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Vulnerability assessors hold the important job of evaluating computer system security. Their findings help organizations protect against cyberthreats. These professionals rely on specialized computer science and cybersecurity training programs.
A 2022 Fortune Business Insights report projects over $220 billion in growth for the global cybersecurity market between 2022 and 2029.
According to the 2021 (ISC)² 英雄联盟竞猜全球详情平台 Workforce Study , the current excess of four million cybersecurity professionals worldwide still falls short of global demand by about 2.75 million jobs.
While their duties may overlap with other cybersecurity professionals, such as information security analysts and penetration testers , vulnerability assessors perform very specific functions. Learn just what those are in this spotlight of a day in the life of a vulnerability assessor.
What Is a Vulnerability Assessor?
Vulnerability assessors scan and audit an organization's systems, networks, and applications to identify problem spots. They look for areas cyberattackers could exploit.
Compared to general cybersecurity professionals who manage all security issues, vulnerability assessors specialize in risk assessment and mitigation.
As highlighted in the Microsoft Digital Defense Report , cyberattacks have become incredibly diversified and sophisticated. Secure organizations need multiple layers of defense and well-maintained security hygiene. Security specialists, like vulnerability assessors, have evolved to keep up with the growing number and type of threats.
Vulnerability assessors often possess a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field at minimum. Industry and vendor certifications may also be required for employment with certain organizations.
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What a Vulnerability Assessor Does
The day-to-day tasks for vulnerability assessors vary by position and employer. Assessors' primary function involves computer systems evaluation. These evaluations assess security weaknesses and risks.
Assessors identify coding and security errors that other cybersecurity professionals might miss. According to Check Point Research's 2021 Cyber Security Report , about 80% of 2020's cyberattacks exploited vulnerabilities reported at least three years prior.
To ensure that securities are tightened properly, assessors must collaborate with management, information technology staff, and other cybersecurity professionals . They may also interact with all system and network users to educate and implement security best practices.
These professionals face many daily challenges, including handling large volumes of vulnerabilities and prioritizing remediation approaches. Assessors may struggle to properly track vulnerabilities, fixes, and assessment effectiveness.
Tracking assessment effectiveness requires communication and collaboration between the assessors and the organization.
This career welcomes all kinds of professionals, but problem-solvers with an understanding of computer systems and cyberthreats begin with a solid foundation. With experience and successful results, vulnerability assessors may move into vulnerability management or overarching cybersecurity roles.
Key Responsibilities in Vulnerability Assessment
Conduct vulnerability assessments: Scan various technical environments for vulnerabilities and risks, including applications, networks, and computer systems; perform scans on a regular basis, while using manual methods to eliminate false negatives; evaluate users and activities to identify unsafe practices
Identify exploitable flaws: Pinpoint security weaknesses in computer systems, networks, applications, policies, and processes; look for areas that attackers might target; track vulnerabilities and flaws to spot systemic issues; develop remediation strategies and make fixes
Write up audit reports: Create detailed reports listing all vulnerability findings and discuss the potential threats; suggest remediation strategies and security improvements for each of the vulnerabilities; help with the strategic planning and implementation process, including introducing vulnerability testing and management practices
Maintain updated skills and knowledge: Keep auditing skills up-to-date through continuing education and regular research; stay updated on cybersecurity policies and compliance practices; research trends in cybersecurity to better understand how, when, and why cyberattacks take place
Prepare audit toolkit: Regularly update and maintain the hardware and software used to perform audits; research and practice with cyberdefense technologies to find the most effective programs and applications; develop custom scripts and applications to perform specialized tasks within the vulnerability assessment
Nonstandard Duties in Vulnerability Assessment
Evaluate programs and practices: Use tracked metrics to evaluate audit effectiveness; review and analyze organizations' improvements based on the assessment findings. Evaluations may occur at regular intervals throughout the year or as needed, depending on the task and the assessor.
Manage assessment and security programs: Apply changes and improvements to assessment programs based on findings, metrics, and results; evaluate an organization's entire security program to identify areas that need more attention and care. While most assessors need to intermittently evaluate their own programs, security program evaluations may be required in only select cases.
Oversee and run security education: Develop and provide cybersecurity training to organizations and users; educate users on security threats and best practices, highlight the most common threats , and provide guidance where needed. Depending on their job, assessors may need to run training programs throughout the year or not at all.
Create communications: Develop regular communications for organizations and clients, keeping them updated on new or changed cybersecurity policies or practices; offer continued services throughout the year, such as tips to maintain and strengthen cybersecurity programs. While some communications will always be necessary, the content and frequency will vary for every professional.
