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A complete guide to essential cybersecurity skills

PostsSoftware development
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

February 16, 2024

If you’ve ever had your Facebook hacked, downloaded a virus, or bought an item that was never going to arrive, then you know just how easy it is to fall prey to a cyber criminal. 

While the impact could be inconvenient at best, more often than not, it’s devastating — especially for larger organizations. And as criminals get smarter, the risks only rise. 

Like good road sense and locking your door at night, cybersecurity is an important skill. So, whether you just want to be safer or you’re looking at a career in cybersecurity, developing this knowledge is a step towards making the digital space safer for everyone. 

What are cybersecurity skills?

‘Cybersecurity skills’ refers to the knowledge needed to protect computers, networks, data and systems from cyberattacks. 

They’re not just for professionals. Understanding the basics is important for everyone — from using strong passwords to being able to spot a phishing scam — they’re crucial in safeguarding your personal and professional data. 

For those in the cybersecurity field, these skills are more advanced. They include things like managing network security, analyzing risks, and responding to incidents. As cyber threats grow more sophisticated, the demand for skilled professionals keeps rising. 

Let’s begin by taking a look at the basic skills everyone should have. 

5 cybersecurity skills for the workplace

Even if your job title doesn’t say ‘cybersecurity’ in the title, having a good grasp of it is more important than ever, no matter your profession. Here’s why it matters and how you can show you’re cyber-savvy in the workplace.

1. Communication

Being able to clearly explain cybersecurity risks and practices is crucial, not just within its teams but across the entire organization. 

Whether you’re discussing the importance of strong passwords, sharing how to report a suspected virus, or explaining how a phishing scam works, your ability to communicate complex concepts in simple terms can help foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness among your colleagues. 

2. Collaboration

Cybersecurity isn’t a one-person job. Working together with others, whether in IT, legal, or marketing, helps ensure security measures are integrated throughout all aspects of the business. 

Plus, showing you can collaborate effectively to address security concerns has the added benefit of making you look like a solid team player.

3. Risk management

Understanding the risks and how to manage them is a skill that extends beyond the IT department. Being able to identify sensitive data, assess threats, and suggest ways to mitigate them shows that you’re proactive about protecting the company’s assets and taking workplace cybersecurity seriously. 

Ideally, your organization will run a course on how to stay safe online — but don’t rely on that alone. Do your own learning on things like how to spot a phishing email and psychology tricks online scammers use. Scary, fascinating, and very, very important. 

4. Critical thinking is crucial

Don’t let emotions toss you around like a ship on stormy seas! It might be tempting to click the email titled ‘private salary information’, ‘organization redundancy list’, or ‘last chance to qualify’, but the ability to objectively analyze situations, question assumptions, and evaluate solutions is fundamental. 

Demonstrating critical thinking when faced with security decisions will prevent problems before they arise. It also shows you’re not just reacting to issues but actively working to prevent them.

5. Adaptability

The digital landscape is always changing, with new threats popping up like mushrooms after rain. Showing you can adapt to new technologies, learn from security incidents, and stay in the know about best practices shows you’re committed to keeping yourself and your organization safe. Don’t be that person who says, ‘oh, I didn’t know…’ when things go belly up. 

Whether you’re in a cybersecurity role or not, showing you value and understand cybersecurity principles makes you a valuable asset to any organization. It’s not just about protecting data or preventing attacks; it’s about fostering a secure and informed workplace culture.

Cybersecurity skills for the professional

Now, let’s take a look at some more advanced skills. While knowing the following isn’t crucial if you’re not in IT, they’re still useful concepts to grasp, whatever your level. 


Networking encompasses a broad skill set focused on safeguarding the flow of information within and between networks. Networks can range from small connections between a few computers in an office, to vast global internet infrastructures. 

Pros versed in cybersecurity networking can:

  • Design and enforce network architectures that minimize vulnerabilities, incorporating secure hardware, software, protocols, and strategic segmentation to protect against breaches.
  • Implement and manage protocols, including encryption for data in transit and at rest, firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and virtual private networks (VPNs), alongside access control policies.
  • Monitor network traffic for unusual activities with automated detection tools.
  • Develop, educate, and enforce security policies and practices across the organization.

