It seems every day there are new warnings about cyber threats. Hackings, malware and ransomware attacks, phishing scams — you may hear about all of these types of threats and more on a daily basis. And it's not just large multinational corporations that are being hit. Small and midsized companies need to be aware of cyber security threats and the damage they can do.
If you're responsible for keeping your company's data secure from hackers and cybercriminals, it may be obvious to your that you need to hire cyber security engineers. What may not be as obvious is just how to go about finding the right professional with the right skills to keep your company safe from would-be cyberattackers.
This article will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to understand the role of a cyber security engineer, what skills they should possess, how much you should expect to pay for the level of expertise you're looking for, and where to find the best tech talent.
What’s cyber security engineering?
Cyber security engineering is the art of combining computer science with electrical engineering to gain a clear understanding of the function and form of cyberspace. Cyber security engineers combine this understanding with skills in network defense, coding, software and hardware development, and security protocols to create and implement programs to minimize the threat of cyberattacks and hasten the recovery if one happens.
Cyber security is an ever-evolving field. As soon as new techniques and methods are developed to stave off cyberattacks, hackers and other criminals begin their quest to find their way around them. Effective cyber security requires constant monitoring and updating of the security protocols and the personnel who use them. A skilled cyber security engineer must be able to handle all of the tasks this requires.
A cyber security engineer must also be aware of and know how to make use of the many cyber security tools at their disposal. These tools, developed by themselves or other cyber security experts, make the daunting job of screening and monitoring every information interaction within the network possible.
Cyber security tools
While there are thousands of cyber security tools available, they fit into several basic categories to meet specific needs. Many software development firms offer packages that combine some or all of these categories into comprehensive security software platforms. Regardless of whether your company makes use of any of the many available security tools or your cyber security engineer develops some tools of their own, these are the categories of tools that you should use to maintain cyber security.
- Firewalls — This is the first line of defense. It monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic and flags and blocks any traffic that doesn't meet the company's security parameters.
- Antivirus software — This is another basic barrier tool. It monitors all internet usage for the presence of known viruses and malware. It must be updated regularly to remain effective and can only protect against already recognized threats.
- Network security monitoring tools — These use your company's set security protocols and information about known threats to constantly monitor the network for the presence of attacks. If a threat is recognized, alerts are sent out, and steps are taken to minimize the threat's access to sensitive information. These tools must be updated regularly to be able to recognize the newest threats and implement new protocols and techniques.
- Encryption tools — These tools take the information gathered and stored by your company and encrypt it so that even if cyber criminals do manage to access your network, they can't make use of the information they find there. As with every other aspect of cyber security, for every encryption software, there is a hacker hellbent on breaking it. These encryption tools need to be watched carefully to make sure no one has found the key to the encryption.
- Network defense wireless tools — These tools are designed to monitor and protect the wireless connections to your network. Laptops, smartphones, and other smart devices provide countless entrances into your network for malicious software. Keeping these entryways secure without preventing access for those who need it is a constant balancing act made just a bit simpler by using the most innovative defense tools.
- Web vulnerability scanning tools — As the name implies, these tools constantly scan your network for vulnerable areas that may allow access to your network. Once located, alerts are sent to the appropriate personnel so they can take steps to shore up these weak links in the protective barrier.
- Packet sniffers — Packet sniffer software identifies and logs each packet of information that travels through the network. When programmed to do so, packet sniffers can also be used to identify and wall off potential threats, preventing them from gaining access to the network as a whole.
- Penetration testing — This tool is used to test the security of a network. It makes use of known hacking techniques to try to find vulnerabilities in a network. When updated regularly with the most current hacking methods and techniques, it provides users the opportunity to locate and fix vulnerable areas before hackers find them.
Like any tool, these cyber security tools are only as good as those who wield them. Providing your cyber security engineer access to these tools might make their job a bit easier. But without a deep understanding of cyberspace and the criminals that attack it, they will not be able to maintain the effectiveness of these tools or rapidly and properly respond to threats.
