Kim Harris
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Computer Security Consulting: Is It The Career For You

What motivates people who decide to enter computer security consulting like a first or subsequent career? Can it be all of the work, with no two days the same? Can it be the promise of avoiding the dead hand of corporate culture and the possibility of working for themselves? Or is it just the technical challenge of constantly needing to find new methods to problems they've never seen before? Whatever the reason, there's always been a steady trickle of recent recruits to the world of computer security consulting, which trickle is getting larger because the field of information security matures.

An IT security consultant needs an unusually wide skill-set. From cryptography to firewall configuration to human resources management, the world of information security is both specialised and surprisingly broad. This means, of course, those embarking on computer security consulting need to choose a sub-field and concentrate on it. There are many possible niches in IT security, but they range from the following.

  • A penetration tester probes an organisation's computer and network defences, to find out vulnerabilities and recommend corrective action. Although widely seen as an technically challenging job, it can in fact be tedious and without variety sometimes.

Darren Chaker

  • A network security consultant sets up or review an organisation's computer networks and devices (e.g. firewalls, routers). This profession demands very specific skills, and wouldn't normally be recommended for someone with no experience of administering networks.

  • An information security auditor will review an organisation's entire information security arrangements, possibly analysing them in terms of ISO 27001, the international standard for information security. Although requiring less in the way of in-depth technical skills, this career path requires a specific amount of people management skills and experience of different types of organisation. It also includes far more than computer security, covering because it does the information security facets of people, paper documents and physical security arrangements.

  • Another sub-field laptop or computer security consulting is the interim information security manager, who is asked, often at short notice, to "fill a gap" in a company for a relatively short period. This is often either to bridge the gap between permanent employees, or else to take on another project on the part-time basis. This career path demands extensive connection with management, along with the capability to get up to speed on the project extremely quickly.

  • A business continuity consultant will help a firm to build up and implement a business continuity plan, which is asked in case of an interruption towards the business. Naturally, computer security forms part of this, but a much wider skill-set is required, in addition to extensive connection with businesses of all kinds.

It is clear that a vast number of skills could potentially be deployed in computer security consulting, in addition to significant connection with businesses, people, and life in general. This is not a career path for individuals who prefer a simple ride! However, for the best person, it may provide more stimulation, challenge, and variety than many careers which are more commonly seen.

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July 29, 2012