The 8 Things People Want Most from an AI Personal Finance Platform

Great product design is one of those things you just know when you see it, and more importantly—use it. It’s not just about being eye-catching; it’s about serving a real purpose and solving a real problem—bonus points if you can solve that problem in a clever way. If there ever was a time to build a fintech app, that time is now. The market is ripe, the problems to solve are plenty, and the tools and resources are readily available. Flatiron School Alumni from our Cybersecurity, Data Science, Product Design, and Software Engineering bootcamps have been tasked to help me craft Money Magnet, an AI personal finance platform that solves common budget-making challenges. They’ll tackle this work during Hackonomics, our two-week-long hackathon that runs from March 8 to March 25.

There is one goal in mind: to help individuals and families improve their financial well-being through an AI financial tool.

A loading screen mockup for AI personal finance platform Money Magnet
A loading screen mockup for AI personal finance platform Money Magnet

My Personal Spreadsheet Struggle

The concept for Money Magnet sprang from personal frustration and mock research around user preferences in AI finance. As a designer, I often joke, “I went to design school to avoid math.” Yet, ironically, I’m actually quite adept with numbers. Give me a spreadsheet and 30 minutes, and I’ll show you some of the coolest formulas, conditional formats, and data visualization charts you’ve ever seen.

Despite this, in my household, the responsibility of budget management falls squarely to my partner. I prefer to stay blissfully unaware of our financial details—knowing too much about our funds admittedly tends to lead to impulsive spending on my part. However, occasionally I need to access the budget, whether it’s to update it for an unexpected expense or to analyze historical data for better spending decisions.

We’re big on goal-setting in our family—once we set a goal, we stick to it. We have several future purchases we’re planning for, like a house down payment, a new car, a vacation, and maybe even planning for children. 

But here’s the catch: None of the top AI financial tools on the market incorporate the personal finance AI features that Money Magnet proposes bringing to the market. Families need an AI personal finance platform that looks into our spending patterns from the past and projects into the future to tell users when the budget gets tighter. This product should be easy to use with access to all family members to make changes without fear of wrecking the budget.

For more context, each year, my partner forecasts a detailed budget for us. We know some expenses fluctuate—a grocery trip might cost $100 one time and $150 the next. We use averages from the past year to estimate and project those variable expenses. This way, we manage to live comfortably without having to scale back in tighter months, fitting in bigger purchases when possible, and working towards an annual savings goal.

Top financial apps chart from Sensor Tower
Top financial apps chart from Sensor Tower

But here’s where the challenge lies: My partner, as incredible as he is, is not a visualist. He can navigate a sea of spreadsheet cells effortlessly, which is something I struggle with (especially when it comes to budgeting). I need a big picture, ideally represented in a neat, visual chart or graph that clearly illustrates our financial forecast.

Then there’s the issue of access and updates. Trying to maneuver a spreadsheet on your phone in the middle of a grocery store is far from convenient. And if you make an unplanned purchase, updating the sheet without disrupting the formulas can be a real hassle, especially on a phone. This frustration made me think, “There has to be a better solution!”

Imagining the Ultimate AI Personal Finance Platform

Imagine an AI personal finance platform that “automagically” forecasts the future, securely connects to your bank and credit cards to pull transaction histories, and creates a budget considering dynamic and bucketed savings goals. This dream app would translate data into a clear dashboard, visually reporting on aspects like spending categories, monthly trends in macro and micro levels, amounts paid to interest, debt consolidation plans, and more.

It’s taken eight years of experiencing my partner’s budget management to truly understand a common struggle that many other families in the U.S. face: Advanced spreadsheet functions, essential in accounting and budgeting, are alien to roughly 73% of U.S. workers.

The extent of digital skills in the U.S. workforce according to OECD PIAAC survey data. Image Source: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
The extent of digital skills in the U.S. workforce according to OECD PIAAC survey data. Image Source: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Money Magnet aims to automate 90% of the budgeting process by leveraging AI recommendations about users’ personal finances to solve eight of the key findings outlined in a mock research study based on some of the challenges I had faced when developing a budget of my own.

Features to Simplify Your Finances

This dream budgeting tool is inspired by my own financial journey and the collective wish list of what an ideal personal finance assistant should be. Here’s a snapshot of the personal finance AI features that aims to position Money Magnet as one of the top AI financial tools on the market:

  1. Effortless Onboarding: Starting a financial journey shouldn’t be daunting. Money Magnet envisions a platform where setting up accounts and syncing banking information is as quick and effortless as logging into the app, connecting your bank accounts, and establishing some savings goals (if applicable).
  2. Unified Account Dashboard: Juggling multiple banking apps and credit card sites can be a circus act, trying to merge those separate ecosystems as a consumer is nearly impossible. Money Magnet proposes a unified dashboard, a one-stop financial overview that could declutter your digital financial life.
  3. Personalized AI Insights: Imagine a platform that knows your spending habits better than you do, offering bespoke guidance to fine-tune your budget. Money Magnet aims to be that savvy financial companion, using AI to tailor its advice just for you.
  4. Vivid Data Visualization: For those of us who see a blur of numbers on statements and spreadsheets, Money Magnet could paint a clearer picture with vibrant graphs and charts—turning the abstract into an understandable, perceivable, engaging, and dynamic visual that encourages you to monitor the trends.
  5. Impenetrable Security: When dealing with informational and financial details, security is non-negotiable. Money Magnet will prioritize protecting your financial data with robust encryption and authentication protocols, so your finances are as secure as Fort Knox.
  6. Intelligent Budget Optimization and Forecasting: No more cookie-cutter budget plans that force your spending to fit conventional categorization molds! Money Magnet will learn user preferences in AI finance and forecast from your historic spending, suggesting ways to cut back on lattes or add to your savings—all personalized to improve your financial well-being based on your real-world spending and forecast into the future to avoid pinch-points.
  7. Smooth Bank Integrations: Another goal of Money Magnet is to eliminate the all-too-common bank connection hiccups where smaller banks and credit unions don’t get as much connectivity as the larger banks, ensuring a seamless link between your financial institutions and the app.
  8. Family Financial Management: Lastly, Money Magnet should be a tool where managing family finances is a breeze. Money Magnet could allow for individual family profiles, making it easier to teach kids about money and collaborate on budgeting without stepping on each other’s digital toes or overwriting a budget. It’s important for those using Money Magnet to know it can’t be messed up, and that any action can always be reverted.

See the Money Magnet Final Projects During Our Closing Ceremony on March 28

Attend the Hackonomics 2024 Showcase and Awards Ceremony on March 28 and see how our participating hackathon teams turned these eight pillars of financial management into a reality through their Money Magnet projects. The event is online, free of charge, and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Age Diversity Potential for Careers in Cybersecurity

In the cybersecurity industry, threats evolve rapidly and technology constantly advances, which creates a demand for skilled professionals. While the cybersecurity industry may seem dominated by younger professionals, there’s a growing recognition of the unique contributions that older adults bring to the industry. With years of experience under their belts, mature perspectives, and a notably strong work ethic, older adults possess a unique set of qualities that make them not only suitable, but often exceptional, candidates for careers in cybersecurity. 

In this post, we’ll explore how age and life experience are invaluable assets in cybersecurity careers.

Recognizing the Need for Age Diversity in Cybersecurity

The cybersecurity industry often focuses on just technical skills, but the value of diverse perspectives, including those gained through age and life experience, cannot be emphasized enough. By hiring older professionals, organizations can tap into a rich pool of experiences, perspectives, and transferable skills that contribute to a more holistic approach to cybersecurity across the organization. In addition to transferable skills, hiring older professionals can help foster a culture of mentorship and the sharing of knowledge.

