What Should I do to be an Expert in Network Security?

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While the digital age brought with it good tidings, it also created some of the greatest challenges in cybersecurity that the world has yet to contend with. Now more than ever, we marvel at the technological capabilities brought about by an internet-connected global village while at the same time cringe at the vulnerabilities it has created. The FBI’s Internet Complaint Center reported more than 460,000 cybercrime incidents in 2019 alone not to mention many more incidents that went unreported. Today, a computer in the United States is attacked by hackers every 39 seconds. This exposes businesses, state-run organizations, and others to such serious risks as paralyzed operations, closure, hefty losses, and others. A Cyber Security Expert is one of the most important and highly valued professions today. 

The growing success of cyberattacks demands proactive high-level security competence especially in financial and healthcare institutions that are custodians of vast volumes of sensitive information. Organizations are seeking and willing to remunerate skilled information security specialists handsomely if they can demonstrate an ability to effectively secure sensitive information against threats and vulnerabilities. An infosec specialist typically earns an average of $98,350 per annum which is pretty decent compared to most other IT professions. Yet because the demand for IT and computer skills is set to increase thanks to digital migration, the demand for information security analysts will also rise by 11% between 2019 and 2029. 

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All indications point to the rapid growth of the cybersecurity field which comprises application security, information security, operational security, end-user security, network security, and incident recovery. Want to launch a career in network security? This article sheds light on what it takes to be an expert in this field. 

What is network security? 

Network security refers to the security measures implemented to protect the networking architecture, data, applications, and users of an organization from threats, unauthorized access, and malicious use. Examples of threats include malware, spyware, viruses, and others that may lead to the malfunction, destruction, misuse, and disruption of operations ultimately compromising the security of the legitimate users and the environment in which business systems run. 

Some of the measures implemented to ensure a secure network for business functions include:

  • Intrusion detection programs 
  • Firewalls, 
  • Encryption
  • User ID and passwords 
  • Digital certificates
  • Implementation and awareness about safe security practices 

An effective approach to network security involves the implementation of a combination of several defense strategies that can be automated and scaled based on business requirements.  

Why is network security important?  

With more businesses shifting their operations to the cloud and distributing their resources across multiple locations, it is vital to ensure that the environment in which they are running their operations is secure. In addition, network security is becoming increasingly important as the number of attacks and threats on business networks is ever rising. Further, hackers are today employing sophisticated means to access business networks, information, and other resources. 

Thus, network security is critical for organizations to deliver products and uncompromised services to customers. Ultimately, a secure network helps the organization build a trusted brand. 

What does it take to become an expert in network security? 

According to research by the Insurance of Information Institute, cybercrime potentially costs the global economy a whopping $445 billion annually. This explains why cybersecurity professionals are always in high demand. Are you interested in pursuing a career in network security? here is what you need to bear in mind. 

  • Educational qualifications

A network security professional has in-depth knowledge of fundamental IT concepts and general working knowledge of IT systems, applications, and database administration. While it is not expressly necessary to have a college degree or master’s qualification to work in IT, these qualifications are added and to a great extent highly valued advantages. Further, a degree or master’s qualification becomes necessary for consulting and managerial roles. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or a related degree with an advanced specialization in cybersecurity, network security, or information systems security will lay a solid foundation in this career. 

However, without an educational background in IT, consider taking industry certification courses. Courses whose curricula cover domains like IT infrastructure and network defense, server administration, routing, penetration testing, and cloud technologies. 

  • Top network security professional skills 

Network security specialists are typically critical thinkers, problem solvers, detail-oriented, and good technical communicators. Other important skills one should acquire for this role include: 

  • Computer programming 
  • Data analysis 
  • Applied statistics 
  • Information systems 
  • Core programming language like PHP or Java as well as a scripting language like Python, Java, or Perl
  • Threat modeling, ethical hacking, and security-related coding 

In addition, a network security professional is well versed with such technologies as encryption technology, the internet of things (IoT), the cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, and also possesses the ability to discover vulnerabilities in these platforms. 

  • Work and experience 

As a fresh graduate with little to no experience, consider applying for entry-level IT roles to gain experience and practical knowledge of the general IT concepts, basics of computer networks, IT architectures, communications, design, technologies, and components as well as the different types of IT computer networks. Such roles include admin support, web development, help desk, and IT support. 

After some years of experience, one can advance into intermediate roles such as software development, IT auditing, information security analyst, as well as IT auditor then, later on, pursue advanced roles such as: 

  • Ethical hacker 
  • Cybersecurity engineer 
  • Network security architect 
  • Information security manager 
  • Building experience 

For starters, a practical course that offers project-oriented training is the best to kick off your career in network security as it will help you develop practical skills that can be applied in real-world situations. Ensure that you package a project portfolio to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in different network security domains. 

Secondly, internship and volunteering opportunities are also a great way to build one’s skills and experiences. 

  • Career networking 

Networking involves connecting with other industry professionals, experts, and mentors which will help you advance your career as a network security professional. Networking is not only important for hiring opportunities but also for accessing the latest industry news and updates. Networking helps you build and get your personal brand out there. 

Consider taking part in networking events, IT conferences like Cisco Live, RSA Conference, and Black Hat USA. 

  • Continuous learning 

Continuous learning can be through accruing practical skills and experience by developing solutions for real-world cybersecurity issues, undertaking skills-based certifications to gain specific skills, and acquiring licensure where necessary. 

Additionally, it pays to be actively involved in industry associations. As it is, some certifications are maintained by engaging actively in associations, undertaking relevant projects, and other forms of continuous learning aimed at sharpening security skills. 

For instance, continuing professional education earns professionals with ISC certifications 120 credits. This includes relevant experience, professional development activities, and other contributions to the profession. 

Wrapping up

Network security specialists play a key role in protecting an organization’s network, resources, operations, and users from cyberattacks. A security breach can affect the business adversely in many ways. Hence, businesses that do not employ appropriate network security practices risk financial losses, a damaged business reputation, leaked sensitive information, legal action, and more. While a career in network security is not easy to build, it is worth pursuing given the high demand for all levels of cybersecurity professionals across the globe. 

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Samson