Information security officers monitor an organization’s IT system, trying to identify any possible threats to security. After noticing any vulnerabilities, an information security officer will then establish protocols for resolving those threats and preventing future ones. The role is similar to that of a chief information security officer (CISO), but as it is a less senior role, the level of responsibility is lower.
Information security officers can work in a variety of private, governmental, and non-governmental organizations. To gain a job as an information security officer, you will typically need a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in cyber security or a relevant subject. It is unlikely that an employer will require a Master’s degree, although having one can still prove beneficial when it comes to your job applications and interviews. There is also the option of additional learning through certificates. These can provide you with specific skills that an information security officer should possess.
In this guide, we outline the daily responsibilities of an information security officer. We also explore other key aspects of the role, including the qualifications you need to get hired, salary expectations, and the top firms hiring information security officers.
What is an information security officer?
An information security officer protects an organization’s IT programs from security threats. Employers will hire information security officers to ensure that viruses, spyware, bots, and other harmful programs don’t compromise the organization’s computer and network systems.
Information security officers establish, monitor, and maintain security policies designed to prevent a cyber criminal from accessing sensitive data. Cyber criminals may want to use the private information of employees or consumers for purposes such as identity fraud. An information security breach of this sort can lead to disruption to the business, a loss of consumer confidence and trust, and financial loss. Security breaches can also take the form of attempts by unauthorized parties – both inside and outside the organization – to obtain passwords or other personal data.
An information security officer, therefore, plays a vital role in an organization. Their job is to make sure that private information is kept secure at all times, which helps to strengthen the credibility and reputation of the organization.
Information security officers will work full-time like other cyber security roles but they may be required to be on call to respond to emergencies, such as security risks or breaches with a far-reaching impact. It is not common to be self-employed as an information security officer.
Information security officer job description
Your precise duties as an information security officer will vary depending on all sorts of factors, including:
- The particular organization you work for
- The type of organization that has employed you (for example, commercial company, governmental body, or non-profit)
- The size of both the IT team and the organization at large
- Your educational qualifications, including degrees and certificates
- Your level of experience, including the number of years you’ve worked in IT and experience in specific areas of cyber security
- The industry that the organization belongs to (for example, working in finance can require different responsibilities than working in education)
However, information security officers – regardless of the above points – will be expected to carry out some essential tasks. These include:
- Identifying vulnerabilities in the computer and network systems, resolving them, and preventing them from occurring again in the future
- Finding and resolving security breaches and writing assessment reports on them
- Developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to secure the computing network
- Putting a business continuity or disaster recovery plan in place
- Updating information systems (for example, removing or updating the access privileges of employees who leave the company)
- Setting up duplicate data-storage facilities in a separate location, so that there is a back-up of the latest data in the event of a major security attack
- Monitoring network usage to ensure that it complies with security policies
- Keeping up to date with the latest developments in IT security standards and cyber threats
- Performing penetration tests (simulated cyber attacks) to find any flaws or vulnerabilities in the security system
- Setting computer usage protocols for the organization
- Determining which type of software and hardware the organization should use and then installing, implementing, and monitoring it
- Evaluating the effectiveness of existing security measures, such as firewalls, antivirus software, password policies, and intrusion-detection systems
- Collaborating with management and the IT team to improve overall security
- Documenting any security breaches and assessing the damage
- Educating colleagues about security software and best practices for maintaining information security
There are many tools that an information security officer can use when carrying out these duties, including:
- SolarWinds Security Event Manager
- Bitdefender Total Security
- Kali Linux
- John the Ripper
These tools will enable you to find vulnerabilities in the system that a hacker could exploit. The insights that these resources provide will allow you to develop a stronger security system.
What skills are required to become an information security officer?
An information security officer has a specific role within an IT department. For this reason, you need to have a specific skill set and knowledge base to succeed in this position. If we refer to the basic duties of information security officers listed above, you can expect to need the following hard and soft skills:
- Experience in an IT security role
- Solid knowledge of various information security frameworks and best practices to prevent a wide range of security attacks
- Excellent analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- The ability to work well within a team, which requires strong collaborative and interpersonal skills
- The ability to educate a non-technical audience about different security measures
- A willingness to continually develop one’s knowledge and skills, staying aware of the latest developments in IT security and new internal and external security threats
Keep in mind that information security officers will reach their position after having a certain number of years’ experience in an IT role. This requirement will differ depending on the employer and the demands and responsibilities of the role.
How to become an information security officer
If the description of an information security officer sounds appealing, you may be wondering how you can get hired. In this section, we outline and detail a five-step process that will lay out how to get the right education, where to look for work, and what your career path might look like.
