Looking for a thrilling new career? Then take a look at what cyber security specialists do every day of the week. They hunt for vulnerabilities in systems. Help organizations respond to attacks. Move them to secure, advanced platforms. And much more.

Cyber security has become a high-visibility position. In the not-so-distant past, a cyber security specialist’s job largely consisted of routine back-office tasks such as security monitoring, patching and compliance. Today, with so many large corporations suffering from highly publicized data breaches, security is a top concern at the board level. Skilled specialists are in high demand, and the field of cyber security has more opportunities than ever before.

In keeping with this week’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCAM) theme, “Educating for a Career in Cybersecurity,” let’s examine this exciting field and the millions of jobs available:

  • Security risk management advisors. These specialists focus on the big picture of security risk and compliance across the enterprise. They assess risks and how they could affect the business and develop plans for security strategy and transformation, risk and compliance management, enterprise security architecture, security awareness and cyber assurance.
  • Incident response teams. When systems and data come under attack, incident response specialists are deployed to help put out the fire, and isolate and contain the damage. They also identify the attackers. And later, they help rebuild and strengthen the organization’s cyber defenses.
  • Threat hunters. Threat hunters are called in to ferret out information on targeted attacks by threat actors. In many cases, a company may already know someone has infiltrated a system, but they don’t know what the hackers are after. Threat hunters use software tools, network data, a solid methodology and automated metrics to learn as much as they can about the attackers without tipping them off. This role requires special skills in digital forensics and incident response, as well as an understanding of how intrusions occur and the type of artifacts that are left behind as subtle clues. Threat hunters understand how threat actors quietly move laterally throughout an organization and what mechanisms they use to mask their activities.
  • White-hat hackers. Another group of specialists serves as white-hat hackers who discover vulnerabilities in systems. For example, they might explore a web-based app for “back doors” through which they can enter and gain access to valuable customer records. Then they try to move laterally throughout the organization looking for high-value targets. They run the clock while they do this, so the organization can learn how quickly its systems were breached.
  • Penetration testers. Penetration testing is another preventive activity. Here, specialists use one of the organization’s apps just as a customer would, but with one key difference: They also look for illicit entry points, errors in the code that could allow criminals to gain access to confidential information about the organization’s customers. Vulnerabilities discovered are then graded on a scale from critical to low risk and presented to the organization for recommended fixes.
  • Attack simulation teams. In a cyberattack simulation, an organization invites a team of specialists to attempt an attack on its systems, as a way of identifying and ultimately fixing cyber vulnerabilities. The attackers try everything at their disposal to break into systems, take data, and even compromise the chief executive officer’s PC. These simulated attacks can include Red Team/Blue Team drills in which a team of attackers attempts to infiltrate systems using a mutually agreed-upon technique on a pre-identified vulnerability. This not only helps identify vulnerabilities, but also helps improve the speed and responsiveness of the defending security team.

The work of cyber security specialists is exciting — and a lot more varied than you might think. Learn more about planning for a career in cyber security.