Some of the key benefits of hiring older professionals include the following. 

Experience

One of the most significant advantages older adults bring to careers in cybersecurity is their wealth of experience. Having navigated various industries and roles over the years, they possess a deep understanding of business processes, risk management, and critical thinking. This experience provides a solid foundation for addressing complex cybersecurity challenges with insight and foresight.

Maturity

With age often comes maturity, a quality that is invaluable in careers in cybersecurity. Mature professionals tend to display better decision-making abilities, more patience, and stronger composure in high pressure situations. In critical infrastructure cybersecurity, where a single mistake could have life and death consequences, the ability to maintain calm and use reasoned judgment is priceless.

Work Ethic

Older adults are often known for their strong work ethic, which has been honed through years of dedication and commitment to their previous profession. This work ethic translates into reliability, diligence, and a willingness to put in the effort needed to excel in careers in cybersecurity. This consistent and reliable work ethic helps older adults deliver results and ensure top-notch quality with their work.

Attention to Detail

Over the years, older adults tend to develop a keen attention to detail. This attention to detail can be helpful in cybersecurity careers, like that of a cybersecurity analyst, where professionals need to analyze large amounts of data to determine if a cyber incident has occurred. 

Communication Skills

Years of experience in diverse professional settings often sharpens the written and verbal communication skills of older adults. Effective communication is one of the soft skills that is important for cybersecurity careers because of the need to communicate complex technical information to non-technical internal and external stakeholders.

Adaptability

Despite some of the stereotypes suggesting otherwise, many older adults demonstrate remarkable adaptability, especially when it comes to learning new technologies. Each day in a cybersecurity career can be different because of new threats, so possessing adaptability is important for success in your career. 

Ethics

Because they are grounded in their life experiences and principles, older adults often bring a strong ethical perspective to careers in cybersecurity. This “ethical compass” helps guide older adults in navigating ethical dilemmas that they may face in a cybersecurity role. Remaining ethical helps foster better trust across the entire cybersecurity team.

Mentorship

With their extensive experience and knowledge from other careers, older adults can serve as invaluable mentors in the cybersecurity field. They can offer guidance, wisdom, and practical insights to younger team members, which helps nurture talent and foster their professional growth.

Stability in Employment

Many older adults are at a point in their lives where they prioritize stability in their careers. This inclination toward a long-term commitment in employment can benefit organizations seeking continuity and reliability in their cybersecurity teams. The stability of older adults can also foster a sense of trust and unity across teams, which can help improve productivity.

Diverse Perspectives

Age diversity in a workplace helps improve creativity, innovation, and problem-solving capabilities. Older adults bring unique perspectives shaped by their prior work experience, which complements the skills of younger talent.

Cybersecurity Training for Adults: Bridging the Gap

There is no shortage of information in the media about the reported cybersecurity talent gap.

However, many older adults find themselves facing a gap in their knowledge and expertise when considering a career transition into cybersecurity. This is where specialized training programs and bootcamps play a critical role. 

A cybersecurity bootcamp for career changers can be an excellent choice for those looking to build technical skills because bootcamps offer a structured learning pathway into careers in cybersecurity.

The Flatiron School Cybersecurity Engineering Bootcamp can help older adults build the technical skills needed to be successful in cybersecurity careers. Learn more about the program by clicking the link in the previous sentence, or jump to a free download of our syllabus to see what you will learn. 

Summary

Having a team with a broad range of experiences is critical for developing an effective cybersecurity strategy against emerging threats. Age diversity in cybersecurity helps bring fresh perspectives to tackle pressing problems. By embracing and hiring individuals of a variety of ages, organizations can foster a culture of innovation and collaboration that helps strengthen their cyber resilience.

How to Achieve Portfolio Optimization With AI

Here’s a fact: Employers are seeking candidates with hands-on experience and expertise in emerging technologies. Portfolio optimization using Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a key strategy for people looking to break into the tech industry. Let’s look at some of the advantages of having an AI project in a portfolio, and how portfolio optimization with AI can be a possible game changer in regards to getting your foot in the door at a company.

The Pros of Having AI Projects in a Portfolio

For people seeking to transition into the tech industry, having AI projects in their portfolios can be a game-changer when it comes to landing coveted roles and advancing their careers. By showcasing hands-on experience with AI technologies and their applications in real-world projects, candidates can demonstrate their readiness to tackle complex challenges and drive innovation in any industry. Employers value candidates who can leverage AI to solve problems, optimize processes, and deliver tangible results, making AI projects a valuable asset for aspiring tech professionals.

Achieving portfolio optimization with AI by integrating AI into portfolios is quickly becoming a cornerstone of success for tech job seekers. However, portfolio optimization with AI involves more than just adopting the latest technology. It requires a strategic business approach and a deep understanding of Artificial Intelligence. Below are details about Hackonomics, Flatiron School’s AI-powered budgeting hackathon

The Components of Flatiron’s AI Financial Platform Hackathon

Identifying the Right Business Problem

The Hackonomics project revolves around cross-functional teams of recent Flatiron graduates building an AI-driven financial platform to increase financial literacy and provide individualized financial budgeting recommendations for customers. Identifying the right business problem entails understanding the unique needs and challenges of a target audience, ensuring that a solution addresses critical pain points and that the utilization of AI delivers tangible value to users.      

AI Models

At the core of Hackonomics are machine learning models meticulously designed to analyze vast amounts of financial data. These models will enable the uncovering of valuable insights into user spending patterns, income sources, and financial goals, laying the foundation for personalized recommendations and budgeting strategies.

Software and Product Development

As students develop their Hackonomics projects, continuous product development and fine-tuning are essential for optimizing performance and usability. This involves iterating on platform features (including UI design and SE functionality) and refining AI algorithms to ensure that the platform meets the evolving needs of users and delivers a seamless and intuitive experience.

Security and Encryption

Ensuring the security and privacy of users’ financial data is paramount. The Hackonomics project incorporates robust security measures, including encryption techniques, to safeguard sensitive information from outside banking accounts that need to be fed into the platform. Additionally, multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of protection, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access and enhancing the overall security posture of our platform.

Join Us at the Hackonomics Project Showcase on March 28

From March 8 to March 25, graduates of Flatiron School’s Cybersecurity, Data Science, Product Design, and Software Engineering bootcamps will collaborate to develop fully functioning AI financial platforms that analyze user data, provide personalized recommendations, and empower individuals to take control of their financial futures.

The Hackonomics outcomes are bound to be remarkable. Participants will create a valuable addition to their AI-optimized project portfolios and gain invaluable experience and skills that they can showcase in job interviews and beyond.

The judging of the projects will take place from March 26 to 27, followed by the showcase and awards ceremony on March 28. This event is free of charge and open to prospective Flatiron School students, employers, and the general public. Reserve your spot today at the Hackonomics 2024 Showcase and Awards Ceremony and don’t miss this opportunity to witness firsthand the innovative solutions that emerge from the intersection of AI and finance. 

Unveiling Hackonomics, Flatiron’s AI-Powered Budgeting Hackathon

Are you interested in learning about how software engineering, data science, product design, and cybersecurity can be combined to solve personal finance problems? Look no further, because Flatiron’s AI-powered budgeting hackathon—Hackonomics—is here to ignite your curiosity.

