Cybersecurity Architect: Advanced Security Career for Tech Pros | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

While down from its peak, the number of open U.S. cybersecurity jobs remains robust. Cyberseek, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NICE program, Lightcast and CompTIA, still lists 448,000 open security positions across the private and public sectors.

While the vast majority of these open cybersecurity positions are either entry-level or mid-tier, there remains a significant need for tech talent to fill more advanced-level positions that fall under the executive level. For instance, the role of cybersecurity architect continues to gain traction with nearly 5,000 open positions within the U.S., according to Cyberseek data.

Whether a tech professional is starting out or in the middle of their career, preparing for a more advanced career is crucial, especially for those looking to climb the management ladder. One reason the cybersecurity architect role appeals to many is that this particular job combines business acumen and technician know-how to ensure an organization’s security, data is protected and compliance regulations are met.

This type of job appeals to tech pros who know technology, but are also interested in the business side with an eye toward greater management or executive roles.

“A cybersecurity architect needs to speak at a business level and a technical level. It is a balancing act of understanding multiple technical domains and business processes.  Architects live in the unknown and have to translate that unknown into something that is clearly understood and actionable,” said Chris Morales, CISO at security firm Netenrich. “Most critically, it requires the ability to clearly communicate and document in detail various technical and business components to be used by multiple parties who act on this information.”

To start preparing tech and security pros for the advanced career of a cybersecurity architect, cyber experts and industry insiders weighed what skills, knowledge, certifications and educational background potential candidates will need to compete and get noticed by hiring managers.

Cybersecurity Architect: What Does It Mean

Since organizations have various and specific needs when it comes to security, there is no one exact definition of a cybersecurity architect. Besides cybersecurity architect, the position is called information security architect, security architect, IAM architect and principal architect, according to Cyberseek.

Overall, a cybersecurity architect is responsible for major portions of an organization’s day-to-day security. This includes protecting networks and internal data as well as anticipating and preparing for cyber threats, including malware, phishing, ransomware and data breaches.

A cybersecurity architect is also “likely to attend frequent meetings with managers, staff from other departments or their own IT teams where they need to be capable of listening to the needs and concerns of others. They may also spend time on the phone with vendors and technology experts outside their organizations,” according to a definition published by Augusta University, a public research university with an extensive cybersecurity program.

In its public listing for a cybersecurity architect, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) noted that one of the major responsibilities of the job is to “develop/integrate cybersecurity designs for systems and networks with multilevel security requirements or requirements for the processing of multiple classification levels of data primarily applicable to government organizations.”

While the role of cybersecurity architect has previously been undervalued, these positions are becoming more crucial to organizations as the cost of recovering from a data breach or ransomware attack increases and affects the bottom line, said Agnidipta Sarkar, vice president for CISO advisory at ColorTokens.

“By investing in a cybersecurity architect, organizations can prevent costly breaches and protect their critical digital infrastructure, regardless of whether they operate in the cloud or not. Ideally, this position should be filled by a mid to senior-level expert in cybersecurity and digital business,” Sarkar told Dice. “Cybersecurity architects should possess a deep understanding of all operational aspects of a digital computing environment and how they interact with each other. It is essential that this individual has spent a significant amount of time, around eight to 10 years, studying how successful enterprises operate in complex digital environments.”

Since the cybersecurity architect role sits between the technology and business sides of an organization, there is no one clear starting path and candidates will eventually have to master each side, Morales added.

“A cyber security architect requires learning multiple functions of the business and is by definition a senior role. There is no direct path to architecture but there is a certain level of natural curiosity and ability to work independently required,” Morales told Dice.

Cybersecurity Architect: Skills, Certifications and Pay

Since cybersecurity architect is an advanced-level position, the job commands a better-than-average starting pay with Cyberseek listing the average salary as $149,344.

For those seeking out the position, Cyberseek noted that employers are looking for a college background – 47 percent of organizations require a bachelor’s degree while 53 percent ask for a graduate degree.

Beyond education, the Cyberseek data listed five certifications hiring managers and organizations require from candidates. These include:

For those looking to specialize, companies, such as Microsoft, offer their own certifications. 

Hiring managers also look for candidates with specific skill sets. The most desirable include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • IT Security Architecture
  • Computer Science
  • Identity And Access Management
  • Vulnerability
  • Authentications
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Application Security

Another skill Morales believes helps in creating the right resume for a cybersecurity architect is understanding the concept of SABSA—a methodology for developing a risk-driven enterprise IT architecture. 

“Understanding and certification in architecture frameworks like SABSA help. Understanding development process, IT practices and modeling,” he added.

Cybersecurity Architect: How to Get Started

While there is no specific career path that tech pros can follow to a cybersecurity architect position, the field is wide open enough for those with various experience and expertise to work toward the goal.

“The cybersecurity architect can get their start in one of the preparatory roles, learning about security monitoring and moving onto triaging alerts and gaining an understanding of vulnerabilities and how to remediate them,” Omri Weinberg, co-founder and chief revenue officer at security firm DoControl, told Dice. “From there, the architect identifies a path of interest and works toward a specific area to further craft their expertise. Areas of concentration for the architect can include cloud infrastructure or network design, application architecture, penetration testing or forensics.”

The progression of a cybersecurity architect can also come from one of the traditional areas of infrastructure or applications, where the engineer decides to move from one of the conventional roles into the cybersecurity industry and utilize their skills to defend against cybercriminals, Weinberg added.

Weinberg added that those seeking education opportunities and additional certifications can pick up the skills to start along the road to a cybersecurity architect career. He noted, however, that much of the know-how comes from hands-on learning.

“While there are training classes and certifications for each step of the architects’ path, many of these individuals learn on the job and have an aptitude for understanding complex environments at the deepest level,” Weinberg said. “This is why the cybersecurity architecture is a position that is always in high demand.”

Since a cybersecurity architect’s responsibilities include planning, designing and driving cyber defense specifications for the digital infrastructure, tech professionals who want to move into the position must focus on identifying, containing and defending against known and emerging cyber threats, said ColorToken’s Sarkar.

This requires tech pros to master various systems. These can include traditional IT networks and infrastructure, industrial control systems or cloud environments.

“It is crucial for every cybersecurity architect to be aware of the context of the digital environment and understand the potential impact of any changes on its defensibility,” Sarkar said. “While they may not directly perform cybersecurity assessments or testing, their opinion must be sought by the organization once such reports are available. The true value of this role lies in their ability to guide the organization in making the right investments to minimize the impact of cyberattacks.”

Understanding how systems function is crucial to the cybersecurity architect’s role, said Lionel Litty, chief security architect at Menlo Security.

“This helps with quickly getting a deep understanding of what is being architected, seeing the challenges from the perspective of the system builders, and being able to participate in modifying aspects of the architecture,” Litty told Dice. “This means going beyond just pointing out flaws.”


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