There’s never been a better time for aspiring and entry-level cybersecurity professionals to strengthen their skills and make an impact. After all, according to a recent CyberEdge report, 87% of organizations are experiencing a shortage of skilled IT security staff. At the organizational level, every organization can do more to address the cybersecurity skills shortage through better recruiting and hiring practices, mentorship programs, trainings and more. But there’s also plenty that security specialists can do to help address this problem as well!
Here are five key best practices every up-and-coming cybersecurity professional should consider:
- Never stop learning. Cybersecurity is a fast-paced, ever-changing field that requires us to always stay on top of the latest trends and technologies. Otherwise, you risk falling behind the attackers! Therefore, you must commit to continual learning. This means how attacks infiltrate systems, what or who they target, how to defend against them, and what the industry is doing to combat current and future attacks. All of this is changing all the time. One simple way to ensure you’re properly immersed is to use an RSS feed aggregator or news aggregator that allows you to get a semi-comprehensive view of cybersecurity news cycles day in and day out.
- Get your hands dirty. Most security roles are primarily technical in nature (though not all are!). As such, gaining first-hand experience with the tools and technologies is the best way to learn. If you have a computer and Internet access, you have enough to gather practical experience in just about every subset of cybersecurity. You can set up isolated or virtualized training environments with little to no risk of breaking something if you mess up – a common concern among those just starting out.
- Start with the basics. Jumping straight into ethical hacking, malware analysis, or security governance isn’t always possible. Oftentimes it’s best to really focus on building a strong foundation in computer science basics before venturing into complex cybersecurity fields. For example, developing a basic understanding of programming, operating systems, and networking is a great place to start.
- Find your niche. Whatever aspect of security you’re most passionate about is where you should devote your effort over the long term. Whether it’s IoT, network security or something else, there’s no shortage of demand or opportunity for specialized security expertise. Once you have the fundamentals down, start focusing on the areas that you find most intriguing. Experimenting with personal projects can help you pick up on new and exciting branches of cybersecurity you wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Use free time to bolster skills or learn a new one. Downtime can be immensely productive if you know how to use it. For instance, you can develop new wireless security skills using personal devices and a simple home router. Regardless of what aspect of security you’re most passionate about, set short- and long-term goals for skillsets you want to gain or polish, and spend as much time as you can practicing.
The security skills shortage is one of the industry’s most pressing challenges. Using the above tips can help kickstart a successful career that can truly make a difference. If you’re interested in joining the WatchGuard team, visit our Careers page today to learn more.