This post will guide you through our Hackonomics event and the problems its final projects aim to solve. Buckle up and get ready to learn how we’ll revolutionize personal finance with the power of AI.

Source: Generated by Canva and Angelica Spratley
Source: Generated by Canva and Angelica Spratley

Unveiling the Challenge

Picture this: a diverse cohort of recent Flatiron bootcamp graduates coming together on teams to tackle an issue that perplexes and frustrates a huge swath of the population—personal budgeting.

Hackonomics participants will be tasked with building a financial planning application named Money Magnet. What must Money Magnet do? Utilize AI to analyze spending patterns, income sources, and financial goals across family or individual bank accounts.

The goal? To provide personalized recommendations for optimizing budgets, identifying potential savings, and achieving financial goals through a dynamic platform that contains a user-friendly design with interactive dashboards, a personalized recommendation system to achieve budget goals, API integration of all financial accounts, data encryption to protect financial data, and more.

The Impact of AI in Personal Finance

Let’s dive a little deeper into what this entails. Integrating AI into personal finance isn’t just about creating fancy algorithms; it’s about transforming lives through the improvement of financial management. Imagine a single parent struggling to make ends meet, unsure of where their hard-earned money is going each month. With AI-powered budgeting, they can gain insights into their spending habits, receive tailored recommendations on how to save more effectively, and ultimately, regain control of their financial future. It’s about democratizing financial literacy and empowering individuals from all walks of life to make informed decisions about their money.

Crafting an Intuitive Technical Solution Through Collaboration

As the teams embark on this journey, the significance of Hackonomics becomes abundantly clear. It’s not just about building an advanced budgeting product. It’s about building a solution that has the power to vastly improve the financial health and wealth of many. By harnessing the collective talents of graduates from Flatiron School’s Cybersecurity, Data Science, Product Design, and Software Engineering bootcamps, Hackonomics has the opportunity to make a tangible impact on people’s lives.

Let’s now discuss the technical aspects of this endeavor. The platforms must be intuitive, user-friendly, and accessible to individuals with varying levels of financial literacy. They also need to be up and running with personalized suggestions in minutes, not hours, ensuring that anyone can easily navigate and understand their financial situation. 

Source: Generated by Canva and Angelica Spratley
Source: Generated by Canva and Angelica Spratley

Embracing the Challenge of Hackonomics

Let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. Yes, the teams are participating to build a groundbreaking platform, but they’re also participating to inspire change. Change in the way we think about personal finance, change in the way we leverage technology for social good, and change in the way we empower individuals to take control of their financial destinies.

For those participating in Hackonomics, it’s not just about building a cool project. It’s about honing skills, showcasing talents, and positioning themselves for future opportunities. As participants develop their AI-powered budgeting platforms, they’ll demonstrate technical prowess, creativity, collaborative skills, and problem-solving abilities. In the end, they’ll enhance their portfolios with AI projects, bettering their chances of standing out to potential employers. By seizing this opportunity, they’ll not only revolutionize personal finance but also propel their careers forward.

Attend the Hackonomics Project Showcase and Awards Ceremony Online

Participation in Hackonomics is exclusively for Flatiron graduates. Participants will build their projects from March 8 through March 25. Winners will be announced during our project showcase and awards ceremony closing event on March 28.

If you’re interested in attending the showcase and ceremony on March 28, RSVP for free through our Eventbrite page Hackonomics 2024 Showcase and Awards Ceremony. This is a great opportunity for prospective students to see the types of projects they can work on should they decide to apply to one of Flatiron’s bootcamp programs.

Endpoint Security: EDR vs XDR vs MDR

With the increase in remote workers over the past several years and the rocketing complexity of cyberattacks, organizations are being forced to improve their endpoint security posture. In this post, we’ll explore endpoint security and solutions like endpoint detection and response (EDR), extended detection and response (XDR), and managed detection and response (MDR). 

Endpoint security, at its core, revolves around protecting endpoints on the corporate network.  This includes devices like desktops, laptops, and smartphones. Endpoint security includes the tools and processes put in use to monitor, detect, and mitigate threats targeting these endpoints. 

EDR

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) focuses on monitoring and protecting individual endpoints within an organization’s network. EDR solutions collect telemetry data from endpoints and provide real-time visibility into activities on these endpoints. They also detect and respond to any anomalous behavior.

Additionally, EDR solutions collect extensive data about endpoint activities, including process execution, file changes, network connections, and more. EDR solutions also leverage behavioral analysis, signature-based detection, and machine learning to identify known and unknown threats. A drawback of endpoint detection and response is that its scope focuses on the endpoint. This means it may not provide any insight into threats that are occurring in other areas of the organization’s network.

Endpoint detection and response is a valuable tool for protecting endpoints. But its limited scope can leave organizations vulnerable to threats that target other attack vectors, like email.

XDR

Extended detection and response (XDR) is another option for endpoint security. It is an evolution of EDR that takes a broader and more holistic approach to threat detection and response.   

XDR extends beyond endpoint protection to include multiple security layers, including collecting data from networks, email, cloud services, and endpoints. Its primary objective is to provide a unified and correlated view of threats across the entire organization.  

By correlating information from different sources, XDR improves threat detection and response, helping organizations reduce the time to detect and remediate threats.  

XDR solutions are designed to work seamlessly with existing security tools and infrastructure. This reduces the need for additional investments and helps simplify the organization’s security stack.

A drawback of extended detection and response solutions are higher costs and complexity compared to traditional EDR solutions.

MDR

Managed detection and response (MDR) takes a slightly different approach to endpoint security compared to EDR and XDR. 

MDR is not a standalone technology, but rather a service offered by third-party cybersecurity providers. Organizations that use MDR services essentially trust a team of security professionals with the responsibility of continuously monitoring their environment for threats. This includes responding to incidents and improving the organization’s overall security posture.

MDR services can augment an organization’s internal security capabilities by outsourcing threat detection, analysis, and response functions to third party experts. MDR providers use technology solutions like EDR and/or XDR—coupled with human expertise—to proactively hunt for threats, investigate security incidents, and facilitate response actions.

Managed detection and response relieves organizations of the burden of managing security operations internally and provides access to specialized skills and resources. 

One concern with using managed detection and response is the reliance on external vendors, because this raises concerns regarding data privacy, compliance, and the potential for communication gaps between the organization and the MDR provider.

MDR services are beneficial for organizations that lack the in-house expertise and resources to effectively manage and monitor their security infrastructure. By outsourcing these responsibilities to MDR providers, organizations can improve their security posture and respond more effectively to emerging threats.

What Organizations Need to Consider

When it comes to selecting the appropriate security approach for an organization, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Some of the items organizations consider when exploring endpoint security include identifying the scope of endpoint protection that is needed, available internal security resources, how well will the endpoint security solution integrate into the organization’s business operations and infrastructure, what risk is introduced with the solution, compliance requirements, and budget limitations.

Determining the appropriate endpoint security for an organization is complex work and requires cybersecurity professionals with strong technical skills. If you are interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, Flatiron’s Cybersecurity Engineering Bootcamp can help you build the technical skills needed to land work in the field and help organizations protect against emerging threats.

Interested in seeing the types of projects you could work on if you enroll at Flatiron? Check out our Final Project Showcase.

Enterprise Cloud Security Best Practices

The adoption of cloud computing has become synonymous with scalability, efficiency, and innovation. As organizations increasingly migrate their operations to the cloud, the need for comprehensive enterprise cloud security best practices and strategies becomes critical. In fact, Statista found many organizations are experiencing security misconfigurations on a daily basis.

