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Open Source is Revolutionizing Careers in Cybersecurity - What You Need to Know
Technology is an integral part of our everyday lives. Widespread reliance on devices that connect us to the Internet and cloud platforms that facilitate digital communications has markedly increased since the beginning of this pandemic. As technology companies are scrambling to meet businesses’ and consumers’ evolving needs, one trend has become clearly apparent - open-source is at the forefront of modern technological innovation, revolutionizing careers available in the field of cybersecurity in the process.
The Linux Foundation’s 2020 Open Source Jobs Report states that “Open Source is still the leading software development environment for SMBs and the enterprise despite the current economic downturn and pandemic”, continuing to provide abundant career opportunities - most notably in security and DevOps. A recent RedHat survey confirms that an open source revolution is underway, citing that 86% of IT leaders believe that the most innovative companies are using open-source software. The demand for open source skills and talent currently exceeds the number of people available to fill positions with these requirements, making individuals who posess this increasingly valuable skill set highly sought after by companies worldwide.
This has undoubtedly been a transformative time for technology and cybersecurity and the career opportunities that exist in these fields. If you’re passionate about technology and cybersecurity and are intrigued by the growing influence of Open Source in these areas, here are 19 key factors that you should consider if you’re contemplating turning your passion into a career.
You need to have technical skills
Within the realm of cybersecurity, there are many sub-disciplines - but there are common technical foundations shared between cybersecurity jobs, too. You should be able to manage operating systems (for instance, numerous Linux distributions and Windows), as well as understand their architecture and administration, plus know about networking and virtualization software. You’ll also need to understand network load balancers and firewalls, plus common programming languages - among other topics
Many employers will require you to have certain certifications before you’re hired, and these qualifications will be a major factor in this process; they show how much you know about this sector. Industry experience is essential in acquiring the correct skills as well. Open source talent and certifications are becoming increasingly sought after, with 81% of hiring professionals citing open source skills and certifications as at top priority.
There’s a great amount of variety
Working as a security professional means you will have the opportunity to work directly with teams on systems and technology you may not have initially envisioned being involved with. It may be cars, or robots, or websites that are used by millions of people: there’s so much variety available in this field.
So you’ll have an exciting career ahead of you - it’s unlikely that you’ll be bored in any cybersecurity role! You’ll also need to have a broad set of skills to understand modern security challenges. For this reason, cybersecurity professionals come from different diverse backgrounds: the more variety there is in your background, the better you’ll be as a security professional.
You get to solve puzzles
In the technology and cybersecurity industries, there’s always a new puzzle to solve. As technology advances, so do the threats that challenge it. With any cybersecurity job, it’ll be your responsibility to identify these threats, understand them and help to deal with them. These risks will change considerably when looking at how to protect websites that are running in the cloud compared to a pacemaker in a patient, for instance. This means that each situation is a new puzzle and a chance to rise to the challenge.
Use code from a trusted source
This best practice is especially important with open source software, which can be redistributed by anyone who wants to do so. You shouldn’t simply download an open-source program from the first place you find it. Rather, always download software and programs from the original developers or a trusted download center, such as official open-source software repositories supported by major Linux distributors.
Not all open-source is completely open
Some open-source platforms may include some closed-source code. This is true with most Linux distributions, for instance. Certain “open-source” hardware devices will be powered partially by proprietary firmware - meaning small parts of the code in the systems won’t be open, although most of it will be. You won’t be able to trust these closed parts like you would with open ones and, ideally, you’d work around the issue by avoiding this type of firmware. However, you should be aware that this issue exists and that only the original developers truly know the intricacies of the code used in their software and products.
Your password policy should be enforced
Hackers build careers out of cracking passwords, and leverage a variety of sophisticated methods to do so. These methods include automated tools, spyware and details they’ve obtained about a person online. If you land a cybersecurity job within a business, then you should set a password policy and make sure it is enforced. It should ensure employees:
- Have strong passwords, no less than 10 characters long, with a mix of numbers, symbols, plus upper and lower case letters
- Don’t use the same password for different accounts
- Never share passwords
Your data access should be controlled
One study suggests a typical company will lose 5% of annual revenue to employee fraud - so it’s important that access to such valuable information is managed, particularly online. Network tools should be used to protect confidential details and sensitive files, and see who has accessed information at certain times. Levels of access should be assigned depending on what an employee needs to know, with administration rights available to only a select group of people. Regularly review access rights and alter privileges when required.
You’ll need to educate employees
The methods that cyber criminals employ are numerous, but employees should be advised on some key points to help prevent security issues. These topics include:
- How to identify suspicious links
- Looking out for fake emails, with misspellings and demands to act swiftly
- Verifying the source of emails asking for personal information before replying
- Not downloading attachments from people they don’t know
It is critical to highlight the importance of company security, the employee’s role in it, and how it affects both customers and the brand’s reputation. Workplace is highly dependent on employees’ participation and knowledge, and this must be emphasized and reinforced.
