What does a security analyst do?
Security analysts ensure the information stored on computers or networks is not disclosed to unwanted parties or modified inadvertently, and may also create and maintain security systems. Their main job is to analyse the security measures of a company and determine how effective they are. If the data is compromised, security analysts repair the damage and take measures to seal the security hole that enabled the data compromise.
A security analyst’s responsibilities include:
- planning and implementing security measures to protect computer systems, networks and data
- creating, testing and implementing network disaster recovery plans
- performing vulnerability testing, risk analyses and security assessments
- recommending and installing appropriate tools and countermeasures
- defining, implementing and maintaining corporate security policies
- training staff on network and information security procedures
- coordinating security plans with outside vendors.
Ryan Cummings | CHIEF SECURITY ANALYST FOR SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA | RED24
Why this unusual career?
I have always had a keen interest in politics, conflict and terrorism, and the manner in which these phenomena shape both global and continental security.
Describe what a security analyst does
We provide a broad range of clients analysis on the various political and security risks that could pose a threat to their safety and/or interests across the African continent. This includes providing bespoke analysis and forecasting on terrorism, government stability, crime and social unrest.
What training did you do?
I completed a university degree in political studies, and further pursed an Honours degree in the same discipline. During my postgraduate studies, I was offered a position at a Danish-based political risk consultancy, which allowed me to use the skillset I acquired to earn a living. I have been trained in various internal and external research and analytical methodologies, including those used by security agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other related institutions.
What skills are required?
I believe this industry is tailor-made for individuals who excel at working under continuous pressure, who enjoy doing research and who are able to make decisions with a degree of spontaneity. Given the amount of written and verbal communication the role entails, candidates should also be confident communicators.
Experience vs training?
While experience is always important, the training regimen provided by many organisations in this industry is comprehensive and will definitely compensate for any lack of practical experience for candidates who apply themselves.
Describe a typical day at work
Monitoring of classified, declassified and open source intelligence, which I then assess and present to clients in written briefs of varying length and depth; verbal assessments; compilation and coordination of contingency and evacuation plans, which are used by our clients in the event of a crisis that could impact their safety or business continuity.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Many facets of my work. For one, as an analyst, you are constantly exposed to information, which provides you with a broad understanding of many issues that are topical and of public interest. Also, there is a fair degree of dynamism involved in the work.
Which aspects are you least enthusiastic about?
As our company operates on a 24/7 basis, 365 days per year, I am often required to work shifts that some people would perceive as unsociable.
Your career highlight to date?
There have been many. My analysis of the security threats across the African continent has been published by various media publications and think tanks. I am also often requested to provide insight on topical issues for major news networks such as CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC. I was recently commissioned to author my first book on the Nigerian insurgent group, Boko Haram; something I consider to be a significant milestone.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Tenacity, attention to detail and self-assuredness are crucial. Be respectful, tolerant and appreciative of people who are different to you.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
There is no firm and fast degree requirement for security analysts. Nevertheless, most employers are going to be looking for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science, management information systems, programming, engineering or a related field. If you don’t have a technical degree, you may be able to impress hiring agencies with experience, training and certifications. A security background check is normally required. Security analysts are expected to stay up-to-date on the latest intelligence.
WHERE CAN I STUDY?
University of the Witwatersrand
University of Cape Town
University of Johannesburg
University of Pretoria
University of Stellenbosch
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Tshwane University of Technology
College of Cape Town (Private FET)
Diploma: Information Technology
CTI Education Group (Private College)
Certificate: Information Systems