In this article, we’ll explore essential enterprise cloud security best practices designed to protect sensitive data, mitigate threats, and help ensure regulatory compliance. From encryption to access management, we’ll explore how to protect data in cloud environments to help organizations protect against emerging threats.

Understanding the Shared Responsibility Model

In the world of enterprise cloud security, the shared responsibility model is used as a guideline to help organizations understand what they are responsible for securing in cloud environments and what the cloud service provider (CSP) is responsible for securing. 

This model helps organizations identify what needs securing if they are using cloud computing models, like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS), or any combination of these. This understanding of responsibility is an important part of enterprise cloud security best practices. 

Below is a breakdown of common models used by cloud customers and areas of responsibility for the customers and the cloud service providers (CSP).

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

In IaaS, the cloud service provider (CSP) has responsibility for:

  • Physical security of data centers, including access control and environmental protection
  • Virtualization infrastructure, ensuring the security of hypervisors
  • Network infrastructure management, including firewalls and load balancers
  • Host infrastructure security, which includes protecting physical servers and host operating systems

The cloud customer is responsible for:

  • Data encryption and integrity measures for data protection in the cloud
  • Operating system security, including patch management and using antivirus software
  • Application security, including secure code development and patch management
  • Identity and access management (IAM) that governs user permissions and access controls
  • Network security configurations, like firewall rules and security groups
  • Configuration management, which helps ensure the proper setup and maintenance of cloud resources

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

In PaaS, the CSP is responsible for:

  • Security of underlying platform components and architecture frameworks
  • Maintenance of runtime environments and any associated services
  • Network infrastructure management within the platform ecosystem

Cloud customers are responsible for:

  • Application-level security measures, including code integrity and access controls
  • Data protection in the cloud through encryption and access control mechanisms
  • Identity and access management for any platform services
  • Configuration management of platform-specific settings and parameters

Software as a Service (SaaS)

In SaaS, cloud service providers are responsible for:

  • The overall security of the SaaS application, including access controls and authentication mechanisms
  • Data protection within the cloud SaaS platform, including encryption and compliance measures

Cloud customers are responsible for:

  • User access management and permissions within the SaaS application
  • Data protection strategies that are tailored to the specific requirements of the organization
  • Integration of the SaaS application with existing security frameworks and protocols across the organization

A Real-life Example of Shared Responsibility

If an organization wants to secure an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance, then the responsibility for security would be split between the cloud service provider (CSP) and cloud customer as follows. 

The cloud service provider (CSP) in this example is Amazon AWS and their security responsibility would include ensuring the physical security of the data center. This would include providing a secure hypervisor and managing the underlying network infrastructure.

The cloud customer’s security area of responsibility would include the following.

Data Encryption

The cloud customer is responsible for encrypting data at rest and in transit for data protection in the cloud. They can use the AWS Key Management Service (KMS) for key management and enable encryption for EBS volumes.

Operating System (OS) Security

The customer is responsible for securing the guest operating system by regularly applying security patches, configuring firewalls, and installing anti-malware software.

Application Security

If the EC2 instance hosts a web application, the customer must secure any application code, apply web application firewalls (WAFs), and protect against common web vulnerabilities.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Cloud customers define who or what can access the EC2 instance and what actions they can perform. One way to accomplish this in AWS is by using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).

Network Security

The cloud customer would be responsible for configuring security groups and network access control lists (ACLs) to control inbound and outbound network traffic to the EC2 instance.

Configuration Management

The cloud customer would be responsible for ensuring proper configuration of the EC2 instance, including disabling unnecessary services and restricting access.

The shared responsibility model helps organizations gain visibility into their enterprise cloud security and helps them build a more effective cloud security strategy. Security in cloud environments is complex and challenging for many organizations, which is why cloud service providers often provide best practices for building more securely (such as the AWS Well-Architected Framework).

Data Protection

The IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report for 2023 revealed that over 83% of data breaches involved data stored in cloud environments. To protect sensitive data in cloud environments, organizations need to implement effective enterprise cloud security strategies. The first step is identifying and classifying data, a process that is critical for customizing security measures to mitigate risks adequately.

Data classification involves categorizing data based on sensitivity and regulatory requirements. It involves four main types of data: Public Data, Internal Data, Confidential Data, and Highly Confidential Data. Each category demands different levels of security controls, from minimum for public data to strict security controls for highly confidential data.

Regulatory requirements such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR impact data classification by mandating organizations to classify data according to sensitivity and implement appropriate security controls.

In cloud environments, organizations can leverage various tools and techniques for data protection including data encryption, access control, data loss prevention (DLP), and data backups.

Implementing these tools and techniques helps organizations secure their cloud environments against data breaches and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is an important part of enterprise cloud security strategy. IAM includes the technology, processes, and policies governing digital identities within organizations’ cloud environments. It facilitates appropriate access to information while preventing unauthorized entry.

IAM offers granular access control, helps organizations ensure compliance with regulations, and helps protect against insider threats. By defining specific access policies, organizations ensure users, applications, and systems access only necessary resources. For example, healthcare organizations can restrict patient data access through IAM, helping them comply with regulations like HIPAA.

IAM helps streamline security compliance by implementing and automating security controls, auditing access, and maintaining an audit trail. It mitigates insider threats by detecting and preventing unauthorized access and misuse.

IAM’s centralized management simplifies identity administration across cloud environments. Some IAM best practices include multi-factor authentication (MFA), least privilege, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), access logging, and identity federation.

For example, in AWS, a financial institution can enforce MFA for IAM users, restrict permissions, define roles, monitor with CloudTrail, and enable federation for seamless access.

Overall, IAM is a cloud security best practice that helps protect critical data and services, but effective cloud security begins with comprehensive governance.

Cloud Security Governance

Cloud security governance includes the policies, processes, and controls that govern an organization’s use of cloud services to help ensure security and ensure that the organization’s business objectives can be accomplished.

It defines the security standards, procedures, and guidelines to reduce risks associated with cloud adoption, while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. Cloud security governance is really just a structured approach to managing enterprise cloud security.

For effective enterprise cloud security, cloud security governance offers a centralized framework for managing cloud risk, helps ensure regulatory compliance, and helps organizations optimize resource use.

Let’s look at an example of applying cloud security governance to a healthcare organization.

First, the healthcare organization needs to identify regulations and standards that it needs to be in compliance with. One example is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

To comply with HIPAA, the organization would craft a security policy that outlines responsibilities for secure data handling, encryption protocols, and regular audits of the cloud infrastructure to ensure patient data is protected.

The organization would also provide training to its employees on HIPAA and requirements for secure data handling.

The organization should also develop a detailed incident response (IR) plan that is aligned with HIPAA breach notification requirements and conduct regular tabletop exercises to validate the effectiveness of the IR plan.

In AWS, a few tools that can help organizations with compliance requirements include AWS Artifact which helps them download compliance reports and certifications, and AWS Config which helps them audit for compliance against regulatory requirements.

By embracing effective governance practices, organizations can mitigate security threats and unlock the value of leveraging the public cloud, while ensuring data protection in the cloud. 

Security Auditing and Assessment

Security auditing and assessment includes the systematic examination and evaluation of an organization’s cloud infrastructure, policies, and controls to identify vulnerabilities, assess their security posture, and mitigate risks. It involves a breadth of activities, including vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, compliance audits, and security reviews. 

