Computer Security Specialists
On the Job
Computer security specialists set up plans to protect companies' information and technology from outsiders.
In 1994, a teenage boy named Richard Pryce (aka "Datastream Cowboy") broke into the U.S. Air Force computer system. The Air Force saw that sensitive files were stolen and feared the worst. It turns out that Pryce had only downloaded one or two files, and was using a very old computer. The reason for his hacking? He was convinced that he might find evidence that alien landings on Earth were true. Regardless of Pryce's reason, "hacking" is a serious danger to computer security. In fact, keeping systems safe from hackers is one of the many aspects of doing business.Computer security specialists work with companies to build secure computer systems. They question managers and staff about their current security methods. They find out what information the company wants to protect. Specialists also learn what information employees should be able to access. Computer security specialists use their findings to plan the security system. They regularly train staff on how to use security software and properly use computers to prevent any problems.
Specialists install software that protects the information. They may also make changes to existing software. Once the changes are made, specialists test the system to make sure it works. If the data are available to people over the Internet, specialists may build firewalls. These electronic "walls" keep people outside of an organization from accessing information. They may also encrypt information so that it remains confidential. Specialists also monitor virus software and update it regularly.
Once the security system is in place, computer security specialists write rules and procedures for employees to follow. Each part of the security plan must be followed for it to succeed. In some companies, specialists coordinate security for vendors and customers in addition to employees.
Specialists may also be responsible for physically locking down the hardware. They may buy equipment to secure servers, monitors, and hard drives so they cannot be removed from buildings. Larger companies may purchase metal detectors or video cameras as part of their plan.
Computer security specialists monitor data logs that report all the activity on a system. They look for any strange activity in the records. Some programs alert employees when there is a problem. Specialists evaluate security breaks and determine if there are problems or errors. If there is a problem, specialists track where the break came from and shut off the access point.
Some specialists work for temporary agencies that contract their services to different companies.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Talk with staff to learn security needs.
- Train computer users about how to use computer systems securely and to promote efficiency.
- Develop plans to protect computer files.
- Modify files or write new software to limit access.
- Test system to ensure the programs are working and the security measures are in place.
- Write reports to document security procedures.
- Coordinate computer system plan with internal and external users.
- Monitor use of data files and regulate access to protected files.
- Assess and identify breaks in security.
- Investigate security breaks to locate the problem.
- Monitor and update virus software.
- Encrypt data and install firewalls to protect confidential information.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Use computers.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Analyze data or information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Process information.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Document and record information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Think creatively.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Perform administrative tasks.
- Develop goals and strategies.
- Monitor and control resources.
- Teach others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of contact with users, managers, and vendors.
- Communicate daily by telephone, e-mail, and in person. They occasionally write letters and memos.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by other workers.
- Often work as a part of team of computer professionals.
- Always work indoors.
- Work near others, such as when sharing office space.
- Must be sure that all details are done and their work is exact. Errors could seriously endanger companies' data files.
- Regularly make decisions that strongly impact a client, company, and coworkers. They make most decisions without consulting a supervisor first.
- Set nearly all their daily tasks and goals without talking to a superior first.
- Must meet strict weekly deadlines.
- Work in a moderately competitive atmosphere.
- May repeat the same mental tasks.
- Generally work a set schedule.
- Most work 40 hours per week.
- May work evenings or weekends to meet deadlines or solve problems.
- May travel to different companies within the city or nation if working as a consultant.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.