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First Cybersecurity Job: Top 10 Essential Tips | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware | #hacking | #aihp

“Oh, you work in cybersecurity, you must be a genius / tech hero / rocket scientist”. Guess what? I am not.

Sometimes I do feel it as a buzzword, because there is too much inside that, from legal roles to the most techy ones. The truth is that cybersecurity has become a cornerstone of technology and business, safeguarding information from a number of threats. As the industry grows, so does the demand for skilled professionals.

While considering to join the industry, either from the outside of the technical world or from the inside as well, there are several key factors to consider. Here’s a quick guide of the 10 essential things to know before entering the cybersecurity magic realm.

What is important to underline here is that, based on my experience, the most skilled professionals are the ones that are very self-aware about what they know and what they don’t.

In fact, cybersecurity is not static; it’s a field defined by constant change and evolution. Consider for example the evolution of malware: what started as simple viruses has now morphed into sophisticated ransomware attacks, such as WannaCry, which affected hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe in 2017.

This underscores the need for professionals to engage in continuous learning through various means — be it formal education, certifications like CompTIA Security+ or CISSP, online courses on platforms like Coursera, edX or Udemy, attending industry conferences or by networking.

Before you can run, you must walk. This saying holds especially true in cybersecurity. A solid grasp of the basics and and general concepts is imperative.

For example, if you are looking for joining the field as a tech person, it is important to have at least basic knowledge of networking principles, knowledge of operating systems, fundamentals of encryption and so on. Of course, you need to look after the most important skills related to the area you would like to join. Is it network security? Is it access management? Is it threat hunting?

If you are looking for joining the club in a less techy role, you should have a general knowledge of the cybersecurity basics. I would suggest to start from the ISO/IEC 27001, and then NIST SP 800–53, which can give you a good understanding of the main cybersecurity domains. If you are specifically interested into legal topics, make sure to list all of the applicable regulations in the market where you want to land.

Cybersecurity encompasses a broad range of specialties, from penetration testing to cybersecurity policy. Each area requires a unique skill set. Take, for instance, a forensic analyst who specializes in investigating digital crimes and breaches. Their expertise in recovering data from devices that have been hacked or infected differs markedly from that of a penetration tester, who proactively tests and exploits an organization’s defenses to improve security.

It is okay not to know by heart what your vertical will be. It is okay. You might need to find out your path along the way. What I have found quite useful was to be engaged in cybersecurity assessment and audit at the very beginning of my cyber journey. So, I got the chance to deep dive on each security domain, and then get a clear picture on the one(s) that I did like the most.

Practical experience is invaluable. Participating in Capture The Flag (CTF) competitions or setting up your own home lab to practice hacking skills (ethically) can provide hands-on experience that’s often just as valuable as theoretical knowledge. For example, learning to use tools like Wireshark for packet analysis or Metasploit for vulnerability exploitation through real-world application can significantly deepen your understanding. On the other hand, if you are more on the governance side, it would be super useful to start with compliance related tasks, like audit and assessments. When I had to perform my very first audit, a senior consultant working with me suggested to write down questions for each requirement as a starting point for the audit interviewing session.

Certifications act as a benchmark of one’s skills and dedication to the field. Consider a cybersecurity tech professional opting for the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification; this not only validates their expertise in ethical hacking techniques but also significantly enhances their employment prospects, as many organizations value this certification highly when hiring. Certifications like ISO/IEC 27001 Lead Auditor, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and others really prove your knowledge of the field, and are considered very valuable during hiring processes.

Let’s say you are particularly interested to join a specific company, keep in mind that most security vendors provide vertical certifications on their technologies. So, if you are looking for being hired at a vendor I strongly encourage you to get certified in their technologies. If you are looking for joining another company, I suggest you to try to figure out which security vendor they are using, and get certified on those technologies.

Cybersecurity professionals often need to explain complex security concepts to non-technical stakeholders. A real-life example could be a security analyst who must present findings from a security audit to board members, requiring clear communication and the ability to translate technical jargon into business risks. Try to ask yourself how to explain what cloud computing is to a 7 years old child. If you can make it, then you are good to go.

Also, be aware that cybersecurity is an overall scary topic for those who look at it from the outside. So be prepared to manage the stress coming from executives, clients and other professionals around you. Practice communicating things with calmness and be prepared to explain, for example, why something is not risky as it appears.

Don’t forget that any cybersecurity program needs resources, and you need to be prepared to advocate for it. This means that you shall be able to build a business case around it, and present cyber risks very clearly from an economical point of view.

Ethical standards are paramount. For instance, during a penetration test, a tester may come across sensitive personal information. It’s their duty to respect privacy and confidentiality, demonstrating the high ethical standards expected in the industry.

Also, cybersecurity plays a key role in every business. This is something you need to keep it in mind when you become the trusted advisor of someone else. You need to be transparent, even when the news are not good. Trust me, this will pay off.

A security mindset involves always thinking a step ahead of potential threats. Take the example of a security professional implementing a new network infrastructure; they must consider not only the current security landscape but also anticipate future vulnerabilities and threats, ensuring the network is resilient against both. There are many resources to do so. Deep dive into threat intelligence techniques and find out which ones are more applicable to your business.

Active participation in professional networks and communities not only keeps professionals informed of the latest threats and technologies but also significantly aids in career development. Involvement in these communities provides access to workshops, seminars, and webinars focused on skill enhancement and certification preparation, crucial for staying relevant in the field.

This network can be a source of advice, support, and encouragement, helping to navigate the complexities of cybersecurity roles. Active engagement in these communities can boost visibility and reputation within the industry. Participating in discussions, writing articles, or speaking at events establishes professionals as knowledgeable contributors, opening doors to job opportunities, collaborations, and leadership roles. Networking is also key to discovering career opportunities, with many positions filled through industry connections and referrals.

Unpopular opinion: sometimes this is just a bit too much. The truth is that the high-pressure environment of cybersecurity can lead to burnout. A notable example is the case of security operations center (SOC) analysts, who often work in high-stress situations, monitoring for threats and breaches around the clock. Recognizing the signs of burnout, such as chronic fatigue, cynicism, and a sense of inefficacy, and taking steps to manage stress through regular breaks, hobbies, or seeking professional support is crucial for sustainability in the field. Guys, really, keep this in mind.

Well, now I think you are ready to go! I know that pursuing this path might be scary or confusing, this is why you really should invest time and effort in building up your network. Help will always be given to those who ask for it.

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