Is Cybersecurity Hard? The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Written by Hatice Ozsahan and Kate Lake on June 27, 2023

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In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of technology, cybersecurity stands as one of the fastest-growing and most sought-after fields. But is cybersecurity hard to learn? As the demands of our digitally-driven society continue to increase, the importance of cybersecurity knowledge and skills becomes even more critical.

If you’re interested in a career in cybersecurity, this guide will help you make an informed decision. It is suitable for tech enthusiasts who want to explore digital defense and those considering a career switch. Let’s jump right in!

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to a set of practices, technologies, and actions designed to protect digital data from threats. These threats can originate from various sources, including hackers, malware, ransomware, phishing, and more.

While the concept may seem straightforward, the complexity and depth of cybersecurity are vast and continuously evolving. Furthermore, cybersecurity isn’t just about protecting a single computer or device; it encompasses the safety of entire networks and systems. This includes safeguarding various digital assets such as:

  • Networks
  • Devices
  • Programs
  • Most importantly, sensitive data.

Cybersecurity protects various types of data. This includes personal information, such as names, addresses, and social security numbers. It also safeguards important business data, like proprietary information, client databases, and financial records.

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity is important because it protects valuable digital assets, prevents data breaches, mitigates financial loss and reputational damage, preserves privacy, and maintains customer trust. In today’s interconnected world where cyber threats are prevalent, cybersecurity measures are essential to safeguard sensitive data, prevent unauthorized access, and ensure the integrity and availability of critical information.

If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked.

Richard Clarke

The quote may sound a bit harsh to some, but it’s actually a hard pill to swallow in our increasingly digital era.

Imagine, for a moment, the consequences of a significant data breach. Identity theft could cause individuals severe financial and emotional distress, while a large corporation could lose millions or even billions of dollars from a single system vulnerability. Governments, too, are not immune to these threats: attacks on governments are on the rise with state-sponsored attacks and espionage posing significant national security risks.

The 2022 cybersecurity report by Gartner indicates that a substantial 88% of business executives now view cybersecurity as a direct risk to business functions rather than just a technical issue confined to IT departments. A majority of IT professionals at small and medium-sized enterprises cited security as their team’s main challenge last year. 

On average, a cyberattack happens every 39 seconds.

Here are some of the key reasons why cybersecurity should not be taken lightly:

  • Protection of Personal Information
  • Business Continuity
  • National Security
  • Compliance with Regulations
  • Keeping Pace with Evolving Threats

Is Cybersecurity Hard to Learn?

Cybersecurity can be challenging to learn, given its wide breadth and rapid evolution. The field demands both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, and while those with an IT or computer science background might find certain concepts more intuitive, newcomers may face an initial learning curve. However, the myriad of available resources, courses, and certifications — coupled with dedication and a curious mindset — makes mastering cybersecurity an achievable goal for many.

When it comes to the question of whether cybersecurity is hard, the answer isn’t as straightforward as a simple “yes” or “no.” While it’s true that cybersecurity encompasses some complex concepts, such as cryptography, and certain areas may demand more technical expertise, it’s important to look beyond these aspects to gain a comprehensive understanding.

Mastering the Art: Essential Skills for Success in Cybersecurity

“As cybersecurity leaders, we have to create our message of influence because security is a culture and you need the business to take place and be part of that security culture.”

Britney Hommertzheim, Director, Information Security, AMC Theatres, at SecureWorld Kansas City

When it comes to excelling in the world of cybersecurity, possessing the right set of skills is paramount. While cybersecurity may present challenges, acquiring and honing these key skills will empower you to navigate the complexities of the field with confidence. Here are the essential skills needed to thrive in cybersecurity:

Technical Skills

A solid foundation in technical concepts and practices is crucial in cybersecurity. Understanding networking protocols, operating systems, programming languages, and cloud computing is essential for identifying vulnerabilities, implementing robust security measures, and mitigating risks effectively.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

The ability to think critically and approach problems analytically is invaluable in cybersecurity. As a cybersecurity professional, you’ll encounter intricate scenarios that demand swift analysis, resourcefulness, and the capacity to make sound decisions under pressure. Developing strong problem-solving skills enables you to assess risks, devise strategic plans, and respond effectively to security incidents.