System administration

Another cybersecurity essential involves the management and configuration of computer systems and servers. System administration encompasses: 

  • Installing updates
  • Managing user access
  • Protecting against vulnerabilities.

It plays a vital role in maintaining the overall security posture of an organization’s IT infrastructure. For someone in this field, it’s about more than just keeping the network up and running; it’s about actively protecting it from threats.

Knowledge of Virtual Machines (VMS) and Operating Systems (OS)

Whether it’s Windows, Linux, or macOS, every cybersecurity pro needs to know each operating system, their underlying architectures, and how to secure them. 

Virtual Machines (VMS) add another layer, allowing cybersecurity professionals to test security measures in a controlled environment without risking the main system. 

Someone skilled in this area could be a system administrator, ensuring that every part of the OS is locked down against intrusion, or a penetration tester, using their knowledge of OS vulnerabilities to test and improve security.


Coding is how tech professionals write scripts, automate tasks, analyze malware, simulate attacks, and more. Programming know-how isn’t just about creating software; it’s about thinking like an attacker to be a defender. 

For instance, a security software developer might use their coding skills to create a new encryption algorithm, while a penetration tester might write scripts to automate the process of finding vulnerabilities in applications. Proficiency in programming languages like Python, Java, C#, and Ruby is a must.


Programming goes beyond just coding by including a wider set of skills needed for creating software, applications, and systems with a focus on security. Cybersecurity pros who know programming can:

  • Make custom tools and scripts to make security tasks run by themselves
  • Build software that’s safe from the start
  • Spot weak spots in software that’s already out there

This ability is especially important for jobs like:

  • Security software developers who make tools to protect data
  • Application security engineers who make sure apps are safe to use
  • Researchers who look into bad software (malware) and figure out how to stop it

Being good at programming languages helps these experts create strong solutions for keeping things secure and push for safer ways to build software. Programming skills let them customize security tools and think ahead about how attackers might try to break software so they can make it tough enough to stand up to those challenges.

Network security control

Network security control is all about keeping the data that travels across a network safe. It’s like setting up the best security system for your home. Here’s how it works:

  • Setting up firewalls to block unwanted traffic
  • Using intrusion detection systems to spot suspicious activity 
  • Making sure all data is encrypted so it’s unintelligible to anyone who shouldn’t see it

People who work in network security are protected against internal and external threats, making sure that even if someone does make it past those first defenses, there’s still plenty in place to stop them. 

Cloud security

As more companies use the cloud for their work, keeping cloud environments safe has become crucial. Cloud security experts have a big job. They have to:

  • Make sure cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud are set up safely
  • Keep track of who can access what in the cloud
  • Prevent data from getting stolen or leaked

Security experts, like engineers and architects, need to know how the cloud works and how to apply best practices. With the cloud’s enormous scale and flexibility come challenges — so staying up-to-date with the latest trends is a must.

Blockchain security

Blockchain security is about protecting the integrity and confidentiality of blockchain transactions and infrastructure. It’s about really knowing how blockchain works — things like how decisions are made within the network, how smart contracts operate, and how everything is kept secure. 

Experts in this field:

  • Spot weak spots in blockchain networks to keep hackers out
  • Make sure every transaction is tight and can be checked
  • Protect the network from big threats, like 51% attacks or problems with smart contracts

IoT security

The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the way we live and work by connecting all sorts of devices, from kitchen gadgets to industrial machines to the internet. However, this new level of connectivity also brings new risks.

IoT security is all about keeping these connected devices and their networks safe from hackers. Experts in IoT security work on:

  • Making sure devices can talk to each other safely
  • Setting up strong ways to check who’s accessing the device
  • Keeping data private and unchanged.

This can mean anything from making a smart home thermostat secure to safeguarding the entire network that powers a smart city.

