With rapid advancements in technology comes risk. As IoT and AI become more ubiquitous and data proliferates, the threat of cyber attacks increases. The more vast and disparate the data is, the number of entry points increases, and thus, protection from hacking, spamming and black hat practices become ever more necessary and urgent. Thus, the role of a cyber security consultant becomes essential in both government and private sectors.
But what distinguishes a cyber security consultant from other cyber security professionals? Certainly, as cyber security threats grow, so do the number of professionals involved in resisting these threats. From cyber security architects to cyber security administrators, to cyber security engineers, organisations are now forming entire cyber security teams. In essence, a cyber security consultant advises and oversees the process of establishing these units and capabilities. Here, we explore this increasingly indispensable role in more detail.
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An overview of the role
A cyber security consultant is a professional that’s brought in to assess and improve a company’s cyber security capabilities. As with other consultants, they’re external experts who work with different clients providing contracted services. Certainly, many large corporations will have an in-house information security manager or team. However, if an organisation’s budget doesn’t permit permanent hires, a cyber security consultant is a valuable way to access the expertise they require.
When working with an organisation, they will evaluate the vulnerability of software, systems, and networks and advise on the best security solution as per the organisation’s needs. They’ll have a detailed, up-to-date knowledge of industry standards, new technologies, and developments in cyber criminal behaviour and capabilities.
Key responsibilities of a cyber security consultant
Clearly, the focal point of a cyber security consultant’s role is protecting information technology. However, this is a multi-faceted task, involving executing strategic plans tailor-made to a company’s requirements.
For example, a fundamental assignment could involve conducting a cyber security audit. By running vulnerability testing and threat analyses, the consultant will assess the business’ cyber security protocols across systems, people and processes to establish how to prevent, detect, respond to and document incidents. At a higher level, the audit will consider network security, data security, response times and contingency planning, employee awareness and training and physical access security.
Beyond conducting a security audit, a cyber security consultant will:
- Deliver technical reports and official papers regarding audit findings.
- Plan and design robust security architectures for the general organisation and individual IT projects.
- Manage meetings with the IT department to tackle specific vulnerabilities.
- Advise on the most efficient and effective way to protect the system, networks, software, data and information systems against attackers.
- Calculate accurate cost estimates.
- Categorise integration issues for IT project teams.
- Give professional supervision and guidance to security teams.
- Update and upgrade security systems as needed.
Cyber security consultant skills and competencies
Cyber security consultants provide a broad spectrum of skills and competencies, supported by years of education and experience. This is because they’re widely regarded as catch-all information security experts. Thus, their competencies must be drawn from a comprehensive information security skillset enabling them to command healthy fees. Below is a snapshot of some of the skills a cyber security expert must have:
- Penetration testing from both perspectives (attacker and defender).
- Firewall management, including detection and backups.
- Extensive knowledge of encryption technologies, their implementation and management.
- Experience with Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and how to manage and prevent these sequential, sustained attacks.
- Threat modelling and configuration.
- Knowledge of operating systems.
- Programming languages used in data storage and processing.
A cyber security consultant also needs to have a highly developed soft skill set. Working as a consultant requires excellent leadership skills, as it’s an independent, advisory role. In the most involved situations, the consultant will be responsible for internal teams. As such, they’ll need to have highly adaptable communication skills as teams and organisational cultures change from client-to-client.
Managing security threats in your organisation
Going forward, cyber threats to both public and private organisations are set to grow. In 2015, experts predicted that cyber security breaches would cost over $2 trillion globally. Now, the issue is becoming increasingly complex as attacks on the cloud and deepfakes make company data even more vulnerable. Therefore, no matter the size of an organisation, it is essential they have the security provisions they need. Hiring a cyber security consultant is an effective and resource-efficient way to handle this threat, and thus, an option every C-level should explore.