within the US have their own privacy laws as well.

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