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Why Industry Prefers an Independent Cybersecurity Consultant: A Career Path Outlook

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Cyber Secure India

In any organisation that has adopted Information Technology or Information Communication Technology, the all-around protection of its networks and digital assets, is of paramount importance. The need of cybersecurity consultants, amalgamated within the ecosystem of these Systems, is again an aspect that is inevitable and they further act as a significant Checker and Mentor in the Cyber Chain. The present-day dependency on these IT and ICT infrastructure has driven the Cyber Domain to a new spectrum that is populated with opportunities. It is again obvious that, as long as there are networks and data, there will be threats against them, Users and Business Leaders and Management, on a daily basis face varied challenges, as they use and facilitate the services of IT and ICT dependent services. Maintaining a strong cyber defence is one of among the few tasks for the IT and ICT stakeholders. In many cases, we see that the enterprise is not that large enough to engage permanent staff to ensure the Cyber Security Consulting services. The option here is to turn to an external cybersecurity consultant. The opportunity for the Cyber Security Consultants as freelance professionals is again enables a win-win scenario for both the consultant and the organisation that hires them. Becoming a cybersecurity consultant, however, takes extensive time and work.

Why an Independent Consultant?

Independence in Consulting, especially in the aspect of Cyber defence and Cybersecurity as a whole, is well assessed as a unbiased process. The philosophy, of the “Maker” not being the “Checker”, is of heightened relevance, in any organisation that practice ethical principles. The Cybersecurity component in any organisation, is well understood to be typical and ideal, when the “Checker” is not on the Salaried Roll of the organisation. An Independent External Consultant, is well understood to be unbiased, when she/he is not succumbing to any influence of the management or board of the company. The reporting by an independent consultant, will also have its own importance and relevance, when placed before the management. The cost of ownership to the company vis-à-vis having a permanent Cybersecurity expert on roll, is also a matter that can be evaluated, especially when the organisation is small or is in the growing phase. Though the role of a Cybersecurity Consultant, weather Internal of External, is more often a topic of debate; yet the services of such a professional can never be done away with, even for a small enterprise.

What does a cybersecurity consultant do?

The job of a cybersecurity consultant is to assess the organization’s IT and ICT dependency, Cyber Security, IT and ICT processes, existing computer systems, network, and software for vulnerabilities. Subsequently, the Cybersecurity Consultant then design and implement the best security solutions for the needs of that enterprise. The consultant will also suggest tweaking and augmentation of the Cybersecurity strategies. The consultant will also evaluate the Human Resource component of the organisation and suggest means and methods to strengthen the Cybersecurity posture. In the eventuality of a cyberattack the consultant considers the Incident Response and also suggests actions towards Resilience. Clients may also seek expertise to respond and mitigate the damage as part of the BCP.

What are the roles of cybersecurity consultants?

The role of a Cybersecurity Consultant is specific and is well defined when viewed from the perspective of safeguarding organizations against potential threats, vulnerabilities, and cyberattacks by implementing robust security measures, conducting risk assessments, and providing expert guidance on the latest security technologies and best practices. For the ease of articulation, we can place the role under three distinct categories: prevention, detection and response.

Prevention: Cybersecurity consultants need to advice and strategies the organisation in keeping unauthorized elements from accessing an organization’s networks and systems. This may include, yet not limited to:

    • Studying and applying the latest authentication protocols
    • Performing vulnerability testing
    • Drawing up new security protocols aimed at tightening the organization’s cyber defence
    • Configuring access rules to the firewall

Detection: Cybersecurity consultants need to provide services facilitating discovery and study vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure. This may include, yet not limited to:

    • Establishing a threat analysis schedule
    • Interviewing staff to ascertain the root of security breaches
    • Presenting test findings to the client via whitepapers and technical reports

Response: Here the Consultant ab-inito suggests the likely responses to Cyber Incidents. The consultant may also identify the reactions to cyberattacks and also suggests post incident actions. A consultant’s incident response plan may include, yet not restricted to:

    • Analysing breaches
    • Advising in-house security teams on the best defence strategies
    • Supervising the implementation of solutions

Where do I Begin as a Cybersecurity Consultant?

In the present-day Cyber Scenario, where the emerging technology and proficiency of the perpetrator is at its best; the evolving threat landscape, and the government mandate to entities stipulated zero-tolerance, has heightened the demand of such Cybersecurity Consultants. The shortage of such professionals has also made the aspect of compliance difficult.

The Five Step Approach:

    • Education

A Cybersecurity Consultant may be a Arts, Commerce, Science, Engineering or Non- Engineering other background professional; however, the other knowledge may include proficiency in both technical and nontechnical skills. the combination of hard and soft skills that IT security consultants should have is listed below.

      • Technical Skills
        • In-depth understanding of cyberspace and industry standards
        • Experience in ethical hacking
        • Fluency in programming languages like JavaScript, HTML, Python, Golang, SQL and shell scripting
        • Knowledge of operating systems including Linux, UNIX and Windows
        • Experience working with proxies, load balancers, firewalls and security monitoring tools
        • Proficiency in IT architecture and infrastructure
        • Cryptography
      • Soft Skills
        • Documentation and organizational skills
        • Communication
        • Critical thinking
        • Time management skill
        • Leadership skill
        • Adaptability
        • Teamwork
    • Certifications
      • Approach to Design (like The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and similar)
      • IT auditor (like Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and similar)
      • Penetration tester (like Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and similar)
      • Incident responder
      • Information security analyst/manager (CompTIA Security +, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), and others)
      • Digital forensic examiner (FTK and Encase Certified…, and more…)
      • Privacy Certification (like Data Privacy Officer…)
    • Skill Augmentation (Technical)

A cybersecurity consultant should possess competitive skill, which should include not only IT/ Cybersecurity skills, but also those skills that drive Business and Societal Social aspects. The need to also develop skill in the field of computer systems, networks, information security management, security technologies and ethical hacking is also essential. Sharpening the skill and the ability to comprehend and navigate the complex landscape of Security Policies surrounding Organisation/ Government, Public Policy, Organisational Goals, Regulations, Risk Management, etc is also dire essential. Among these the below mentioned Technical Skills need to be addressed in detail:

        • Penetration testing and the ability to measure the vulnerability rating of software and cyber programs that each company uses.
        • Firewall safety and management, and the ability to prevent and detect data breaches.
        • Knowledge of advanced persistent threat management, including phishing, social engineering, and network access control.
        • Encryption capabilities and techniques, that can be used by clients to send and receive data over the internet without falling victim to cyberattacks.
        • Programming languages used to store and process raw data; the more languages, the better.
        • Operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac, and others available, including Agile Technology and being used in the public domain and/or those software/technology being developed.
        • Coding practices and principles of ethical hacking; a working knowledge of threat configuration and modelling.
    • Polish you Communication Skills

One of the key aspects of a Cybersecurity consultant is the possessed Communication Skill and also related Interpersonal Skills:

        • Ability to Communicate clearly both the Non-Verbal and Verbal means. Explaining of security threats and their impact on individual/business/nation to the clients in the most understandable way is of significance. The Skill of Writing reports and memos including succinctly communication of findings and the ability to convey the message in apt manner is also an aspect that is to paid attention to.
        • Collaborative attitude among external vendors, management and boards of companies so as to arrive at decisions and resort to problem solving in the best cooperated modalities.
        • Deconstruction and dissection of complex security issues and the explanation of the same to non-technical stakeholders and senior management is also a skill that needs to be polished up.
        • Participation and imbibing of the knowledge related to ensuing detailed public research’s on industry best practices and use of the same for the client and suggesting target audience/curriculum/schedules of training.
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