Continuous Learning and Adaptability

Given the rapidly evolving nature of cybersecurity, staying abreast of the latest trends, emerging threats, and cutting-edge technologies is essential. A commitment to continuous learning and adaptability is crucial for maintaining relevance and effectiveness in the field. Actively seeking out opportunities for professional development, attending industry conferences, and participating in cybersecurity communities can help you stay ahead of the curve.

Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is essential in cybersecurity, as professionals often need to convey complex technical concepts to both technical and non-technical stakeholders. Additionally, collaborating with cross-functional teams, including IT departments, executives, legal professionals, and end-users, is vital for aligning security objectives with business goals and ensuring a holistic approach to cybersecurity.

Ethical Mindset and Integrity

Ethical behavior and a strong sense of integrity are foundational in the field of cybersecurity. Safeguarding sensitive data and respecting privacy are paramount. Upholding ethical standards ensures that cybersecurity professionals act in the best interests of individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.

What Does A Cybersecurity Professional Do?

As the importance of cybersecurity continues to grow, so does the demand for skilled professionals in the field. But what exactly does a cybersecurity professional do? What are their core responsibilities and areas of expertise? Let’s delve into the intricate world of cybersecurity roles and shed light on the diverse tasks performed by these dedicated professionals.

Risk Assessment and Analysis

A fundamental aspect of a cybersecurity professional’s role is to assess and analyze potential risks and vulnerabilities within an organization’s systems and networks. They conduct thorough evaluations to identify weak points and potential entry points for cyber threats. This involves conducting penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and security audits to detect and mitigate risks proactively.

Implementing Security Measures

Cybersecurity professionals are responsible for implementing robust security measures to protect digital assets and sensitive data. This includes deploying firewalls, intrusion detection systems, antivirus software, and encryption protocols. They work closely with IT teams to ensure systems and networks are secure from external threats.

Incident Response and Management

In the event of a security breach or cyber attack, cybersecurity professionals play a critical role in responding swiftly and effectively. They investigate incidents, analyze the extent of the breach, and take immediate action to mitigate damage. They work alongside incident response teams, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders to restore security and prevent future incidents.

Security Awareness and Training

Educating employees about safe online practices and raising awareness about potential cyber threats is an essential responsibility of cybersecurity professionals. They develop and deliver training programs to help employees understand the importance of cybersecurity, recognize phishing attempts, and maintain good security hygiene.

Policy Development and Compliance

Cybersecurity professionals collaborate with legal and compliance teams to develop security policies and procedures that align with industry standards and regulations. They ensure organizations comply with relevant data protection laws and frameworks. Additionally, they conduct regular audits to assess adherence to security policies and recommend necessary adjustments.

Monitoring and Incident Detection

Constant monitoring of networks, systems, and digital assets is crucial to identify potential security breaches or suspicious activities. Cybersecurity professionals use specialized tools and technologies to monitor networks, detect anomalies, and respond to threats in real-time.

Some of these tools include SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM).

Continuous Learning and Professional Development

Given the dynamic nature of cybersecurity, professionals in this field must stay updated with the latest trends, emerging threats, and evolving technologies. They engage in continuous learning, participate in industry conferences, and pursue relevant certifications to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Need a very trendy example? 

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has become a significant factor shaping the cybersecurity landscape as it does in many fields today. The integration of AI in various domains has also paved the way for its application in developing sophisticated malware and attacks. Cybercriminals are leveraging AI technology to create intelligent threats that can circumvent the latest security protocols designed to protect sensitive data.

Recommended Reading: 3 Security Implications of ChatGPT and Other AI Content Generation Tools 

How to Become a Cybersecurity Expert

If you aspire to become a cybersecurity expert, you’ll be pleased to know that formal degrees aren’t the only pathway to success. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 30% of cybersecurity professionals have achieved expertise without holding a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. Follow this step-by-step guide to embark on your journey toward becoming a cybersecurity expert:

1. Gain Foundational Knowledge and Skills

To start your cybersecurity journey, it’s essential to acquire foundational knowledge and skills. Begin by familiarizing yourself with basic computer concepts, networking principles, operating systems, and programming languages. Online courses, tutorials, and self-study resources can help you grasp these fundamental concepts.

