Which Certificate is Best for Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is one of the most important subsets of the IT field. While every part of IT is important, Cybersecurity is notable because it touches on almost every part of the IT sector. Someone setting up a network needs to work with Cybersecurity. A hardware developer integrating an operating system most think about Cybersecurity. Even game developers need to consider possible exploits which could put a user’s data at risk. And of course, anything related to the Internet needs heavy focus on Cybersecurity. 

It’s clear that Cybersecurity is an important part of IT, but it’s not always equally clear how you can go about a career in Cybersecurity. Certification is an easier ways to get started as an IT professional. However, which certification is the best for someone interested in Cybersecurity? The short answer is the CompTIA Security+ certification. So, what is covered on the CompTIA Security+ certification exam?

What Is Covered on the Security+ Exam?

Why is Security+ so important? The answer, it is a statement of endorsement by one of the most recognized voices in the IT sector. CompTIA is well known for the depth of its certification exams. It’s safe to say that anyone who’s earned CompTIA certification will have a firm grasp on the knowledge. In the case of Security+, this means expertise in a wide range of topics related to both Cybersecurity and computing. 

The Security+ certification covers some areas that can be thought of as the foundation of any Cybersecurity program. This includes basic risk assessment and the best strategies to react to them. The Security+ exam also covers physical, cloud, and hybrid server security controls and forensics. Security+ even covers issues related to fine-tuning system performance so that a company can display both optimal performance and tight security. 

The exam can be broken down into four broad subjects. As a Cybersecurity specialist, you will need to assess threats, monitor all important platforms, operate within both law and company policy, and respond to security threats after identifying and analyzing them. Each of these broad points can be thought of as a category that contains many additional subjects. As we’ll soon see, a Cybersecurity specialist’s responsibilities require many different skills. 

What Do Cybersecurity Specialists Do?

What does a Cybersecurity specialist actually do? Cybersecurity specialists work as part of a larger IT team. This is due to the convergence between Cybersecurity and most aspects of IT. You may think of Cybersecurity in terms of networking. The classic hacking example portrays hackers trying to break into a large company’s systems through the Internet. And it’s true that Cybersecurity specialists do need to protect against those types of hacking attempts. However, there is more to Cybersecurity than networking. 

Cybersecurity specialists need to collaborate with individual employees and departments to ensure best practices for security policies. It’s not enough to just design a proper security protocol. Cybersecurity specialists also need to know what the company’s employees are capable of. This might require setting up meetings to talk with employees. A Cybersecurity specialist might also need to collaborate with other members of IT to find ways to automate reminders to coworkers. Notifications to change passwords on a regular basis are one of the most used examples of this sort of collaboration.

What Threats Do Cybersecurity Specialists Protect Against?

Some people are surprised by the number of subjects that fall under the banner of Cybersecurity. So, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how it relates to the non-IT world. What goes into security for a building? Physical security needs to include everything from stopping entry into the business after hours to video monitoring and even active conflict with intruders. Just like with physical security, Cybersecurity experts need to consider these different threats. 

Virus Mitigation

Viruses are one of the most well-known Cybersecurity threats. This is because they’re a concern for both home and corporate computer systems. A computer virus can operate by infecting an exe file or other executable. Once someone runs that program, the virus reproduces in a similar way to a virus in the human body. Biological viruses replicate in a cell, burst out, and infect other cells. 

A computer virus begins in a downloaded executable and spreads to other programs once that executable has been run. Viruses are discovered using specific programs like the antivirus software on your home systems. From here the infected executable can either be isolated from the rest of the system or restored to a non-viral state. However, a Cybersecurity specialist will try to stop any computer virus from ever entering the computer systems in the first place. 

Computer Worms

Computer worms operate in a similar way to a computer virus. The main difference is that worms are more active. A virus, whether biological or computer-based, is a reactive threat. It requires a user to trigger the initial propagation. But a worm is an active agent. A computer worm will try to slither its way into a computer system. Then, it can spread to executables in a similar manner to a computer virus. The fact that worms have some autonomy often makes them harder to deal with than a strict virus, and worms often pair with other forms of attacks such as ransomware. 

Ransomware Exploits

Ransomware holds files or data for ransom. Consider a situation where a company was suddenly locked out of its sales database. This could prevent them from doing business. Ransomware can do just that and more. It can lock up almost any part of a computer system. This is done to extort money. For example, a hacker might lock a company’s vital systems with ransomware and then demand a set sum to unlock it again. Some worms can even automate that process. The worms find a vulnerability within a system, lock important parts of it, and then send a notification of its success to the hacker. A Cybersecurity specialist will go to great lengths to prevent this from happening.