Security auditing can help organizations with enterprise cloud security in multiple ways, including:

Risk Identification and Mitigation

Security auditing and assessments enable enterprises to proactively identify and mitigate security risks within their cloud environments. By conducting comprehensive assessments, organizations can uncover vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and potential attack vectors, allowing them to implement security controls to strengthen their security posture.

Compliance

Security auditing and assessments help organizations ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOC 2. By conducting regular audits and assessments, organizations can show their compliance, mitigate any regulatory risks, and ensure the trust of customers and other stakeholders. 

One thing to note is that while many cloud service providers (CSP) are compliant with regulations, they will often just provide a certification of the compliance and not provide organizations with detailed assessments from the certification process. This is because the CSP does not want to reveal sensitive internal information in the compliance report.

Continuous Improvement

By regularly evaluating security controls, monitoring for emerging threats, and adapting to new cloud security best practices, organizations can improve their resilience to cyber threats and stay ahead of emerging threats.

Third-Party Validation

Security auditing and assessment provide third-party validation of an organization’s security posture, which can help in obtaining cyber insurance and in offering assurance to key stakeholders. Engaging external auditors to conduct independent assessments, enterprises can validate the effectiveness of security controls, demonstrate due diligence, and build trust with stakeholders.

Incident Response

Security auditing and assessment can also help organizations prepare for and respond to security incidents more by identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities before they are exploited by threat actors. This helps organizations reduce their attack surface area and improve overall enterprise cloud security.

Security audits and assessments are an important part of effective enterprise cloud security because they help organizations ensure compliance and take a more proactive approach to improving their security posture.

Amazon AWS and other cloud service providers offer tools that can help with security auditing, monitoring, and audit trails. For example, AWS CloudTrail can help organizations log API calls and user activity to detect anomalies.

Security Automation and Orchestration

Effective enterprise cloud security requires agility and scalability, which is achievable through Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR). Security automation streamlines repetitive tasks, while orchestration coordinates diverse security tools and processes, facilitating rapid threat detection and response.

SOAR enhances efficiency and scalability by automating workflows like vulnerability scanning and compliance checks, aligning with cloud infrastructure growth. Automated security policies ensure compliance with regulatory standards, which helps reduce the risk of penalties.

Proactively, automation also aids in threat hunting and intelligence gathering, which is critical for identifying emerging threats faster. Other strategies, like leveraging Infrastructure as Code (IaC), enable consistent and secure cloud deployments. For instance, AWS CloudFormation templates ensure uniform infrastructure configurations across the enterprise.

Cloud security orchestration automates incident response, integrating with cloud providers, like AWS, and SIEM solutions for threat mitigation. DevSecOps integration embeds security practices in the development lifecycle, detecting vulnerabilities early. Automated security scanning in CI/CD pipelines ensures secure code deployment.

For example, a SaaS provider hosting sensitive data on AWS could utilize IaC for consistent deployments, cloud security orchestration for automated incident response, and DevSecOps integration for early vulnerability detection in their software development. These practices can help improve overall enterprise cloud security.

Enterprise Cloud Security Best Practices: Conclusion

As you can see, enterprise cloud security best practices are complex and require strategic planning and implementation across multiple teams. This is why organizations need skilled cybersecurity professionals to help them navigate this complexity.

Flatiron School can assist you with building cybersecurity skills to help organizations protect their cloud environments through our Cybersecurity Bootcamp program – apply today to get started towards a career in Cybersecurity!

The Best-Paying Cybersecurity Careers in 2024

Cybersecurity threats continue to evolve and organizations are looking for skilled cybersecurity professionals that can help them secure critical data and services. In fact, security misconfigurations are one of the top threats to cloud environments, and cloud security engineers help organizations protect against these threats. If you’re considering a career in the field and want to know which cybersecurity careers offer the highest earning potential, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog post, we break down several cybersecurity careers, including overviews of the roles, common certifications recommended for the roles, and the average salary for the roles. 

The total compensation for these careers can vary based on experience level, geographic location, type of industry, and any specialized skills or training that you may have.

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts are on the front lines of protecting an organization’s networks, systems, and data from cyber threats. They use a variety of tools and processes to identify, assess, and respond to cybersecurity incidents, and to implement security controls to help protect against future attacks.

Information security analysts may conduct tasks like vulnerability scanning, analyzing log data through security information and event management (SIEM) tools, and implementing incident response (IR) playbooks.

Cybersecurity careers for this job title can include the following:

  • Cybersecurity Analyst
  • Cybersecurity Specialist
  • Network Security Analyst
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst
  • Incident Response Analyst

Growth and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) estimates employment growth for this role to grow over 32% in the next 10 years. The average salary for an information security analyst is around $112,000 in the United States. Total compensation will vary based on geographic location, education, and the company you work for. 

Certifications

While cybersecurity certifications are not always required for an information security analyst career, some popular ones include the CompTIA Security+, the Google Cybersecurity Certificate, and the ISC2 Certified in Cybersecurity certifications. 

After gaining a few years of experience as an information security analyst, some other certifications that are popular include the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from EC-Council and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Depending on the organization, certifications can help you command higher compensation and get promoted.

Key Skills

While there are many skills that information security analysts hold, some of the key skills include having a solid grasp of computer networking and how data moves around an organization; the ability to analyze network traffic for anomalies; and the ability to be adaptable to changing situations.  

Information security analysts will also use a variety of tools, like Splunk, but the exact tools you use will depend on the organization.

Cybersecurity Engineer

Cybersecurity engineers focus on designing secure architecture for an organization’s network and systems to help protect critical data and business processes. They take data from past incidents to build better, stronger security across an organization.  

Cybersecurity engineers also work on developing security protocols, conducting vulnerability assessments, and responding to security incidents. They may also work closely with software development teams to help them build more secure software applications.

Cybersecurity careers for this job title can include the following:

  • Security Engineer
  • Product Security Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Architect
  • Information Security Engineer
  • Security Automation Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Platform Engineer
  • DevSecOps Engineer

Growth and Salary

The BLS estimates employment growth for this role to be around 9% over the next 10 years. In the United States, the average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is around $101,000 but this can vary based on location and the organization.

Certifications

While certifications are not required to get a job as a cybersecurity engineer, some popular certifications are the CompTIA Security+, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from EC-Council, the CompTIA CySA+, and the CompTIA CASP+. Holding certifications can help employers validate your skills and allow you to earn more compensation throughout your career.

Key Skills

Cybersecurity engineers need to have strong technical skills that include hands-on experience in conducting vulnerability assessments and analyzing security tool log data. They also need skills in building security policies, plus project management, threat analysis, threat modeling, and secure architecture design skills. Besides these technical skills, cybersecurity engineers need to have strong communication, critical thinking, and conflict resolution skills.

Many cybersecurity engineers also have computer programming skills because this helps them understand the challenges of software development teams.

Cybersecurity Software Developer

Cybersecurity software developers focus on combining security knowledge and skills to build more secure software applications. They use their knowledge of cybersecurity threats to fix issues in the software code, like logic flaws and bugs, as well as removing hard-coded login credentials. Cybersecurity software developers can also use their skills to build security tools at leading cybersecurity companies.   

Cybersecurity careers for this job title can include the following:

  • DevSecOps Engineer
  • Secure Code Developer
  • Software Security Architect
  • Secure Software Development Engineer

Growth and Salary

Career growth for software developers over the next 10 years is estimated at 25%. The average annual salary for a cybersecurity software developer is around $75,000; however, compensation will vary depending on the employer and geographic location.

