Cyber-Security Consultants: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

A cyber-security consultant usually has a background in either computer security or information security standards. The kind of expertise required is highly specialised and currently not particularly widespread. The services provided by cybersecurity consulting can make a real difference to an organisation’s overall security posture, and may prevent or at least mitigate future incursions by hackers or real-world fraudsters.

Cyber security is just one part of the wider field of information security, which also covers physical assets and threats, and people-related factors. However, in the current context of growing threats to critical national infrastructure (such as power plants) from certain countries, it is the “cyber” part of the term that is taking an increasingly high profile. It is true that most organisations will not be at risk from incursions by state-sponsored agents. However, they may still be the target of an opportunistic amateur hacker, and it is here that cyber-security consultants can play a part.

The consultant may audit the organisation’s existing level of IT security, pointing out areas where there are high-risk vulnerabilities (for example, web pages where a username and password are transmitted unencrypted). Many vulnerabilities stem from old software that has not been updated to the latest patch level. In this case, simply updating the software will resolve the situation. In other cases, while the software may be completely current with the latest security patches, there may be a need to reconfigure it to change the settings. The vulnerability scans and penetration tests carried out by cyber-security consultants will unearth these situations and more, enabling the organisation to fix the vulnerabilities before they are discovered by hackers.

A cybersecurity consultant can offer a great deal more than vulnerability assessments, offering also highly specialised consultancy services to develop a plan for overhauling an organisation’s information security. This kind of service is fully tailored to the client rather than relying on off-the-shelf methods and documents, and takes into account the client organisation’s attitude to risk and business priorities. It can include not only computer security, but also education and awareness measures to raise the profile of security among employees or partners. Many cyber-security consultants can also assist in the process of certification to ISO 27001, the international information security standard.

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