Collaborate in planning and implementation: Provide support to organizations and managers as they implement revised security practices and corrective actions; review their strategic plans and analyze the changes made to their systems and security programs. The amount of support varies by assessor and may be only handled by vulnerability managers.
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A Typical Day for a Vulnerability Assessor
A vulnerability assessor's day can be very different depending on the professional and the day in question. In general, their work involves planning, assessing, analyzing, reporting, and remediating.
While the following tasks may be spread over multiple days, here is what a day in the life of a vulnerability assessor might look like:
Discuss the scope of the project with management.
Identify all the connected elements on the network, the most critical assets, and the plan of attack.
Set up a scanning schedule based on the project size and budget, and the asset values.
Scan the systems, networks, and applications.
Compile data and analyze findings using a vulnerability management solution software.
Manually assess high-value sections (if needed).
Generate assessment reports from the management software, or develop manual reports.
Highlight threats, compliance issues, security program blindspots, and upcoming expirations in reports.
Outline remediation suggestions and options, including a priority list based on importance and size of the fix.
Assist in the remediation process as needed, collaborating with information technology professionals or managing the fixes.
Where Vulnerability Assessors Work
Vulnerability assessors are part of the information security analyst occupation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts work in information technology departments throughout standard business hours, while also remaining available for emergency service calls.
These professionals hold jobs in many organizations and industries, primarily computer systems design services, management, credit intermediation, information, and consulting services .
Among the top industries, the most lucrative positions were in information, finance and insurance, and management. These industries feature more high-value assets than most, which require in-depth monitoring and protections.
Location impacts the amount and quality of opportunities for vulnerability assessors. Metropolitan areas and densely populated states — California , New York , and Maryland — employed the most professionals and paid the highest vulnerability assessor salaries.
Location also affects the types of specializations and duties available. Places with extensive finance industries, for example, provide more opportunities for vulnerability assessors who understand the risks and threats for financial systems and data in particular.
While choosing a work location based on opportunity can improve employment results, location can have detractors. For example, the cost of living varies by city and state. Some of the most desirable job locations come with expensive living costs.
Should You Become a Vulnerability Assessor?
The rapid growth in organizational data and the reliance on advanced technologies has significantly increased the demand for vulnerability assessment and management. A report from the Brainy Insights projects a 9% compound annual growth rate for this market between 2020 and 2030.
Vulnerability assessors use a specialized set of tools and methods to identify system and network risks and weaknesses. Professionals who want to test and improve security practices and software might be best suited for this field.
As they develop expertise and leadership skills, assessors can advance into vulnerability or computer systems management positions .
Vulnerability assessors could face a great deal of competition, especially for the most desirable positions. The evolving cybersecurity field and constantly growing threats can be demanding and challenging to stay on top of. As a result, professionals likely need continuing education to remain competent and competitive.
How to Prepare for a Career in Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability assessors can take many paths, but starting with a degree in computer science or a related field may provide the most solid footing. When choosing a program, look for one that offers vulnerability and risk assessment training.
If available, a program specialization or internship related to vulnerability assessment could be most effective.
Once employed, assessors often need to continue their training, ensuring their skills and credentials remain relevant. Learners can achieve this through cybersecurity certifications or cybersecurity bootcamps with flexible schedules that accommodate working professionals.
Assessors can also do their own research to identify new information, technologies, and approaches to help them do their jobs better.
To best avoid daunting and stressful study and workloads, consider tackling these professional improvements through gradual steps, rather than in large intensive chunks.
Learn More About Vulnerability Assessors
What Is a Vulnerability Assessor?
How to Become a Vulnerability Assessor
Salary and Career Outlook for Vulnerability Assessors
Vulnerability Assessor Certifications
Professional Spotlight: Jeff Warling
What previous STEM or cyber-related experience did you have, if any, and what prompted your journey to work in vulnerability assessment?
My career started almost 10 years ago as an Incident Response Analyst/Intern. Over the course of five years, I proved myself repeatedly in difficult incident response deployments with Fortune 500 companies, while moving up the ranks towards a Team Lead of Incident Response (IR).
Fast forward after another four years working with other MSSPs and MDR services, I transformed my career from IR Team Lead to Senior Cyber Security Analyst, to Senior Cyber Security Engineer, to Concierge Security Engineer, and now Manger over Concierge Services, where we help secure customer environments and assess vulnerabilities, as well as improve our customers' overall security posture.
