A guide to cyber security certification and training

Cyber security is in demand from every organisation, but what training and certification is needed?

Businesses around the world are facing a digital skills shortage, including organisations in the UK. While some expect this gap to close as more Brits consider IT roles as a result of the pandemic, there remains a growing deficit between skilled workers and jobs. 

Cyber security, in particular, is an area in which an ever-widening skills gap can really come to bite, especially in light of recent figures that suggesting ever-rising levels of cyber crime and increasingly sophisticated attack methods. Research in November, for example, revealed that phishing attempts had increased by 220% during the pandemic, with hackers increasingly using digital certificates to make their sites appear genuine

Due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the looming threat of Brexit, the UK's skills base is expected to be disrupted going beyond 2020. RedSeal research suggests that 95% of CIOs and IT professionals felt the UK’s staggered withdrawal from the EU is contributing to the crisis, and time can only tell whether a full exit by the end of 2020 will exacerbate the situation.

The nature of cyber security is, of course, always changing, and will become increasingly complex and difficult for professionals to navigate. With that in mind, it's important that everyone working in and around cyber security continues to refresh their knowledge at every opportunity and give themselves the tools to stay at the top of their game - from learning about new malware threats to methods of protection. Businesses, therefore, must seek out the best talent to shore up their organisations.

If your company finds it difficult to find fresh faces with the requisite skillset, the best alternative approach would be to upskill the existing workforce. These are employees who are also familiar with the business culture and enjoy working for the company already. There are various opportunities out there that cyber security workers can be put forward for, depending on your business’ immediate needs, and these can even range from white hat hacking to data protection.

Responsible for Information training

The government has realised how vital it is to get small businesses on board with cyber security training, noting that it is enthusiastic to help those working within all-sized public and private sector companies understand their data protection responsibilities.

As part of its initiative to get more people aware of cyber security, it's allowing all employees to partake in a free digital learning course covering everything they need to know about how to handle and protect data, both while in the office and working remotely. It advises what employees should look out for when identifying online threats, fraud and what an information asset owner is.

The two-hour course was developed for businesses working in the civil sector but is suitable for any organisation that would like its employees to have a basic understanding of cyber security. The content can be accessed from the Gov.uk website.

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Training for HR, procurement and legal & accounting

The government has developed a series of in-depth training courses for both public sector and private businesses that need a little more intensive development. Its specialised security courses and training schemes are aimed at businesses in niche sectors, such as HR, procurement and legal and accounting to help those working in such industries understand how their job roles are affected by cyber security.

Just like the government's other schemes, they comprise modules designed to be completed in an employee's own time rather than at set intervals. However, they're not likely to take away from your leisure time, with each very quick to finish.

They may not provide as much detail as third party, fully-certified training courses, but they provide the background to many of the issues employees are coming up against and cover most bases for businesses without a big budget.

Certified Information Systems Auditor

ISACA's Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is an IT professionals certification that aims to build upon an interest in information systems auditing, control and security.

Those obtaining the certification are recognised worldwide for their competencies to manage vulnerabilities and ensure compliance of systems. During the certification, they gain the knowledge, skills and experience to come up with security and compliance solutions to enterprises that require their organisation to be protected against cyber security threats.

Certified Information Security Manager

The Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is also offered by ISACA. IT security professionals with this certificate can demonstrate their understanding of the relationship between an information security program and broader business goals and objectives.

It shows prospective employers the professional has not only information security expertise but also knowledge and experience in the development and management of an information security program.

Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control

The third ISACA qualification on our list, CRISC certified professionals can help enterprises understand business risk and have the technical knowledge to implement appropriate IS controls.

CRISC certified employees can build a better understanding of the impact of IT risk and how it relates to the overall organisation.

CompTIA Security+

This certification from CompTIA covers network security, compliance and operation security, threats and vulnerabilities as well as application, data and host security. Also included are access control, identity management, and cryptography.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner

The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, known as (ISC)2, offers the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) certification is aimed at IT professionals with proven technical skills and practical security knowledge in hands-on operational IT roles.

It indicates a practitioner's technical ability to tackle the operational demands and responsibilities of security practitioners, including authentication, security testing, intrusion detection/prevention, incident response and recovery, attacks and countermeasures, cryptography, malicious code countermeasures, and more.

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Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Another certification from (ISC)2, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is great for professionals with proven deep technical and managerial competence, skills, experience and credibility to design, engineer, implement and manage their overall information security program to protect organisations from sophisticated attacks.

Certified Ethical Hacker 

There's even a qualification, certified by the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), available to white hat hackers. Dubbed the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), recipients must demonstrate the capacity to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target computer systems. White hat hackers and pen-testers alike have a crucial role to play in businesses' cyber security defences, and qualified individuals are often employed to probe target systems and test for any gaps that may emerge. 

Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator

Also organised by the EC-Council, the Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) certification validates professionals that have the skills to detect a hack and obtain the evidence needed to report the crime and prosecute the cyber criminal in a court of law.

The certification strives to stay vendor-neutral, and focuses on forensic analysis, proving a viable training pathway for those with a foot in the law enforcement door.

ISO 27001

The ISO 27001 certification (part of the wier ISO 27000 family) is an international standard that offers the procedures and practices for keeping an organisation's IT assets secure.

This certification predominately concerns information security, as opposed to explicitly being cyber security-oriented, and comprises the various systems, guidelines and certifications needed to help a business analyse its processes.  

Prior to ISO 27001 there were a host of separate services for handling all aspects of information security and managing risk, which naturally produced inefficiencies. The development of this standard in the 90s, however, meant the disparate processes could be brought under the umbrella of a single standard, with various components of a business managed in a single system.

ISO 27701

One of the most recent security certifications is the ISO 27701, which effectively serves as a privacy-based extension of the ISO 27001. The aim of this separate standard is to boost existing information security procedures with additional privacy-focused requirements.

This was only published in August 2019 and may form the basis for future GDPR standards given its preoccupation with systems that handle and protect the personal data that's processed as part of normal business functions. 

GDPR training

While not strictly cybersecurity-related, GDPR is the biggest overhaul of data protection legislation in the UK and EU for nearly 30 years. The guidelines are rigid and prospective penalties for non-compliance are high, up to 4% of global annual turnover, or 20 million, whichever is higher. This means while the ultimate responsibility may lie with the board, cybersecurity professionals should very much be aware of what is expected from them. After all, they are the ones who will be tasked with the day-to-day management of data protection.

One company offering GDPR training is Assuredata. The introductory courses, which are endorsed by both the Cloud Industry Forum and the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), aim to raise awareness of GDPR requirements and remove confusion, particularly with regard to those in the cloud industry. More information can be found here.

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