Jobs in IoT security vary widely. There are IoT security analysts who identify and fix security weak points and engineers who build the software inside devices to make them secure. With more devices getting connected every day, the need for IoT security is more critical than ever. These experts are essential in stopping attacks that could steal information, damage property, or even put lives at risk.

AI security

AI security focuses on two important tasks: improving cybersecurity with AI and keeping AI systems safe from hackers.

Firstly, AI helps in cybersecurity by:

  • Going through lots of data to spot unusual patterns that could signal a threat.
  • Automatically dealing with frequent attacks which lets human experts tackle harder problems.

Secondly, AI systems can also be attacked. Hackers might try to trick AI into making wrong decisions or behaving unexpectedly.

People working in AI security concentrate on:

  • Creating algorithms that are tough to hack.
  • Making sure the data used to teach AI isn’t tampered with.
  • Keeping AI security tools working well and trustworthy.

In short, AI security experts play a crucial role in both using AI to protect against cyber threats and ensuring AI systems themselves are secure.

Risk analysis

Risk analysis in cybersecurity involves identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks to an organization’s information assets. This skill requires a deep understanding of the threat landscape, as well as the ability to evaluate the potential impact of different threats on business operations. 

Careers in this area include risk managers, compliance officers, and cybersecurity analysts who work across various sectors to protect organizations from potential cyber threats. 

Security and event handling/incident response

Handling security events and responding to incidents are critical skills in cybersecurity, enabling organizations to quickly respond to and recover from cyber-attacks. 

It involves:

  • Monitoring for signs of unauthorized activity
  • Investigating alerts to confirm breaches
  • Taking swift action to contain and remediate threats.

Professionals in this field need to be adept at coordinating responses across different teams, communicating with stakeholders, and documenting incidents and their resolutions. Typical roles in this area include incident responders, security operations center (soc) analysts, and forensic investigators are dedicated to this aspect of cybersecurity. 

Security audits

Security audits are a key part of cybersecurity, aimed at checking an organization’s tech systems and processes for any weaknesses. This process involves:

  • A detailed review of security policies and setups to make sure they’re strong enough to keep data safe.
  • Using different tools and approaches to evaluate how well an organization is protecting itself.

People who focus on security audits, like auditors or compliance analysts, look for ways to make things more secure and make sure everything meets legal and industry standards. By finding and fixing problems before hackers can exploit them, professionals can stop attacks before they happen. This skill is vital for keeping an organization’s digital doors locked tight.


Scripting is about automating repetitive tasks, parsing large datasets, and customizing security tools to fit an organization’s needs.

Mastery in scripting languages like Python, Bash, or PowerShell allows cybersecurity professionals to quickly analyze logs for suspicious activity, automate the deployment of security patches, or even develop custom intrusion detection scripts. 

This skill is particularly useful for security analysts, network admins, and penetration testers who often need to perform complex tasks at scale. 

Controls and frameworks

Understanding and using security controls and frameworks is crucial for creating a solid cybersecurity program. This means applying well-known best practices and standards, like NIST, ISO 27001, and CIS, to maintain strong security within an organization.

Professionals like security architects and compliance managers work to:

  • Align security measures with the organization’s internal policies and legal requirements.
  • Manage security risks carefully and maintain detailed records of compliance to demonstrate adherence to standards.

Intrusion detection

Detecting when someone unauthorized tries to access a system or when there’s suspicious activity is crucial for keeping digital information safe. Intrusion detection is about keeping an eye on network traffic and how systems are used, looking for anything odd that might point to a security risk.

SOC analysts and network security engineers use different tools and methods to spot these threats as they happen. They’re key to catching cyber-attacks early on, which lets organizations act fast to stop them before they cause serious harm.

DevOps security

Integrating security into the DevOps process, or ‘DevSecOps’, is about making sure security considerations are embedded throughout the software development lifecycle. 

This skill involves collaboration between development, operations, and security teams. Together, they work to: 

DevSecOps engineers and application security engineers, work to create a culture where security is a shared responsibility and an integral part of the development process. 