If you specialize in a particular subject or work in a particular industry, what prompted this choice and how did it evolve?
I’ve always been fascinated with the "how" of the world around me. From taking apart electronic toys as a child, to deconstructing an incident timeline as an adult, I developed a mindset that revolved around investigating.
It started with solving “how” and later the foundations of “how” to investigate followed — "Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why." This investigational foundation still plays a heavy part when analyzing my customers’ environments and developing security strategies.
It is the most thrilling part of my career. As a manager, I still get to do those things, but now I have the absolute pleasure of walking others through that discovery phase in their career.
For whom do you think this career is a good fit? Why?
I think this career fits those who are never settled with just answering one piece of the puzzle. Complacency, mixed with a bit of good intentions, often leads to huge gaps in knowledge, security, purpose, even personal joy. If you are naturally inquisitive, driven, and passionate, this career is yours!
What educational path did you take to work in vulnerability assessment? What certifications or tests did you need to pass, if any, to enter and/or progress in the field?
I am proud to say that I have no degree or certification to my name, only a high school diploma. I progressed in my career through perseverance, achievements, and experience.
Granted, studying for a degree would have helped fill in some of my initial technical gaps, but it was not my focus. I will add that while I did study for certifications, I never tested for them; I had gained the knowledge I needed through just being inquisitive and retaining what I had studied.
I think this career fits those who are never settled with just answering one piece of the puzzle.
What's a typical day like for you?
Even as a manager, my role has not changed much from my initial role at Arctic Wolf as a Concierge Engineer. At the start of every day, my team and I discuss the previous day's events, what we accomplished vs. what we had left over, the current day's goals, this week's goals, active investigations, and then we divide and conquer while keeping constant communication.
A large portion of our day is based off contextually earned strategizing our security posture improvement plans and presenting them to our clients. This involves proactive analysis of our customers’ data, as well as creating an overhead-view for our customers so the plan is digestible.
What is your favorite part of being a vulnerability assessor? The most challenging part?
My favorite part is hearing our customers' delight when we find a vulnerability, threat, or risk in their environment that they had not known about.
The challenging part is continuing to own the relationship and partnership with the customer, and overcoming technical issues while still securing their environment.
What advice do you have for individuals considering becoming a vulnerability assessor?
Never stop asking questions. In the initial part of my career there were times that I just coasted from paycheck to paycheck. I stopped learning. I stopped asking "How" or "Why."
Never lose your drive to serve people and to solve the mystery in front of you. Through that drive, you will find your joy in the passion you create. This amazing phenomenon rubs off on others around you which leads to a cumulative drive towards greatness, together.
What do you wish you had known before becoming a vulnerability assessor?
You must create a healthy work-life balance. You must make time for your happiness and peace of mind outside of your job. You find this happy medium when you invest yourself in companies that invest in you. Don’t settle — not for yourself, and not for the company you work for. Strive! It's worth it!
With almost a decade experience, Jeff Warling currently serves as Concierge Services Manager at Arctic Wolf. Throughout his career, Jeff has worked with multiple security vendors within the MDR and MSSP industry. In recent years, Jeff has led numerous Incident Response investigations for Fortune 500 companies while threat hunting and conducting network analysis. He has spent his career focusing on security posture improvement through conducting Vulnerability Management, Disaster Recovery Planning, Incident Response Planning, & SOC best practices.
FAQ About the Day-to-Day of Vulnerability Assessors
What is a vulnerability assessor?
Vulnerability assessors are cybersecurity specialists who scan computer systems, programs, and networks looking for potential risks and targets. They analyze and report their findings to help organizations shore up weaknesses.
Is vulnerability assessment a stressful job?
Vulnerability assessors often work a consistent schedule, conducting planned and regular scans. Depending on the number of vulnerabilities detected and the extent of remediation required, their workloads can get heavy. They may also need to respond to emergencies, which can lead to stressful situations.
How long does it take to do a vulnerability assessment?
The length of a vulnerability scan can take a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the systems or assets being scanned and the methods used. The time required for analysis, reporting, and remediation can vary considerably but may take days to complete.
Do vulnerability assessors have the same duties as vulnerability engineers?
Vulnerability engineers oversee the entire vulnerability management system, including establishing and implementing the assessment processes and responses for organizations. They may also take the lead on developing safe and effective cybersecurity practices and educating and training users.
Featured Image: Nattakorn Maneerat / iStock / Getty Images Plus
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