Certifications

There are no certification requirements for a career in cybersecurity software development, but a few common certifications are the Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) from ISC2 and the EC-Council Certified Secure Programmer (ECSP). Earning a certification in secure software development practices can help you earn more compensation and accelerate your career growth.

Key Skills

Two technical skills a cybersecurity software developer needs are the ability to write software code and knowledge of secure coding best practices. Good soft skills to have for this job include public speaking skills, project management skills, and critical thinking skills.

If you have already gone through a software engineering program to learn the fundamentals of software development, a career in secure software development could be a solid match for you.

Penetration Tester

A penetration tester (also known by the title Ethical Hacker) is responsible for conducting security assessments of an organization. They identify vulnerabilities and the ways a threat actor could exploit those vulnerabilities, and then make recommendations to the organization on how to correct or mitigate the vulnerabilities.

Before conducting any penetration test, it’s important to have the rules of the engagement understood and signed. A penetration tester will work with their employer to ensure this document is signed by the employer and client before beginning the penetration test. Since unauthorized computer hacking is a crime in the United States, this rules of engagement documentation acts as a “get out of jail free” card when conducting a penetration test. In fact, some penetration testers were arrested several years ago in Iowa even though they had the correct legal paperwork in place.

The rules of engagement in a penetration test also map out what the penetration testers can test and what is off limits.  

For example, the penetration test might limit the range of IP addresses that can be scanned.  In the case of a manufacturing facility, the penetration tester might be blocked from running any scans on the Industrial Control System (ICS) network because this could cause malfunctions in the plant equipment, which could lead to a loss of human life.

Cybersecurity careers for this job title can include the following:

  • Security Tester
  • Red Teamer
  • Offensive Security Engineer
  • Web Application Penetration Tester
  • Network Penetration Tester
  • Mobile Penetration Tester

Growth and Salary

The demand for penetration testers is expected to grow by 9% over the next 10 years. The average salary for a penetration tester in the United States is $92,000 but varies based on the geographic location and organization.

Certifications

Penetration tester is a career where certifications are not required. However, some popular certifications include the TCM Security Practical Network Penetration Tester (PNPT), the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), the INE Security Junior Penetration Tester, the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker, and the CompTIA Pentest+. While certifications are not required for a penetration testing career, holding certifications can help you get promoted and earn more compensation.

Key Skills

The top technical skill for a penetration tester is the ability to write comprehensive reports of the findings from the penetration test. Penetration testers should also have strong knowledge of computer networking, hardware, operating systems, vulnerability scanning, threat modeling, and critical thinking. Coding skills in scripting with Bash, PowerShell, and Python can be helpful, too. 

Application Security Engineer

Application security engineers work to identify vulnerabilities in applications and their architecture. They work closely with software development teams to integrate security practices into the software development lifecycle. Application security engineers also conduct code reviews, assess application vulnerabilities, and recommend security improvements.

Cybersecurity careers for this job title can include the following:

  • Product Security Engineer
  • DevSecOps Engineer

Growth and Salary

The demand for application security engineers will grow by approximately 9% over the next decade. The average salary for this role in the United States is around $136,000 but can vary depending on the organization and location.

Certifications

Certifications are not required for this role, but many professionals hold a secure software development certification and/or a cybersecurity certification. Some of the most popular certifications are the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP),both from ISC2, and the EC-Council Certified Application Security Engineer (CASE). Obtaining certifications in secure software development best practices or application security can help you earn more compensation in your career. 

Key Skills

Application security engineers need to have solid technical skills in software development as well strong skills in vulnerability assessment and threat modeling.

Cloud Security Engineer

A cloud security engineer is a specialized cybersecurity professional responsible for ensuring the security of cloud-based systems, applications, and data. The role entails building and implementing security policies and controls; conducting risk assessments; identifying and addressing vulnerabilities; and monitoring and responding to security incidents in cloud environments (among other things).

Cybersecurity careers for this job title can include the following:

  • Cloud Security Architect
  • Cloud Security Administrator
  • Cloud Security Solutions Engineer
  • Cloud Security Consultant

Growth and Salary

The demand for qualified cloud security engineers is projected to grow by about 9% over the next 10 years. The average salary for a cloud security engineer in the United States is around $136,000. Again, this number can vary depending on the organization and geographic location. 

Certifications

Certifications are not always required for cloud security engineer positions; however, most professionals have at least one certification from a major cloud service provider. Popular certifications include the AWS Solutions Architect, AWS Certified Security – Specialty, Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate, the Certificate in Cloud Security Knowledge from the Cloud Security Alliance, and the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) from ISC2. 

Holding certifications in cloud computing and cloud security can help you earn more in compensation and also help accelerate career growth.

Key Skills

Cloud security engineers need to have strong technical skills in IT fundamentals, cloud computing technologies, and the security and compliance risks of using cloud-based systems. They also need experience with security tools and techniques used for securing cloud environments. In addition to these technical skills, it’s important for a cloud security engineer to have strong soft skills like time management and critical thinking skills. 

Cloud security engineers need to have skills in at least one of the large cloud service provider platforms, like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud.

Cybersecurity Careers: Conclusion

The cybersecurity landscape offers diverse and lucrative careers for those with the right skills and drive. Regardless of the path you choose, remember that the cybersecurity field values passion, problem-solving prowess, and a commitment to protecting the digital world.

Flatiron School can help you discover cybersecurity career paths through our Cybersecurity Bootcamp program, where you can jumpstart a career in the field in as little as 15 weeks. Check out a tech prep course for free or download the course syllabus to see what you can learn. 

How to Become a GRC Analyst

A GRC Analyst is responsible for assessing and documenting an organization’s policies and regulations that involve the compliance and risk posture of information assets in the organization.

As a GRC Analyst, you might work on an internal cybersecurity team or for a cybersecurity consulting firm.

Your daily responsibilities as a GRC Analyst could include auditing existing cybersecurity policies and procedures, developing security policies, identifying and analyzing risk, and reporting on regulatory compliance.

What Other Job Titles Are There for This Career?

You might see other job openings in the GRC Analyst career field with titles such as:

  • Cybersecurity Compliance Analyst
  • Security and Compliance Engineer
  • Security and Compliance Analyst
  • Cloud Compliance Security Engineer
  • Governance and Policy Analyst
  •  Third Party Compliance Analyst

How Much Can You Make as a GRC Analyst?

GRC Analysts in the United States can make between $34,000 and $212,000, with the average salary at around $97,000. This doesn’t include sign-on or annual bonuses, stock options, or other compensation, which means a career as a GRC Analyst can be a very lucrative one.

Compensation influencers for this role depend on the company, geographic location, experience level, specialization, and industry.

Do You Need Certifications?

There are no specific cybersecurity certifications requirements to get a job as a GRC Analyst; however, many people study for the CompTIA Security+, the Cloud Security Alliance’s Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), or the ISACA Certified Information Security Auditor (CISA).

As you gain more experience in a GRC career, you may also study for more privacy-focused certifications like the Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) from lAPP. One Trust also has a GRC Professional certification that is popular amongst GRC Analysts.

Do You Need a College Degree?

There are no college degree requirements for this career.

Many career changers find GRC Analyst to be an easy cybersecurity career to transition into because there are no strict requirements on certifications or college degrees. If you do want to pursue your college degree, then a degree in cybersecurity or business can be helpful in helping you land a GRC Analyst position after graduation.

Do You Need Technical Skills to Get a Job as a GRC Analyst?