2. Pursue Relevant Education and Certifications

While a formal degree is not a prerequisite, pursuing an education in cybersecurity can enhance your understanding and open doors to career opportunities. Consider enrolling in specialized programs such as associate degrees, diplomas, or online certification courses. Reputable cybersecurity certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) are highly valued by employers. 

Each cybersecurity certification has specific experience requirements, so ensure you meet them before pursuing them.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

This certification from the cybersecurity professional organization (ISC)² ranks among the most sought-after credentials in the industry. It validates your experience in IT security and showcases your ability to design, implement, and monitor a cybersecurity program. CISSP is suitable for experienced security professionals in roles like Chief Information Security Officer, Security Administrator, IT Security Engineer, Senior Security Consultant, or Information Assurance Analyst.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Offered by IT professional association ISACA, the CISA certification demonstrates your expertise in assessing security vulnerabilities, designing and implementing controls, and reporting on compliance. It is highly recognized for careers in cybersecurity auditing. CISA is ideal for mid-level IT professionals aspiring to advance into roles such as IT Audit Manager, Cybersecurity Auditor, Information Security Analyst, IT Security Engineer, IT Project Manager, or Compliance Program Manager.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Also from ISACA, the CISM certification validates your expertise in the management side of information security, including governance, program development, and incident and risk management. If you aim to transition from a technical to a managerial cybersecurity role, earning your CISM can be a valuable choice. Jobs that commonly require CISM include IT Manager, Information Systems Security Officer, Information Risk Consultant, Director of Information Security, or Data Governance Manager.

3. Get Hands-on Experience

Hands-on experience is invaluable in the cybersecurity realm. Seek opportunities to apply your knowledge and skills through internships, entry-level positions in cybersecurity, or cybersecurity competitions and challenges. Embrace practical projects that allow you to analyze security vulnerabilities, implement solutions, and gain real-world exposure.

4. Follow the Latest Trends and Developments

Learning cybersecurity doesn’t end once you get your degree or certification. With cybersecurity tools being developed every day and new types of malware circulating the internet, it’s essential to stay informed and one step ahead of bad actors. Here are some of the latest technologies and concepts cybersecurity professionals are concerned with:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Cloud-based systems
  • Multicloud security
  • Encryption technology
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
  • Computer programming and coding

5. Specialize and Expand Your Skill Set

Cybersecurity offers various specializations, such as network security, cloud security, digital forensics, and incident response. Identify your areas of interest and invest time in honing specialized skills. Obtain advanced certifications aligned with your chosen specialization, such as Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP). Continually expand your skill set to adapt to evolving threats and technologies.

6. Step into the Cybersecurity Community

Joining the cybersecurity community is a valuable step to enhance your cybersecurity journey. By connecting with professionals in the field, you can network, learn new skills, find job opportunities, and even gain mentors. Here are some ways to engage with the cybersecurity community:

  • Online Communities: Platforms like Reddit and LinkedIn host large online communities where you can interact with individuals at various stages of their cybersecurity careers. Engage in discussions, ask questions, and share your knowledge. These communities serve as a valuable resource to stay current with cybersecurity news, trends, and best practices.
  • Professional Associations: Join professional associations and organizations dedicated to cybersecurity, such as (ISC)², ISACA, or the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). These associations offer networking events, educational resources, and access to industry experts. Participate in local chapter events or attend conferences and seminars to connect with professionals in your area.
  • Cybersecurity Blogs and Podcasts: Stay informed by following cybersecurity blogs and listening to industry podcasts like Blue Print, Cloud Ace, and Trust Me, I’m Certified. Many cybersecurity professionals and organizations share their insights, experiences, and expertise through blog posts and podcast episodes. Reading and listening to these resources can provide valuable knowledge and keep you updated on the latest trends and practices.
  • Industry Events and Meetups: Attend cybersecurity conferences, workshops, and meetups to connect with professionals face-to-face. These events provide opportunities to learn from experts, engage in discussions, and expand your professional network. Some of the popular ones include the RSA Conference, Black Hat USA, and The SANS Institute Cybersecurity Training Event. Keep an eye out for local or virtual events in your area.