Application security and protection

Application security and protection are all about making sure software apps are built and maintained safely, guarding them against cyber attacks. This means taking security steps at every stage of making and running an app:

  • Designing the app with security in mind
  • Regularly checking the code for any weaknesses
  • Testing the app to find and fix security problems
  • Keeping the app secure even after it’s out there being used

People who specialize in application security, like application security engineers or developers who focus on security, play a big role. They:

  • Review code to spot issues
  • Run tests to make sure the app is safe
  • Look for vulnerabilities that hackers could use

Their work is key to stopping data theft and attacks that take advantage of weak spots in apps, like SQL injection or cross-site scripting (XSS). As businesses use more and more software apps, keeping these apps secure is increasingly important.

Access management

Access management is about making sure only the right people can get to certain information and resources. It covers several key practices:

  • Checking who users are and if they’re allowed access (authentication and authorization)
  • Setting and controlling what users can do (managing privileges and access controls)

Cybersecurity experts, like identity and access management (IAM) analysts or security administrators, take charge here. They:

  • Create rules on who can access what (access control policies)
  • Keep track of user identities
  • Watch out for any attempts to get in without permission

Good access management is vital for keeping sensitive info safe from both insiders who might misuse their access and outsiders trying to break in. This skill is crucial for keeping an organization’s data and systems secure and running smoothly.

Attack surface management

Attack surface management is about finding and fixing all the possible ways an attacker could break into a system or network. This includes things like:

  • Open ports that shouldn’t be open
  • Services that aren’t being used but are still running
  • Out-of-date software that needs updating
  • APIs that aren’t secured properly

Cybersecurity experts in attack surface management aim to lower these risks. They keep a constant eye on the organization’s defenses and work to make them stronger. This could mean:

  • Doing regular checks for vulnerabilities
  • Breaking up the network into more secure sections
  • Making sure software updates are done right away

By actively working on managing the attack surface, these professionals help stop attacks before they even start. This skill is crucial for anyone who wants to make cybersecurity stronger.

Automation implementation

Automation implementation in cybersecurity means using technology to handle security tasks on its own, making things faster and more accurate. With automation, cybersecurity experts can set up systems that:

  • Find security weaknesses by themselves
  • Automatically deal with security problems when they happen
  • Apply security rules without needing a person to do it every time

People who often work with automation include security engineers and SOC (Security Operations Center) analysts. They use automation to:

  • Keep an eye on networks for any signs of trouble
  • Spot threats quickly
  • Manage how the system responds to attacks without delay

Using automation lets organizations deal with more security issues at once and act on threats faster. This limits the chance for hackers to do damage. As cyber threats get more complex and frequent, being good at automation is becoming more essential in keeping digital spaces safe.

Logical reasoning and troubleshooting

Logical reasoning and troubleshooting are key for figuring out and fixing security problems. Cybersecurity pros use logical reasoning to:

  • Break down complicated issues
  • Find the main cause of a problem
  • Come up with smart ways to solve it

Troubleshooting means following a step-by-step method to solve security issues, often doing this quickly and with not much information. These skills are important for jobs like:

  • Incident responders who handle security emergencies
  • Cybersecurity analysts who look into and solve security threats
  • Network engineers who keep networks safe and running smoothly

Data management and analysis

Data management and analysis in cybersecurity is all about organizing, keeping, and studying data to spot trends, find threats, and make wise choices. This is important for cybersecurity pros who deal with a lot of data, like:

  • Security information and event management (SIEM) systems
  • Logs
  • Threat intelligence feeds

By handling and looking into this data properly, they can:

  • Notice patterns that point to malicious activities
  • Follow how potential threats act
  • Make the organization’s defenses stronger

People who need to be good at data management and analysis include cybersecurity analysts, threat intelligence analysts, and data scientists focused on security. 

How to get started with a career in cybersecurity 

Whether you’re starting from scratch, or looking to shift from another career, here’s a straightforward guide to get you going.

