Cyber security is now a core part of national security. Every day, the National Security Agency (NSA) works to protect our vital networks and systems from intrusion by individual hackers and foreign adversaries. Success requires constant vigilance and an ability to stay ahead of the methods and technologies hackers use. It can be a high-pressure and yet highly rewarding place to work. But what’s the daily routine of an NSA cyber security professional actually like?
If you’re thinking about earning a cyber security degree and/or undergoing cyber security training, here’s an introduction to what you can expect should you end up working at the NSA.
Most of the NSA’s cyber security work occurs in cyber threat centers (CTCs). CTCs exist to make sure all the available data on any given threat or attack is gathered in one place, where a team of experts can address the issue. While there aren’t significant cyber attacks every day, there are always cyber threats that require planning and response.
One person can’t possibly handle all aspects of cyber security for the NSA, which is why a CTC includes a team consisting of professionals with complementary skills and a variety of daily routines. A team typically includes the positions of:
Threat Center Director
As the leader of a CTC cyber security team, the threat center director manages both the preparation for and response to threats and attacks. In a typical day, the director works to stay on top of the latest cyber security news and breakthroughs, and meets with peers and colleagues to discuss major issues and emerging threats.
Computer Network Operator
The computer network operator is in charge of keeping networks safe and functioning. The operator is an expert in network operations and spends his or her day maintaining network integrity, learning about new potential threats, and testing potential solutions to those threats.
A vulnerability analyst seeks out gaps in readiness and uses cloud analytics to look for signs of impending or ongoing attacks. On a day-to-day basis, a vulnerability analyst researches advances in hacker capabilities and provides recommendations on how to improve the vulnerable spots in the cyber security system.
Cyber Security Researcher
Focused primarily on the development of new cyber security techniques and technologies, a cyber security researcher is in charge of making the advances needed to keep systems secure now and in the future. On a typical day, a researcher is likely to research problems, design new prototypes, conduct experiments, and/or consult on other people’s cyber security projects.
An expert in pattern recognition and analysis, a cryptoanalyst deciphers hidden messages and communications, looking for evidence of threats or infiltrations. Most cryptoanalysts speak multiple languages and spend their days uncovering the activities of bad actors and providing support to those developing defensive and offensive responses.
An exploitation analyst is similar to what some call a white-hat hacker. These analysts spend their days trying to think like bad actors, determining where and how the next attack will occur. When called upon, they also have the skill set to exploit hackers’ systems in a counterattack or pre-emptive attack.
Capability Development Specialist
Keeping systems secure requires constant updates to protect against new and developing threats. A capability development specialist is in charge of creating these updates. On a day-to-day basis, they code custom software designed to address current or potential vulnerabilities and to collect data from adversaries waging attacks.
One of the best ways to gain the skills and knowledge you need for a cyber security job is to earn an MS in Information Technology or MS in Cybersecurity from a university committed to online safety and privacy. For instance, Walden—an accredited university—is a Champion of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), celebrated annually each October. NCSAM, co-founded and led by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was created as a collaborative effort between government and industry to ensure all digital citizens have the resources needed to stay safer and more secure online while also protecting their personal information.1 If you want to earn your master’s in the field, Walden is the right choice. Whether you earn your master’s in information technology with a specialization in cybersecurity or your MS in Cybersecurity, you’ll be prepared to impact the industry and advance your career.
You may wonder if you have the time to earn a master’s degree. Thanks to online learning, you probably do. When you choose to earn your master’s in cyber security or MS in Information Technology degree online, you don’t have to worry about driving to a campus or even attending classes at a specific time of day. Instead, online education gives you the freedom to attend classes from home, at whatever time of day works best for your schedule. This makes it possible to continue working full time while earning your degree. The U.S. needs cyber security experts who can help keep the country safe. When you attend an online university, you can earn the master’s degree you need to become just such an expert.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Information Technology and MS in Cybersecurity degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.