Cyber security engineer functions and requirements
What does a normal day in the life of a cyber software or hardware security engineer look like? What are their basic responsibilities, and what tasks should they be able to accomplish? What specific hard and soft skills should you look for when hiring one? What experience and education should they bring to the job?
These are the questions you may need answers to if you're trying to find the best cyber security engineer to meet your company's needs. As with every position you fill, finding candidates that meet your qualifications is only part of the challenge. The right candidate must also be a good fit for the rest of your team and be able to stand up to the rigors of a potentially highly stressful and hectic work life.
Cyber software security engineer
The basic job of the cyber software security engineer is to design, create, and implement software to protect the integrity of the network. They work together with the security analyst or cyber security team to find areas of vulnerability and then develop solutions to these issues.
They also need to be continually on the alert for new techniques or methods of attack so that they can design and implement changes in protocol or software to protect from these avenues of attack. Other responsibilities include:
- Coding — They will spend a great deal of their time writing code to create and implement security software.
- Checking their own and others' work — They are responsible for frequent code and design reviews to ensure accuracy and efficacy.
- Analyzing — They will need to be analytical and constantly on the lookout for ways to improve security, stability, scalability, and efficiency in their network security systems.
- Identifying — They will spend a good deal of their time seeking out and identifying areas in need of change, whether it be in the codebase, the network systems, or personnel.
- Innovating — Hackers are master innovators, always finding new ways to approach the problem of gaining access to your networks. The goal of the software security engineer is to be more innovative and in tune enough with the practices and thought processes of hackers to not just respond to their threats but stay ahead of them.
- Communication — Another chunk of the cyber security engineer's daily life will be spent conveying their findings and ideas to anyone and everyone who needs to know. This may include explaining complex network and software issues to people who are not fluent in the language of hackers and those who stop them. It may also include training personnel on how to use new software or understand new protocols.
Required and helpful hard skills
The exact amount of experience needed by the security software engineer you are looking for will depend, in large part, on what tasks you need them to be able to accomplish. Still, there is a baseline of skills that all of them should have to be considered for even the most entry-level security software engineering positions. These include:
- Strong working knowledge of coding languages, especially C++, Python, PHP/Hack, Golang, and Java
- Education in and experience with data science
- Understanding of complex data structures
- Expert-level experience in system design and software architecture
- Thorough knowledge of web application and browser security functions, systems, and security
- Understanding of network protocols
- Skill and experience with security assessment methods and techniques
- Understanding of the design and implementation of security protocols
- Experience with penetration testing
- Experience with authentication processes and access control
- Applied cryptography
- Experience with incident response and forensics
- Skill in binary analysis
- Project management capability
- Team management capability
Helpful soft skills
Not all of the skills needed to be an effective cyber security software engineer can be taught. Some of them are the result of personality traits or life skills learned at early ages. Some of the soft skills that serve those wanting to be cyber security software engineers well include:
- Being calm and not easily excitable. This gives them the ability to work in high-stress environments without losing their cool.
- Exceptional creative problem-solving skills. They can see solutions that others cannot.
- A mind that easily sees patterns and disruptions to those patterns. This gives them the ability to recognize and gauge potential cyber security threats where others may not.
- Being gregarious and easy to talk to. This gives them the ability to work within and across teams.
- Patience and focus. This gives them the ability to continue to attack a problem without the distraction of anger or frustration.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Willingness to learn and improve. The threats against your network change rapidly and frequently — your cyber security software engineer must be able to do the same.
Education and certifications
The formal education of your chosen candidates may be less relevant than the real-life experience that they bring to the table, but it does give you a starting point from which to build their profile. At the very least, a candidate should have earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. A master's degree in computer science may be a better level to start from, but hands-on experience may be more valuable to you than a higher level of formal education.
