For years, millions of people immersed themselves in stories about special agents, and are mesmerised by characters such as James Bond, Beatrix Kiddo and Jason Bourne. Today, Agent 007 has become the archetype for someone who fights powerful and cunning villains, often facing great odds, but ultimately prevails – thanks to exceptional wits, resourcefulness and, of course, advanced tech. Unsurprisingly, the charming appeal of the figure is driving many to secretly wonder what it would be like to have a similarly exciting and thrilling job.
For much of human history, jobs of security specialists entail physically operating in the domain they are securing – travel to a faraway city, safeguard the location, then neutralise the suspect. As the world becomes more digitally connected, security has a new added dimension.
Securing the digital infrastructure has become just as important as the world outside the window, if not more – lower your guard and an intruder will infiltrate the network, copy valuable trade secrets, steal hard-earned money and even compromise the security of your physical environment which is increasingly filled with objects connected to the net.
However, unlike Agent 007 who roams the streets in a luxury supercar, Agent 0101 – our present-day agent – brandishes a sleek laptop to patrol virtual realms for signs of hackers.
Cybersecurity is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting fields in technology. As an emerging discipline, its constant evolution offers many opportunities for growth. Combined with heightened awareness of its importance, cybersecurity specialists are in high demand and greatly valued by organisations. No wonder so many tech professionals are showing keen interest in cybersecurity. Question is, what does it really take for one to have a successful career as Agent 0101?
Superhuman Skills Needed
Cybersecurity is a complex discipline that often requires a combination of very different skills.
To start with the obvious, technical knowledge is essential for someone operating in the digital domain.
- A strong grasp of programming languages such as C++, Java and PHP is fundamental for a sound understanding of what is going on in the system backend.
- Knowledge of how malware works enables the guardian to identify threats and secure networks in times of crisis.
- A good understanding of cloud technologies and IoT is becoming crucial since many companies are increasingly relying on distributed computing.
Yet, the technical excellence is just one part of the cybersecurity skill set. After all, safeguarding complex networks calls for a complete approach.
- A solid insight into how organisations operate, their structure and the way they conduct their business ensures that devised solutions are tailored to meet the organisation’s needs and achieve optimum impact.
- An appreciation for the processes that are essential for their success, as well as what makes them vulnerable. This way, the agent has a good grounding of not only the “How” but also the “Why” of a potential attack and move fast to mitigate or prevent it.
This leads to two other important traits of the cybersecurity expert – emotional intelligence and people skills.
- Empathy for the motivations, psychology and thinking behind hackers’ actions helps the cyber-agent to stay one step ahead and beat them at their own game.
- Being a strong communicator is handy when it comes to explaining complex aspects of the job to colleagues, put everyone on the same page, get necessary resources and enjoy a faster career progression.
Lots of fun guaranteed
As we see, just like Agent 007, the job of Agent 0101 offers an incredible mix of fun and excitement. Be warned though that the job also has its share of challenges and demands, like ceaseless learning and mastering of new skills. The good news is, for those of you who can rise above it all, you will have a chance to embark on an adventure just as thrilling as one of Ian Fleming’s books.
Indeed, to do well in this field, you will need to be a technologist, a consultant and a people person all at once – just like superheroes with their supernormal powers.
First published in the IT Society Magazine by the Singapore Computer Society