Know what’s involved 

First, get familiar with the basics. Understanding fundamental tech skills is like learning the alphabet before you write a novel. Start with the core concepts of computing, networking, and how the internet works. There are tons of free resources online that can help you build this foundation.

Free resources to get you started: 

  • Cybrary: Offers a wide range of courses on cybersecurity basics.
  • Khan Academy: Provides introductory lessons on computing and the internet.
  • Coursera: Features courses from universities and colleges on cybersecurity and IT fundamentals. Many courses are free to audit.

Once you have a handle on the basics, start exploring specific cybersecurity concepts like encryption, network security, ethical hacking, and malware analysis. 

Websites for deeper dives:

  • edX: Offers courses developed by renowned universities and is a great place to learn specific cybersecurity skills.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare: Provides free course materials from MIT courses, including computer science and cybersecurity.

Get official qualifications 

While not always necessary, having a degree in a field related to cybersecurity, like computer science or IT, can give you a solid grounding and make you more attractive to employers. 

If college isn’t for you, don’t worry. Many successful cybersecurity professionals don’t have a traditional four-year degree. Certifications and hands-on experience is often just as well regarded. 

Certifications can also be a game-changer. They’re a great way to prove your skills and knowledge in specific areas of cybersecurity. Start with entry-level certifications like CompTIA Security+ or Cisco’s CCNA, and then move on to more advanced ones as you gain experience.

Adding qualifications to your cybersecurity career toolkit can significantly boost your employability and expertise. Here’s a closer look at some recommended qualifications, including formal education paths and certifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science: A degree in computer science provides a comprehensive foundation in programming, systems analysis, network fundamentals, and security principles.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology: Specializing in IT can offer a more focused education on the systems and networks that underpin cybersecurity.
  • CompTIA Security+: An entry-level certification that covers a wide range of cybersecurity topics, ideal for beginners.
  • Cisco’s CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate): Focuses on network security, operations, and administration. A great stepping stone for those interested in network security.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): This certification is designed for those looking to specialize in legally penetrating networks and systems to identify vulnerabilities.

Get hands-on experience

Practical experience is invaluable. Try setting up your own home lab to experiment with different technologies and security tools. Participate in online forums, contribute to open source projects, or compete in capture the flag (CTF) competitions. These activities will help you apply what you’ve learned and build a portfolio that showcases your skills.

Tools like VirtualBox or VMware Workstation Player can help you start experimenting in a controlled environment.

Stay updated with the latest trends

Cybersecurity is a fast-evolving field. Following blogs, podcasts, and news sites dedicated to cybersecurity can help you stay on top of new threats and technologies.

Recommended sources:

  • The Hacker News: A leading news source covering cybersecurity, hacking news, and tech.
  • Krebs on Security: In-depth security news and investigation.
  • Darknet Diaries: A podcast that dives into the dark side of the internet, hacking, data breaches, and cybersecurity.

More ways to get involved

  • Networking: Joining online forums and local meetups can connect you with like-minded individuals and professionals in the field. Websites like Meetup can help you find cybersecurity groups near you.
  • Volunteer or intern: Gaining real-world experience through internships or volunteering for cybersecurity projects can be incredibly beneficial. Look for opportunities in local businesses, non-profits, or online platforms that match volunteers with projects.
  • Finally, stay curious and keep learning. Cybersecurity is a field that’s constantly evolving, with new threats and technologies emerging all the time. Follow cybersecurity news, read blogs, and take advantage of online courses to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date.

Cybersecurity pros choose tools with inbuilt encryption 

In a world where data breaches and cyber threats loom large, the importance of using online tools that offer this level of protection cannot be overstated. 

By choosing services that prioritize encryption across their suite of products, organizations can protect their assets, keep customer trust high, and comply with regulatory requirements. This level of security is a must for every business, from SMEs to global corporations alike. 

Nulab Pass runs seamlessly in the background but gives admins full control thanks to SAML single sign-on, user provisioning, and audit log. It also comes with enterprise-grade credentials, so you can rest assured it’s up there with the best. Ready to take it for a spin? Try it for free today. 



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