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Information security analysts keep their companies' data and computer systems safe from cyberattacks. They install protective software, watch for potential breaches, and respond to any attacks that do occur.
Companies across industries need information security analysts. Top employers include computer systems design and related services, finance and insurance, and information.
Information security analysts usually need a computer science-related bachelor's degree. Some companies look for an MBA in information systems. Industry-standard certifications can boost employment prospects for professionals in the field.
On this page, readers can learn about security analyst careers. We take a close look at topics like necessary skills, salary potential, and related occupations.
History of Information Security Analysts
Since the internet's earliest beginnings, people have explored ways to hijack it. In 1971, researcher Bob Thomas created a program called Creeper that could infiltrate a computer network. At the time, computers were connected through phone lines. Companies still assumed they could protect their systems by securing physical hard drives.
Many professionals hold that Thomas invented modern cybersecurity. On his heels, Ray Tomlinson used Thomas's findings to create the first computer worm. Tomlinson, who invented email, also created the first antivirus program by coding software to block the worm.
Today, large companies often face data breaches. Well-known corporations like Yahoo, Facebook, and Marriott have all experienced major breaches.
Information security analysts must stay up to date on the latest hacking innovations so they can protect their organizations.
What Is an Information Security Analyst?
An information security analyst protects company data from malicious attacks like malware, phishing, and DNS tunneling. They analyze network traffic to identify threats or security breaches and strengthen the network against future attacks.
Cybersecurity analysts work with other IT members to install and maintain a secure network. For example, they may collaborate with software developers to improve current encryption programs or partner with database administrators to create stronger networks. Security analysts also work with company staff, educating them on new security measures.
While other computer science roles create software or communication networks, security analysts focus on information security. They act as digital detectives, searching for malicious activity.
Aspiring information security analysts often need a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or a related field. Graduates should seek industry certification and general experience in an IT position.
What Does an Information Security Analyst Do?
A security analyst's job revolves around data and network protection. By staying informed about changes in this fast-evolving field, these professionals can protect their companies' digital assets. While keeping up with the changes can be a challenge, it may also add excitement.
Information security analysts may work with executives, IT teams, and colleagues across their organizations. They establish company security protocols, sometimes training employees about best practices. They conduct tests to search for system weaknesses. They also develop response plans in case of a breach.
Aside from the challenge of staying up to date with current technology, information security analysts may sometimes deal with stressful situations if a cyberattack does occur.
The section below discusses key skills that can influence success for information security analysts.
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Key Soft Skills for Information Security Analysts
Information security analysts often need to solve complicated problems. Part of the job involves searching for problems to fix. When a breach occurs, analysts must act quickly. Problem-solving demands teamwork, flexibility, and innovation.
Security analysts need to review data regularly. They analyze how their organizations use computer and network systems and store information. Analysts also need to examine data when an issue arises so they can solve the problem efficiently.
Attention to Detail
Because malicious code can hide in computer systems for a long time, information security analysts need to keep a close eye on their organizations' technology. Small issues can indicate larger problems, and detail-oriented analysts can catch issues early.
Information security analysts must use active listening when working with team members and colleagues. Teamwork is crucial in cybersecurity, and security analysts need to communicate important information to staff throughout the organization.
Key Hard Skills for Information Security Analysts
Software and Technology
Important tools for information security analysts include various databases along with software for development, programming, network monitoring, and virus protection. Security analysts need to know industry-standard programs like Blackboard, Apache Ant, Symantec, and Django.
A solid understanding of computer science principles should underpin security analysts' work. They regularly deal with both hardware and software systems. They must also write code to prevent and respond to cyberattacks.
Engineering and Electronics
Information security analysts need to understand how their organizations use technology. They need a strong working knowledge of how technology and networks function so they can solve problems effectively.
Often leading IT teams, information security analysts need good administration skills. They must develop, present, and monitor plans and protocols. They may also oversee departmental budgets.
Information Security Analyst Responsibilities
Monitor System Networks
Security analysts track network trends and examine data. They look for slight changes that may signal threats. Cybersecurity analysts review unauthorized access to private accounts to determine if the breach was accidental or intentional.
Organizations want to avoid security breaches rather than manage the aftermath. Information security analysts take a proactive role to prevent malicious attacks. They may oversee penetration testing â or simulated cyberattacks â to identify system weaknesses. Security analysts install software or update encryption and firewall programs based on their findings.
Communicate Security Plans
Once security analysts have identified system weaknesses and initiated preventive steps, they must communicate them with the company. They may turn in security reports or train employees to use two-factor authentication. Analysts need good communication skills to explain the staff's role in keeping data safe.