Here’s how to become an information security officer:
- Draw up a career plan
- Look into relevant degrees
- Consider the benefits of gaining one or more certificates
- Know where to find job vacancies
- Seek to continually expand your knowledge and skillset
Let’s unpack each of these steps and clarify what they involve:
1. Draw up a career plan
First of all, you want to devise a clear and easy-to-follow career plan, describing the different aspects of your ideal career path. In this plan, you should include information on:
- How to gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and insights (including where and what to study)
- Whether you want to work for a private firm, governmental agency, or NGO
- The industry you want to work in (for example, energy, finance, transport, tech, education, or media)
- The size of the organization you’d like to work for
- The kind of work culture that appeals most to you
We recommend that you think about these aspects in terms of your personality, preferences, interests, values, and goals. You want to find a role that you will find personally fulfilling, engaging, and rewarding. If you aren’t sure about the exact requirements for a given role, you can contact recruiters directly. They will let you know of the necessary, preferred, or desirable qualifications, as well as the sort of experience you need.
2. Look into relevant degrees
To be considered for an information security officer position, you should have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. This will supply you with the fundamental skills, insights, knowledge, and abilities to successfully carry out your tasks. Degree subjects that will benefit your career path include:
- Computer science
- Software development
- Cyber security
- Information security
3. Consider the benefits of gaining one or more certificates
If you have a Bachelor’s degree already and you want to obtain an information security officer role as quickly as possible, then consider gaining one or more certificates. By diversifying and developing your education, you can ensure that you have the right skills for the position. There are many reputable certificate providers that focus on cyber security, providing training courses catered to specific skillsets.
Furthermore, an employer may require that you have one or more of these certificates before deeming you suitable to work as an information security officer. However, make sure a certificate is a definite requirement before signing up to the program. You don’t want to waste your time, money, and effort on a qualification that a particular employer doesn’t view as necessary or preferable.
The best cyber security qualifications that will enhance your employability include:
- GIAC’s (Global Information Assurance Certification) GPEN certification
- CompTIA Security+
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- SECO’s Certified Information Security Officer (S-CISO)
- CISA – Certified Information Security Auditor
- CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker Certification
- IACRB’s CPT – Certified Penetration Tester
- IARCB’s CEPT – Certified Expert Penetration Tester
- CompTIA’s PenTest+
- ESCA – EC Council Certified Security Analyst
4. Know where to find job vacancies
Once you have all the necessary qualifications and experience working in IT, you can start your job hunt. The process of finding and obtaining the ideal role can take some time. Nonetheless, you can make your job search easier by knowing where to look for information security officer vacancies. For example, if you want to work for a governmental organization, we recommend exploring the following resources:
On the other hand, you might feel that the private sector is better suited to your career path. In this case, there are plenty of fantastic firms you could work for. Some of the top companies hiring information security officers include:
- The Boeing Company
- Mantech International Corp.
- Raytheon Co.
- Booz, Allen, and Hamilton
- BAE Systems Inc.
- Northrop Grumman Corporation
You can also use the major job sites to find information security officer openings, including Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, and Glassdoor. Niche job sites like CyberSecurityJobsite.com and CyberSecJobs.com also regularly post information security officer vacancies.
Refer to the salary section below to see what the top companies are paying information security officers.
5. Seek to continually expand your knowledge and skillset
You will need a solid level of experience working in cyber security before an employer will consider you for an information security officer position. To increase the likelihood of securing a role, you could think about pursuing a Master’s degree in cyber security or another related subject. Other options for extended learning include taking courses, attending workshops and industry events, and educating yourself in your spare time.
Be sure to let your employer know of any plans to further your education. After all, they might be willing to partially or fully fund your studies since it will enhance the value that you can bring to the organization.
It’s worth studying for a Master’s if you plan to eventually gain a more senior cyber security position. For example, if you want to become a CISO, then you’ll want to refine your skills and knowledge. Certificates that will prepare you for this role include EC-Council’s Certified Chief Information Security Officer and CISM – Certified Information Security Manager. These can provide you with the specific skills that every CISO should have. Moreover, you will want to gain managerial and leadership experience in IT, as this will also prepare you for the level of responsibility that this senior occupation entails.
Information security officer salary
Before you start working toward your goal of becoming an information security officer, you might first want to know if your time and hard work will pay off. The good news is that cyber security positions usually have attractive pay packages relative to other fields. While an information security officer is not a senior position, you will be glad to know that it still involves a relatively high salary. This applies to starting salaries as well.
The average salary of an information security officer makes the investment of time and money into education well worth it. Information security officers have high salaries because of the important role they play in protecting the overall security of an organization. IT security has to operate well, otherwise a company’s sensitive data, credibility, and operations will be compromised.
PayScale is a reliable source for finding out the average salaries of information security officers as it aggregates the averages from other sites. According to PayScale:
- The average salary of an information security officer is $92,551.
- The range of pay for an information security officer is $59,000–$136,000.
There is also valuable data showing how you can expect to see your salary progress over time:
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With the right kind of education, skills, and experience, you’ll be able to aim for best-paid and most secure positions in the field. Information from PayScale highlights that some of the top employers for information security officer roles pay the following salaries:
- The Boeing Company: $104,075
- Mantech International Corp.: $90,989
- Raytheon Co.: $70,324
- Citibank: $107,841
- Booz, Allen, and Hamilton: $108,153
- BAE Systems Inc.: $81,700
- Northrop Grumman Corporation: $88,797