The certifications that candidates have earned, even if they're not directly related to the position you're looking to fill, give you some sense of their willingness to further their education outside of the classroom. A few of the more important ones are:
- CCNP Security: Cisco Certified Network Professional Security
- CEH v10: Certified Ethical Hacker
- CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
- GIAC: Web Application Penetration Tester
- GSEC/GCIH/GCIA: GIAC Security Certifications
- CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
Experience is the best teacher. Formal education may give your candidate knowledge and skills, but it in no way lets you know if they have what it takes to do the job day after day. We discussed some of the more vital experience the candidate will need earlier in this article.
That's not to say that a young candidate who simply hasn’t had the opportunity to gain real-life experience won't have the skills and personality needed to get the job done — just that you have no evidence to prove that they do.
If you're considering a candidate with limited hands-on experience, be sure to conduct a thorough interview process that includes evaluating their responses to pressure and stress.
Cyber hardware security engineer
Cyber hardware security engineers have the same basic responsibility as cyber security software engineers — to protect networks and the data they contain from being accessed by cybercriminals. The difference is that hardware engineers work with the infrastructure that the software runs on.
Cyber hardware security engineers design, develop, create, test, and maintain computer systems and their components. Security hardware encompasses a wide variety of devices, including those that prevent physical access to the network, like keycard scanners and biometric scanners, as well as hardwired encryption and firewall devices that prevent access to the network from the internet.
The role of the cyber security hardware engineer has expanded recently as the popularity of smart devices in the home and office has led to a need for effective hardwired security for these devices.
Further Resources: Alternative IT Recruitment Agencies
Differences in cyber security vs. software engineering skills
There is some overlap in the skill sets required for software engineers and cyber security software engineers, but there are a few core differences. Cyber security software engineers have a narrower scope but a greater immediacy.
Both sets of engineers must be fluent in coding languages, understand the inner workings of computer networks, be familiar with web applications and software architecture, and have ample experience with data science and structures. They both have to be able to work in rapidly evolving, high-stress environments, and both have to be inherently good at problem-solving.
At this point, the paths of the two careers branch, with cyber security software engineers needing to develop a whole host of additional skills. In addition to knowing how to design, create, and implement software, security engineers need to understand the threats a network may face and how to best defend against them.
Cyber security software designers must be ever vigilant and stay up to date on all of the new threats faced by networks and the tools used to alleviate those threats. They need to have at least a basic knowledge of the methods and techniques used by today’s hackers and use that knowledge not only to protect from the current threats but also to try to predict what the next one will be.
They need to understand the ramifications of cyberattacks and how best to respond to them. And, more than their traditional software engineer counterparts, they need to be able to communicate the urgency of these potential attacks to their teammates and management.
Cyber security engineer salary
As with most careers, the salary for cyber security engineers is affected by their experience and geographic location. The following are averages from across the United States for different seniority levels.
According to Glassdoor, these are the median salaries for cyber security engineers as of April 2022:
- 0 to 1 years' experience — $90,699 per year, with a range from $44,000 to $278,000
- 1 to 3 years' experience — $78,343 per year, with a range from $43,000 to $290,000
- 4 to 6 years’ experience — $84,956 per year, with a range from $40,000 to $337,000
- 7 to 9 years’ experience — $89,487 per year, with a range from $37,000 to $385,000
- 10 to 14 years’ experience — $98,200 per year, with a range from $33,000 to $461,000
- 15+ years’ experience — $107,801 per year, with a range from $31,000 to $534,000
Where to find cyber security hardware engineers or cyber security software engineers
Knowing what to look for in a candidate for cyber security hardware or software engineering is only part of the challenge. Once you have a clear idea of what your ideal candidate looks like, you need to figure out where to find them. Thankfully, finding people with the specific skills you need is not as difficult as it once was.
Once, you would've needed to post an ad and wade through a large number of less-than-qualified candidates before whittling your choices down to several that are worth a closer look. Then you would need to take the time to research those candidates and, assuming they met your specifications upon a closer look, set up interviews and try to determine if they were a good match for your position and your company. All of this consumed a great deal of one of your most valuable resources — time.