Technical skills or a background in information technology are not required for many GRC Analyst roles. However, you will benefit from building up your technical understanding (especially as it relates to security controls and their implementation) because you will work with technical teams across an organization, including the incident response, security operations, and penetration testing teams.

Do You Need Experience to Get Your First Job as a GRC Analyst?

Experience is not required for your first job.  

In fact, many people just like you have successfully changed careers to become GRC Analysts, including a young woman who used to sell swimming pools for a living!

Are There Opportunities for Internships?

There are some internships available for this role depending on the company; however, most people are hired directly into full-time positions as GRC Analysts instead of starting with internships. Do know that internships are paid or unpaid and many college students earn credits for working internships.

How do I become a GRC Analyst?

Step 1 is to determine the type of industry you would like to work in as a GRC Analyst.

Would you like to work in healthcare, retail, the energy industry, or another industry entirely?  Having a handle on this will help you determine what regulations and frameworks to focus on.

For example, if you choose to work with companies in the energy industry, then Step 2 is to identify the frameworks, standards, and regulations in use in that industry. One example would be the NERC standards, which were created by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

Step 3 is to review those standards, frameworks, and regulations and identify any example case studies of their application, and any financial consequences a particular company faced for not being compliant.

Having this information at the ready in a job interview can be beneficial because you can discuss standards, frameworks, regulations, and case studies with the hiring manager to show you understand the complexities of the job and the industry.

Step 4 is determining if you want to pursue a certification or college degree prior to applying for GRC Analyst jobs.

There are many cybersecurity certifications, college degree programs, and bootcamps out there, so it’s important to narrow down your list and then conduct deeper research to determine what will work best for you.

How Do You Find a Job as a GRC Analyst?

The best way to get any cybersecurity job is to network on social media with people working in the job you want, and to build your personal brand.  

Building your personal brand means as you are learning, you are posting about what you are learning on social media. This helps show recruiters and hiring managers your passion for GRC. (There is a lot more to learn about building your brand in cybersecurity; check out this LinkedIn article “How Do You Build a Strong Cybersecurity Brand?” for more information.)

You can also find job openings on LinkedIn, Indeed, CyberSN, and other job board websites. Be sure to learn how to write a resume and a cover letter before you begin applying for jobs, and know that you have to customize both documents for every job application you submit.

Should You Become a GRC Analyst?

A career as a GRC Analyst might be good for you if you like to solve puzzles or analyze and solve problems. It might also be a good career choice for you if you have solid skills with effectively communicating information to a variety of individuals, because you will be working with multiple teams and stakeholders across whichever business you join.

Working as a GRC Analyst can be a rewarding career both financially and in the sense that you will play a critical role helping businesses build better cybersecurity programs to keep sensitive information safe.

What to Know About the Cybersecurity Analyst Career Field

Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for monitoring and analyzing network and system traffic to identify anomalies, like an unknown device on the network or an indication of a ransomware attack. As part of your job, you will leverage security information and event management (SIEM) tools, extended detection and response (XDR), and other security tools to aggregate information and analyze the information for threats. You might also be tasked with writing Python scripts to automate analysis and alerting.  

As an entry-level analyst, you could implement incident response (IR) playbooks. IR playbooks provide a set of steps that an analyst should take if they encounter a specific incident (like a phishing email attack). Microsoft has some example IR playbooks that you can view for free here.

Depending on where you work, you might conduct vulnerability scanning, which is a way to detect vulnerabilities that a threat actor could exploit. An easy way to think about vulnerabilities is to think about your front door. If your front door doesn’t have any locks then this represents a vulnerability that could be exploited by a burglar (i.e., a threat actor) to steal your jewelry. By adding a lock (security control), you help protect your home from the burglar. 

What Other Job Titles Are There in This Career Field?

You might see other job openings in the cybersecurity analyst career field with titles such as:

  • Information Security Analyst
  • Cybersecurity Specialist
  • Network Security Analyst
  • Cyber Threat Analyst
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst
  • Incident Response Analyst
  • Vulnerability Analyst
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM) Analyst
  • Security Awareness Analyst

How Much Money Can You Make as a Cybersecurity Analyst?

As a cybersecurity analyst in the United States, the median pay is around $112,000 annually.  Holding a government security clearance in the U.S. can also help you get a higher base salary rate.  

This doesn’t include sign-on or annual bonuses, stock options, or other compensation, which means a career as a cybersecurity analyst can be very lucrative for you.

Compensation influencers for this role are based on your company, geographic location, experience level, specialization, and industry.

Do You Need Certifications to be a Cybersecurity Analyst?

No specific cybersecurity certifications are required to get a job as a cybersecurity analyst in the private sector; however, many people choose to get a certification. If you plan to work for a government agency, they often will require a fundamental cybersecurity certification either upon hire or within a period of time after you are hired for the job.

The most common entry-level certifications for a cybersecurity analyst are the CompTIA Security+, the Google Cybersecurity Certificate, and the ISC2 Certified in Cybersecurity.

Of these certifications, Security+ is still the most common one asked for in job descriptions; however, the other certifications from ISC2 and Google are gaining traction with hiring managers.

Do You Need a College Degree to be a Cybersecurity Analyst?

No college degree is required to become a cybersecurity analyst. Hiring managers often look for hands-on skills with SIEM tools (like Splunk or QRadar) and hands-on experience using a vulnerability scanner (i.e., Nessus, Qualys, etc). This hands-on experience can be as simple as running scans on your home network or host system (e.g., your laptop), or can be through a more formal education experience like college or a cybersecurity bootcamp

Do You Need Technical Skills to Get a Job as a Cybersecurity Analyst?

Some individuals are able to get an entry-level cybersecurity analyst job with textbook knowledge alone; however, having some hands-on skills with security tools helps show hiring managers that you can do the job on day one.  

This brings up another question that some people have about how to show “experience” without having actual work experience in cybersecurity on your resume. The key for anything you are learning is to link it back to a real-world example.

For example, if you recently read an in-depth news story about a cyberattack event, talk about security controls that could have been put into place to protect against the attack (or similar attacks in the future). If you are working through labs in college or a cybersecurity bootcamp right now, ask your instructor how that particular lab could apply to a real-world situation. Then, write about this in your cover letter and/or resume, so hiring managers can see that you can connect your learnings with real-world events and situations.

Is Experience Required to Get Your First Job as a Cybersecurity Analyst?

Experience is not required for your first job; however, almost everyone has transferable soft skills from past jobs or school that are in demand at companies.  

It’s important to include some examples on your resume or cover letter that show how you have used soft skills, like effective communication, in a workplace or school situation. Show how you can solve problems and work in a team.

Hiring managers want to hire people who can solve their problems and work well with others.

Are There Opportunities for Cybersecurity Analyst Internships?

There are some internships available for this role depending on the company; however, most people are hired directly into full-time positions as cybersecurity analysts instead of into internships.

If you find a cybersecurity analyst internship opportunity, know that it can be either paid or unpaid and that many college students can earn credits for working internships.

How Do You Find a Job as a Cybersecurity Analyst?

Pin-Point A Target Industry

The first step is to determine the type of industry you would like to work in. Would you like to work in healthcare, retail, the energy industry, or some other industry? 

Next, look at some of the big companies in the industry as well as smaller startups. Because most people are applying at big companies (e.g., Microsoft), you might get an opportunity at a smaller startup, where they will mentor and train you.

You of course need to look for job openings on popular job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, and CyberSN, but know that one of the best ways to get any cybersecurity job is to network on social media with people working in that job, as well as find people that work at your dream company and connect with them to learn how they landed the job.

