Case study

Cyber security analyst — James Thompson

James originally trained as a software engineer, but felt he was more suited to a role in cyber security. He particularly enjoys malware analysis and the opportunity to help users

How did you get your job?

I joined my company as a degree apprentice (or 'higher apprentice' as it was then known), having already completed an advanced apprenticeship in the past with a local business. I joined originally as a software engineer, but after four years was given the opportunity to switch discipline to cyber security in 2017 as I had gained relevant skills through previous job roles in the company.

What's a typical working day like?

I work a 12-hour shift pattern, so during weekdays the day tends to start slowly in the early morning. As 9am approaches, there is an increase in activity as other employees come into the office.

A typical day includes:

  • monitoring the network for malicious activity using intrusion detection systems
  • monitoring user machines using an advanced anti-virus tool
  • monitoring spam emails received by employees
  • investigating malware.

Other requests and tasks are often received via email, which we deal with on an individual basis.

What do you enjoy most about being a cyber security analyst?

I particularly enjoy malware investigation and analysis, though I also like speaking to users on the phone and in person about issues as I feel I'm really helping them.

What are the challenges?

Cybercrime is ever increasing, so keeping up to date with modern techniques used by malicious actors can be very challenging. However this is also a positive for me, as I enjoy learning about topics in this area.

How relevant is your degree?

You often find that individuals working in cyber security have a background in different areas, such as software development, hardware and networks or desktop support. Each discipline can bring something to the table that benefits the team. Though not specifically related to cyber security, as a software engineer I can comment on the security and integrity of software systems and also assist in automating processes for the team by writing software applications.

How has your role developed? What are your career ambitions?

I am fairly new to the role so it hasn't evolved much yet, but in the long term I would like to be more involved in 'threat hunting', i.e. identifying new ways that can be used to attack organisations and/or individuals and helping to propose solutions to these attacks.

What are your tips for others interested in cyber security?

  • Take a look at the various security certifications (CompTIA Security+ is a good place to start) and also at some more basic certifications which prove you have a good general grounding in IT (for example, CompTIA A+ and Network+).
  • Investigate security tools in your own time. The OS Kali Linux has a lot of cool tools to try.
  • Do research, check security blogs online and keep up to date with recent cyber security news.

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