You’ll get great job satisfaction
The cybersecurity sector is constantly evolving - which means that in this field you’ll come across new problems all the time that need to be solved. Cybersecurity professionals will work with organizations looking to further their development and education. As a result, cybersecurity professionals are learning, building on their skillset, and contributing to society all the time - generally leading to great job satisfaction.
There are fantastic opportunities for career progression
If you’re interested in a cybersecurity career, there are great opportunities available regardless of background. Entry-level IT roles you may want to consider include computer software engineering, systems administration, web development and IT. From these positions, there is great opportunity for upward mobility - you could become a security manager or architect, a penetration tester or even a chief information security officer (CISO).
You can choose your industry
Cybersecurity professionals will develop highly-transferable skills, which will be in demand from many brands in many different industries around the world. The requirement for cybersecurity skills has increased as companies have become more reliant on technology, and 48% of companies now look for this skill set in potential employees.
Being detail oriented is a must
It is becoming increasingly difficult to detect cybersecurity threats, as threat actors refine their methods and techniques to evade security defenses. This means that in order to be successful in any cybersecurity career, you’ll have to be highly attentive to detail. Cybersecurity professionals must always be aware of potential issues, carefully monitor trends in technology and security and take note of changes that could impact the security of the systems they are responsible for. In other words, cybersecurity professionals must always stay one step ahead of malicious hackers - anticipating and preventing their potential next moves.
You’ll need to communicate with people
Your role as a cybersecurity professional will require strong communication skills. You’ll have to educate users, highlighting the paramount importance of cybersecurity and explaining the measures they need to take to protect their data. Thus, cybersecurity professionals need to have strong written and oral communication skills that enable them to convey all of these details in a way that’s both engaging and clear.
Being creative is crucial
A cybersecurity position will require that you have a forward-thinking approach to your role. You’ll need to be able to predict attacks and always remain one step ahead of all potential threats. This will require creativity and innovation. Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly creative with their tactics, and you’ll have to keep pace.
A sound security system is essential
As a cybersecurity professional, you will need to need to create a security system that is organized from the bottom up - which isn’t like traditional admin structures, where rule enforcement and operations are handled from the top. Creating such a system begins by securing all devices that employees are using - a task that is becoming increasingly difficult due to the growing remote workforce. Thus, knowledge and expertise in this area is more important than ever.
Use the cloud
You’re less likely to lose critical data if you save it to the cloud, although there are still risks involved in this. Using the cloud for your data storage is a great and economical option if you work for a small or medium-sized business - and, as the company grows, your cloud storage and security can be scaled. There’s an ever-improving list of options for the cloud, too, so you will always have the most up-to-date items available to you for both security and storage.
Automation is critical
In any cybersecurity career, it will be very important for you to learn about and use the centralized controls available to you. You should automate any security changes, such as applying patches to systems and locking down any vulnerabilities, whenever possible. You’ll save countless hours of your time over the length of your career by using configuration management tools and relying on policy settings, or even simple scripts. Automation also reduces the chance of errors or issues, because these approaches are generally more foolproof than manual intervention.
You can never test enough
As a cybersecurity professional, you’ll need to test any security-related changes in an environment that’s as close as possible to your live production environment prior to releasing these changes. Some updates will be complicated, and may yield unexpected results.
For example, disabling an old protocol could lead to problems with older databases - and the link between the problem and the change may not be obvious immediately. You will have to look at the results from your testing for both your systems and your users’ systems when you implement any changes.
Network with other people
Look for someone with cybersecurity expertise who has a style you like and ask them if they would like to mentor you. You should make it as easy as possible for them to help you - people are often willing to help others who are eager to work and are just getting started.
To kickstart your cybersecurity career, you may also wish to intern with a company. You may be able to write scripts for them, go through their data or even edit their blog posts. Experience gained in an internship may lead to an interview for one or many cybersecurity jobs in the future.
There will be copious skills you will need to learn as you embark on this journey. Not only are there a great number of technical skills that you’ll have to acquire, there are also others that you may not have
thought of - for instance, open source talent, creativity and communication skills.
Does this still sound like the type of career that you’re looking to get into? If so, the great news is that there has never been a better time to get started. The rapid modernization and widespread technological advancement brought on by this pandemic have made cybersecurity an area of heightened importance for all organizations.
Have questions about getting started with a career in cybersecurity or the growing importance of Open Source in this field? Don’t be shy! Ask them in the Comments section below - one of our open-source security experts would love to help you out!