Build A Personal Brand

Building your personal brand means as you are learning, post about what you are learning on social media. This helps show recruiters and hiring managers your passion for analyst work.

For example, let’s say you have just learned how to run a vulnerability scan using Qualys.  Record your screen as you walk others through installing, configuring, and running a scan with Qualys.  

You don’t have to be on camera for the recording and the post will show potential hiring managers that you know how to run a scan and that you could possibly be counted on as a trainer for new hires joining the team. This recording will make you more valuable to the hiring managers than someone who delivered a resume with no posted content because they can see you know how to actually do the job.

Attend Conferences

Another not-so-secret way to find a job is through looking at the sponsor list for a large cybersecurity conference.  

For example, the Black Hat USA conference has dozens of sponsor companies each year. Look at the list linked above and at the company websites to see if they have openings.  

As mentioned earlier, smaller companies on this list will often have openings with very few applications because many people might not know the company. That’s good news for you because it means you might face very little competition for a job opening.

In the end, know this: The fastest way to get your first job will likely be through networking and building your personal brand.

Should You Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?

A career as a cybersecurity analyst might be good for you if you like looking at different data sets and solving puzzles. If you enjoy watching crime shows and figuring out who committed the crime, then an analyst job might also be for you. Cybersecurity analysts have come from backgrounds in auto mechanics, teaching, biology, nursing, food services, retail, military, and even disc jockeying. No matter your background, you can build a career as a cybersecurity analyst.

Working as a cybersecurity analyst might also be a good career for you if you have solid skills in clearly communicating information to a variety of individuals because you will be working with multiple teams and stakeholders across a business or organization.

Working as a cybersecurity analyst can be a rewarding career for you both financially and in the sense that you are doing meaningful, impactful work while helping organizations secure their networks and systems.

If you’ve decided a career in cybersecurity is the right path for you, apply today to Flatiron’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp and learn the tools of the trade in as little as 15 weeks. 

What Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Do?

Technology permeates almost every aspect of modern life – payment systems, fitness trackers, baby monitors, smart fridges – it’s simply everywhere. As a result, the modern digital landscape is fraught with opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of tech meant to make life easier.  

The ongoing threat of cyber attacks has led governments and private companies to employ increasingly sophisticated teams and techniques to secure their systems. But, in the field of cybersecurity, few roles are more central – or critical – than that of the Cybersecurity Engineer. 

What Is A Cybersecurity Engineer?

Cybersecurity Engineers are IT professionals that assess, prepare for, and respond to cyber-attacks. They often directly recommend and oversee the tools and methods used to keep systems secure and stay ahead of new or emerging threats such as malware, ransomware, and hacking/intrusions.

With a diverse skillset and deep understanding of a company’s networks, Cybersecurity Engineers are often well-situated to work in any number of entry-level, mid-level, and senior security roles as their careers advance. 

What Skills Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Need?

Security engineers must have a range of talents that address the most common and critical vulnerabilities a company may face.

Programming Langauges

Cybersecurity engineers are strong programmers in multiple languages and use them not only to evaluate or build the latest solutions but also to deconstruct the malicious codes and applications used to attack their systems. And because their efforts must fit the nature of their business, they need to be prepared to work in general-purpose languages like Python or C++, but also in languages specific to web or application work.

Penetration Testing

A cybersecurity engineer must be able to assess penetration testing and work with pen testers on new threats that have emerged in the industry.

Live Threat Management

They are critical stakeholders in real-time assessment, mitigation, and prevention of threats, as well as in live incident response and defense. They may also get pulled into troubleshooting everyday problems in the network and be asked to help drive broader company initiatives for a healthy network, such as change management, security audits, etc.

Strong Organization Skills

Critically, as members of a Security Operations Center (SOC) team, cybersecurity engineers are typically responsible for documenting and maintaining policies and procedures related to security concerns. This gives them a strong view of a network’s structure and defense, from the top down to the most granular level.

Hardware and Software Evaluation

They also need to be able to review new hardware and software options for ensuring network security and to understand specific threats their company may face from hackers.

Related reading: How To Become A Cybersecurity Engineer

What Is The Demand For Cybersecurity Engineers?

The Cybersecurity talent gap is well documented. There simply aren’t enough talented Cyber workers to fill available positions, with almost 580,000 job openings in the USA alone*. Demand is high, and growing – with the information sector projected to grow 32% over the next 8 years (which is much faster than average). 

The prevalence of tech throughout everyday life is only expanding – each day bringing more products, services, and innovations. This, paired with the persistent headlines of cyber incidents affecting countries, companies, and individuals each news cycle, the Cybersecurity talent gap only promises to expand. This can mean only one thing for those interested in a Cybersecurity career: opportunity. 

Cybersecurity Engineer Salaries

Overall, Cybersecurity professionals are paid quite well. According to ZipRecruiter, the average Cybersecurity Engineer makes $111,095* per year nationwide. 

Further reading: How Much Do Cybersecurity Engineers Make Around the Country?

As you progress through a cyber career, salaries increase even further: 

  • Chief Security Architect: $177,571 
  • Lead Security Engineer: $122,890 
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): $148,746 

If the C-suite isn’t your idea of success, Cybersecurity engineers can also easily fit into alternative key focus areas. For example, they can use their knowledge of a firm’s networks to operate as a high-value penetration tester. They can also become a cybersecurity consultant, working with clients on a case-to-case basis. 

Considering the high demand and the quality pay, the next question you’re likely to ask is “How to become a Cybersecurity Engineer?” Well then friend, keep reading. 

How To Become A Cybersecurity Engineer

There are two main steps to becoming a Cybersecurity Engineer – acquiring skills and demonstrating those skills with a Certification. 

Did you notice that “get a traditional 4-year college degree” wasn’t on the list?

More and more often, 4-year degrees are no longer a pre-requisite for entry-level Cybersecurity roles. While this is still an evolving trend, at the end of the day, the only thing companies truly care about is whether or not you have the skills to perform in a job. 

We’ll cover the basics of the process below, but check out our blog “How To Become A Cybersecurity Engineer in 2024” for a more thorough overview. 

Step 1: Acquire Skills

Cybersecurity Engineers generally have a mix of hard skills and soft skills. Their hard skills include various programming languages and a broad knowledge of networking, database platforms, and operating systems. Soft skills, though intangible, are just as important when it comes to working on a team – these can include top-notch communication, problem-solving, and a general willingness to learn and adapt to changing conditions. 

While soft skills are developed over an entire lifetime and decades of a career, hard skills are easier to acquire in a short time – especially if attending an accelerated program like a Cybersecurity bootcamp.

Related reading: Are Cybersecurity Bootcamps Worth It?

Step 2: Earn Relevant Certifications

Cybersecurity Certifications generally achieve a similar purpose to earning a college degree – they demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the core hard skills required to succeed in the cybersecurity engineering space. 

Examples of common certifications include:

Related reading: 9 In-Demand Cybersecurity Certifications

See Yourself In Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity engineering promises to remain a critical and exciting career opportunity for the foreseeable future, and the ongoing talent job gap bodes well for those looking to transition to the field. 

If you’re set on a career in Cyber, Apply Today to Flatiron School’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp – a program designed to have you industry-ready in as little as 15 weeks. 

Not ready to commit? In the meantime, test-run what we teach in the course with our free Cybersecurity Prep – no strings attached!

*Job opening numbers and average salary cited 8 Jan 2024