How to Get Hands-On Experience in Cyber Security
By Saheli Roy Chowdhuri
This is the best time to take up a career in Cyber Security! The ever-growing market for experts in the field has opened new avenues for employment with lucrative salaries and growth options. Once associated solely with government and security establishments, Cyber Security has now forayed into the mainstream with industries such as finance, health care, retail, and manufacturing, by hiring trained professionals to safeguard their systems. In principle, you don’t need the experience to get started in the field.
Cyber Security training alone can only get you so far since the field is all about practical application of knowledge. Hands-on experience can go a long way in honing your skills and putting you on solid footing for accelerated career growth.
Here’s how you can gain hands-on Cyber Security experience before landing your first job:
Look for the right course
Cyber Security curriculum today is being constantly challenged to move from traditional methods of classroom teaching to a more into interactive approach towards learning aimed at helping students hone their problem-solving skills. A hands-on approach where you can tackle real-world problems helps develop critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation which, in turn, prepare you for a future-ready Cyber Security career.
Before signing up for a program, pay attention to the Cyber Security course content to ensure you get enough opportunities to attack and defend threats of different kinds. This would help you to gain enough experience in handling similar security issues in your professional capacity.
Another avenue for gaining hands-on Cyber Security experience is lab simulation activities where virtual equipment is used to let budding professionals access a physical network of computers and work their way through the system to identify and mitigate challenges.
Some of the best Cyber Security courses include this feature in their curricula, allowing under-training Cyber Security experts to get a feel of working in traditional labs as well as transcend geographical boundaries to share resources and know-how with other like-minded individuals.
Tinker around with devices
A career in Cyber Security goes beyond just identifying and mitigating threats. It also always entails keeping systems robust and ensuring their smooth functioning. This requires an in-depth understanding of equipment hardware and software.
Learn the ropes by getting your hands on some old equipment, practising programming on your system or developing a full stack networking project. This will allow you to be well-versed with the workings of different computer systems and programs and work your way around these without risking damage to company resources when you land your first job or project.
From your aunt who cannot set a secure Wi-Fi password to NGOs that cannot afford to invest in Cyber Security protocols, there is no dearth of opportunities that will let you put the skills acquired in a Cyber Security course into practise. People with no IT background or knowledge are often sceptical about DIY tech solutions for even solving the most basic problems.
Leverage these opportunities to gain some hands-on experience in your field of work. Be it something as simple as securing a Wi-Fi router or correcting basic Cyber Security flaws for a small organisation, every opportunity to put your knowledge to practice will help you hone your skills.
Become an intern
Internships can be a great way for landing some hands-on experience in a real work environment, and a get a whiff of the methods of the industry you are going to foray into. Look for internships that do not place technical certifications as a prerequisite. This way you can gain some actual work experience while pursuing a Cyber Security course and build up skill sets necessary for propelling in the right career path.
Do not fret over the pay (or the lack of it) and hours at this stage. Your single-minded focus should be to gain as much hands-on experience as possible, as it can give you a certain edge over your peers when applying for a job. If your work as an intern is impressive, you can even convert this temporary gig into a full-time employment avenue.
Immersing yourself entirely in the pursuit of gaining as much knowledge when pursuing Cyber Security training and then actively seeking opportunities for practical application of this knowledge is the way to build up a skill set expected of a future-ready Cyber Security expert.