Top Cybersecurity Jobs

Jobs in cybersecurity play a crucial role in safeguarding sensitive data, mitigating cyber threats, and ensuring the resilience of digital systems. As the demand for cybersecurity expertise continues to grow, various rewarding career paths have emerged. Discover some of the top cybersecurity jobs below (including information on cyber security salary on average), each offering unique opportunities to make a significant impact:

1. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

As a CISO, you will lead an organization’s information security efforts, establishing strategies and policies to protect digital assets, managing security teams, and ensuring compliance with regulations. This executive-level role carries substantial responsibility and requires a deep understanding of cybersecurity, risk management, and business operations.

2. Cyber Security Analyst

Security analysts play a crucial role in monitoring, analyzing, and responding to security incidents. They proactively identify vulnerabilities, investigate security breaches, and develop strategies to enhance an organization’s security posture. This role requires strong analytical skills, knowledge of security frameworks, and proficiency in security tools and technologies.

3. Penetration Tester

Penetration testers, also known as ethical hackers, simulate real-world attacks to identify vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications. They conduct comprehensive assessments, exploit vulnerabilities, and provide recommendations for enhancing security. This role demands a deep understanding of hacking techniques, strong problem-solving skills, and expertise in using various security assessment tools.

4. Security Architect

Security architects design and implement robust security systems and frameworks to protect organizations’ digital assets. They collaborate with stakeholders to assess security requirements, develop security strategies, and design secure infrastructures. This role requires a comprehensive understanding of security principles, architecture frameworks, and emerging technologies.

5. Incident Responder

Incident responders are at the forefront of mitigating and responding to cybersecurity incidents. They investigate security breaches, contain the impact, and restore systems and networks. This role demands quick thinking, strong technical skills, and the ability to work well under pressure.

6. Security Consultant

Security consultants provide expert guidance to organizations on enhancing their security posture. They assess vulnerabilities, develop risk mitigation strategies, and help implement security solutions. This role requires a deep understanding of security frameworks, industry best practices, and excellent communication and presentation skills.

If you’re particularly interested in entry level cybersecurity jobs, you might consider these positions:

  • Cybersecurity engineer
  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • Product security engineer
  • Information security specialist
  • Digital forensic examiner
  • It auditor

Frequently Asked Questions about the Difficulty of Cybersecurity

Is cybersecurity a lot of math?

While certain aspects of cybersecurity like cryptography and machine learning do require a solid understanding of complex mathematical algorithms, many areas such as network security, incident response, and vulnerability assessment might not need intensive use of mathematics. The focus in these areas is more on understanding systems, networks, and how they can be exploited by attackers. Therefore, while some knowledge of math can be beneficial in cybersecurity, it’s not a predominant requirement across all roles and functions in this field.

Is cybersecurity harder than coding?

Cybersecurity and coding are distinct fields that require different skill sets and expertise. While cybersecurity focuses on protecting digital systems and data from threats, coding involves writing and developing software applications. Both fields have their own challenges and complexities, and the difficulty level can vary depending on individual interests and aptitudes. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference and the specific roles and responsibilities within each field.

Is cybersecurity harder than computer science?

Comparing the difficulty of cybersecurity to computer science is subjective as it depends on an individual’s interests and aptitudes. Both fields have their own set of challenges and complexities. For some, the dynamic and practical aspects of cybersecurity may be more engaging, while others may find the theoretical and wide-ranging subjects in computer science to be more intellectually stimulating.

Is cybersecurity a stressful job?

Are cybersecurity jobs hard? This is a common question among those considering a career in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity jobs can be demanding and challenging, leading to potential stress due to the high-stakes nature of protecting sensitive data and combating cyber threats. However, individuals with a passion for problem-solving, continuous learning, and a strong work ethic often find the rewards and sense of accomplishment in cybersecurity careers outweigh the inherent challenges.

Get an IT Certification Under Your Belt

JumpCloud is a security-focused IT identity and access management platform that’s designed to be intuitive and user-friendly for admins. We offer courses and certifications to help IT professionals get acquainted with the platform and showcase their knowledge. Start studying for the JumpCloud Core Certification today. 

Hatice Ozsahan
Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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