The digital age has streamlined the hiring process, and there are many platforms available to help you find exactly what you're looking for with little wasted time or energy. While not all of the following sites are hiring platforms, all can help you find and vet candidates that meet your specific requirements.
The LinkedIn Recruiting Tool is a hiring platform that makes it quick and easy for you to find and connect with quality candidates. LinkedIn is the largest and most respected professional network in the world. These tools will not only help you to navigate this powerful resource but also provide you with valuable insights and tips to help make the process even simpler.
LinkedIn offers analytics and collaboration tools to help you find, prioritize, and contact the candidates that meet your needs, and only those candidates. It also offers recruitment marketing, which helps you find your core audience of potential candidates. Once you've singled out these candidates, the tool helps you to create and distribute ads and messages that cater directly to them.
Indeed offers you the opportunity to access their huge candidate base for free. For better results and small fees, you can make use of their many recruitment tools. If you sponsor a job posting on the Indeed Hiring Platform, you can let the platform handle up to 70% of the recruitment and hiring process for you.
Indeed features video ads to attract attention to your job posting and a user-friendly dashboard that sorts and prioritizes candidates for you. Indeed is tapped into a large number of companies and candidates, so with minimal effort, you can have access to a vast pool of potential employees.
ZipRecruiter is more of a job board clearinghouse than a hiring platform, but it can still be a valuable resource in your search for the right cyber security software or hardware engineer. By joining ZipRecruiter and posting your job with them, you gain access to more than 100 job boards. If you pay a bit more, they will provide you resume scanning services and a team of hiring specialists.
At any payment level, ZipRecruiter provides you with more than 500 job posting templates and an artificial intelligence-based matching system to ensure that you only see applicants that meet your needs.
Talent marketplaces take recruitment to the next level. They provide their clients with potential candidates that have been pre-vetted and proven to have the ability and expertise needed to do the job. Often, they cater to only one sector or industry.
Dice is devoted to matching skilled and vetted information technology (IT) professionals with companies in need of their services. They boast a candidate base of over 9 million individuals, so if your job posting is in IT, it seems likely that they have access to a candidate that will meet your needs.
Dice is a fully managed service — you simply let them know what you're looking for, and they set out to find it. In short order, you will receive a concise list of qualified candidates to choose from.
Revelo is a unique talent platform. It specializes in finding full-time remote employees to meet clients’ tech talent needs.
Revelo does not supply freelance or temporary employees. All the candidates it will present to you are looking for long-term, full-time employment. They are ready to hit the floor running with little or no onboarding necessary and primed to become a vital member of your team.
Revelo states that most of its clients receive a list of qualified and pre-vetted candidates within three days, and most hire within 30 days. It also offers a unique 14-day guarantee. If the person you hire through the platform doesn't meet your needs, you can let them go and pay nothing for the services Revelo provided you.
Find, hire, and pay senior cyber security engineers through Revelo
When Revelo says that it's a full-service talent platform, it isn't exaggerating. Not only does Revelo give its clients access to a large pool of highly qualified outsourced tech talent, but it handles almost everything else as well.
Revelo takes on all the tasks of human resources (HR) for the candidates it presents you with. Once you've found a candidate that meets your needs, they will begin working for your company, and only your company, but all of the HR tasks associated with that hire will be handled by Revelo.
Revelo takes care of payroll and benefits as well as making sure that all local tax rules are followed. All you have to do is monitor your employee's work and reap the benefits of having a skilled and experienced cyber security software engineer working for your company. If at any point, for any reason, you find their work is not meeting your standards, Revelo will handle that as well.
Contact Revelo today to begin the stress-free process of finding the right cyber security software engineer to meet your needs. All you need to do is choose one and let Revelo handle the rest.
Further Resources: Alternative Offshore Software Companies