What is a cyber security specialist and what do they do?

Cyber security is a profession dedicated to protecting computers and IT networks from criminal intrusion. Cyber security specialists work as part of IT teams which are committed to protecting the integrity of an organisation’s networks, cloud servers, mobile devices and payment software systems and data. These specialists employ a range of technologies and processes to prevent, detect and manage cyber threats.

Key responsibilities

Responsibilities will vary, but examples include:

  • Finding the best way to secure the IT infrastructure of an organisation
  • Building in firewalls and appropriate security into networks, software systems and data-centres
  • Constantly monitoring for attacks and intrusions, and closing off identified security vulnerabilities
  • Identifying any perpetrators and liaising with the police if necessary
  • Staying up-to-date on current virus reports and protecting networks from these viruses
  • Looking for vulnerabilities and risks in hardware and software then making recommendations for solutions that can help mitigate risk
  • Evaluating technological security and resilience through simulated escyberattacks & penetration testing
  • Planning, coordinating and implementing information security programs
  • Protecting against online threats that facilitate cybercrime, including malware, phishing, viruses, denial-of-service attacks, information warfare and hacking
  • Training users, promoting security awareness, developing policies and procedures, and providing updates and reports to management and executive staff.

Why are they important?

Specialists in cyber security are one of the most sought-after professionals in the tech sector as businesses and governments seek to address the increasing threat of global cyber criminals and hackers. Over the next few years, specialists will become of increasing importance as managing cyber security risk may require substantial changes to businesses and their operations.

Skills needed for the role

Specialists must have strong IT skills as well as meticulous attention to detail. Excellent analytical and logical thinking skills, as well as the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, are also essential.

Strategic Professional Options examinations linked to this role

Advanced Audit and Assurance

Career opportunities

Opportunities for career progression are plentiful, especially in larger organisations where there are established pathways to senior technology positions. There is also the option for experienced professionals to go into business as self-employed consultants.


High level competencies required include:

  • Data, digital and technology

    A. Identifies strategic options to add value, using data and technology.

    B. Analyses and evaluates data using appropriate technologies and tools.

    C. Applies technologies to visualise data clearly and effectively.

    D. Applies scepticism and ethical judgement to the use of data and data technology.


  • Governance, risk and control

    A. Evaluates organisational structures and governance to protect the long-term interests of stakeholders.

    B. Recommends appropriate strategies to ensure adherence to governance structures and application of best practice internal controls.

    C. Identifies and manages risk appropriately.

    D. Uses risk management for the best interests of an organisation and its stakeholders.

    E. Monitors and applies relevant legislation, policies and procedures.