Trojan Horses

Cybersecurity specialists also need to protect systems from something known as a trojan. This is shorthand for the trojan horse. In the original myth, the trojan horse was used to gain entry into a secured city. A computer trojan does the same for malicious code. Trojans look like standard programs. For example, a user might think that they are using a normal help system, but in reality, the program is actively working against a system’s integrity and security. Cybersecurity specialists protect against trojan horses through a combination of automated searches and strict security policies. 

Password Protection

Security policies can limit what any individual user can do within a larger computer system. For example, on UNIX systems it’s common to restrict a user’s ability to even run programs that they haven’t been provided access to. Lenient systems will restrict the areas a user can write data to or access. This focus on a user’s role in preventing security issues also extends to several other areas. One of the most important is password protection. 

Cybersecurity specialists oversee the creation and enforcement of password protection policies. If you’ve ever had to change your login information at work, then you’ve probably taken part in the company’s password protection system. Cybersecurity specialists need to protect a user’s account to limit access to the company’s systems. If a hacker discovers a user’s password, then they can insert various pieces of malicious code into the larger system. Password protection involves regular password changes and requirements for how they’re formatted. 

DDoS Attacks

Of course, the most well-known area of Cybersecurity involves networking. All the threats we’ve looked at so far can be leveraged through network vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity specialists try to look for any potential vulnerability within their larger network. This includes both the internal intranet and the company’s Internet presence. Monitoring networks also gives Cybersecurity experts the chance to stop DDoS attacks before they become a problem. 

DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks try to overwhelm a computer system to take down important services. We’ve all experienced a computer crash when we’re using too many CPU or memory-intensive programs at the same time. This principle holds true for servers as well. DDoS attacks try to overwhelm a system by requesting services continually over thousands of different access points. Hackers can do so thanks to computer viruses, worms, and trojans. If a hacker infects a system, they can leverage it as a vector for DDoS attacks. A Cybersecurity specialist will monitor incoming traffic in real-time through a separate program. If they notice unusually high levels of activity, they can move to take action and mitigate the threat of a successful DDoS attack.

How Do You Earn a Certification in Cybersecurity?

We’ve noted that the best way to prove competency in a Cybersecurity skillset is to earn a Security+ certification. The certification shows that you have a full understanding of network security. 

The process of earning Security+ certification begins with CompTIA’s A+ certification. A+ certification covers the general operating and design principles of most modern computing platforms. This includes home computers and laptops, servers, cloud-based systems, and mobile devices. Once you have passed the A+ certification exam, you can go on to take the Security+ certification exam. So, how do you prepare for the Security+ certification exam?

Preparing for the Security+ Certification Exam

An IT program with an emphasis in cybersecurity is an easier way to prepare for the Security+ exam. Especially since preparing for the Security+ exam isn’t just a matter of knowing the material, you also need to know which areas to put an emphasis on while studying. In short, it’s far easier to prepare for the Security+ certification exam if you have the advantage of active guidance from a formal education. The guidance of teachers who have experience with Cybersecurity can provide a wealth of benefits to someone interested in taking the Security+ certification exam. 

The Benefits of a Formal Education

We’ve already looked at how active guidance can help you prepare for the Security+ certification exam but it’s important to keep in mind that this goes beyond working your way through books and documentation. One of the larger benefits of a formal education is the guidance that is accompanied by the same hardware you’d use on the job. This is important since the hardware you will be working with isn’t something you can afford to use at home. An IT program will prepare you to use the same advanced server hardware and cloud systems that you find in a large corporation. 

Consider just how uncomfortable you’d be at a computer if you’d never actually sat behind one before. Or how confusing a modern mobile operating system would be to someone who’d only used older flip phones. There are always going to be elements of computing that are best understood with real-world interactions. And IT coursework can leverage that experience to help you better understand the hardware you will be working with as a Cybersecurity specialist. 

Final Thoughts

If you are interested in becoming a Cybersecurity specialist, consider obtaining your CompTIA Security+ certification. It will prove to yourself and your employer that you are prepared for the Cybersecurity job and that you have the knowledge to secure your organization’s network from internal and external threats. So, take the certification exam seriously by completing an IT program. This small investment can go a long way to preparing you for success.

Information Technology Degree Program

The Bachelor Degree program in Information Technology with emphasis in Cybersecurity introduces you to a variety of topics, such as assessing the security vulnerability of computer and network systems, various computer and network safeguarding solutions, and managing the implementation and maintenance of security devices, systems, procedures and counter measures.  As a graduate of the program, you will be prepared for an entry-level career as an information support analyst, junior ethical hacker, or network and security support analyst related jobs.

Ready to move from the classroom to a career? Florida Technical College is here to help. Contact us to learn more about completing the information technology degree program at Florida Technical College.

These examples are intended to serve only as a general guide of possible employment opportunities. There are many factors that determine the job an individual may obtain and NUC University – Florida Technical College (NUC-FTC)cannot guarantee its graduate any particular job. Some positions may require license or other certifications. We encourage you to research the requirements for the particular position you desire.