Respond to Cyberattacks
Even with numerous preventive measures, a successful attack can happen. Security analysts should establish a contingency plan to limit damage and expenses. When they detect a breach, cybersecurity analysts must act immediately to restore the information and privacy. They must then develop and implement a stronger security system.
Research New Strategies
Information security analysts must stay updated on the latest IT trends and hacking methods. They should research the newest software and case studies to determine ways to protect their company. Many security analysts seek additional certification and join professional organizations to learn the latest advancements.
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A Day in the Life of an Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts test computer systems regularly to make sure they work as expected. They also research new practices in the field and implement new security measures.
If a cyberattack occurs, security analysts must set aside current projects to respond to the disaster. They then write detailed incident reports for management and work to prevent future breaches.
Information Security Analyst Salary and Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020. The BLS projects that security analyst jobs will grow by 33% from 2020-2030, indicating massive growth in the field.
Salary potential for information security analysts can vary by location, industry, experience, and education. California is the top-paying state for information security analysts, featuring an average annual salary of $125,990 as of 2020. Top-paying industries include online shopping, information services, and electronic component manufacturing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020.
Payscale reports that entry-level security analysts made an average annual salary of $60,740 as of January 2022. With 5-9 years of experience, the average salary increases to $82,990.
Median Annual Salary
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Become an Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers may accept experience as an alternate pathway, but the job requires significant technical skills. A degree can provide the necessary technical training. Some employers even prefer security analysts who hold an MBA.
Security analysts can sometimes gain traction in the job search by completing a cybersecurity bootcamp.
Professional certifications can help aspiring security analysts to secure a position or promotion. Information security analysts may pursue credentials like certified information systems security professional (CISSP), global information assurance certification (GIAC), or certified information systems auditor (CISA).
The list below provides information on various paths to information security analyst careers.
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Certifications for Computer Science Professionals
Similar Specializations and Career Paths
Information security analysts hold advanced computer science and network expertise. With these skills, they can pursue many tech careers.
Analysts may advance to work as computer and information systems managers, making big-picture decisions about their organization's technology. They might also focus on an aspect they like, perhaps digging deeper into coding as a software developer.
Career paths for information security analysts can include:
- Network Architects: Network architects specialize in the communication networks side of computer engineering. These systems can include local area networks, company-wide networks, and cloud computing. Their daily tasks include designing networks, analyzing data traffic, and upgrading hardware. They also troubleshoot network and information security issues.
- Systems Manager: These professionals collaborate with top executives and departmental managers. Computer and information systems managers oversee their organization's big-picture tech decisions. They need a solid understanding of how their company works and an ability to research the right technology to fit its needs. They manage staff, handle budgets, and work with vendors.
- Information Researcher: Computer and information research scientists, or information researchers, focus on new ideas in the field. They may specialize in areas like computing or robotics. These researchers generate innovative ideas to improve technology. The largest employers of information researchers include the federal government, scientific research and development, and computer systems design.
- Software Developer: Software developers create computer programs. These professionals may specialize in operating systems, software programs, or applications. They research what types of software their organization, or the wider market, could use. They then develop programs to meet those needs. During product development, they collaborate with programmers and conduct regular tests to make sure the software functions properly.
- Network Administrator: Network administrators keep their organization's computer networks functioning during regular operations. They take responsibility for local and wide area networks, plus other data systems their organization uses. They set up new systems, troubleshoot problems, and perform system updates. Sometimes, they also train staff in technology-related tasks.
Analysts may advance to work as computer and information systems managers, making big-picture decisions about their organization's technology.
Median Annual Salary
Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
5 years or more
5 years or more
Entry level upon master's degree
Entry level upon degree; internships may be preferred
Entry-level upon degree
Resources for Information Security Analysts
Professional organizations provide many benefits to their members. They keep members apprised about industry news, an important role in a field that changes quickly. They also offer networking opportunities, workshops, and job resources.
Professional Organizations for Information Security Analysts
Information Security Analyst Questions
How do I become a security analyst?
Security analysts usually need at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers prefer an MBA. Applicants can also increase employability through professional credentials like CISSP, GIAC, or CISA.
How long does it take to become an information security analyst?
A typical bachelor's degree takes four years to complete. Some online programs offer accelerated options. Earning an MBA may take another 1.5-2 years.
What is an IT analyst?
IT analysts, or security analysts, protect their organizations' technology from cyberattacks. They activate preventative measures, establish response plans, and handle emergencies. They may also oversee staff.
Is information security analyst a hard career?
To protect their organizations from cyberattacks, information security analysts need to stay up to date on current technology. They need a solid background in computer science. The job may include stressful moments if breaches do occur.
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