Cybersecurity Engineer vs Analyst: What’s the Difference?

It’s been projected that cybercrimes will cost the world $10.5 trillion per year by 2025. The best way to prevent your organization from contributing to those costs is to have an effective cybersecurity team. 

When you’re making a cybersecurity hire, it’s important to know how each role contributes to keeping your data safe. While both engineer and analyst are focused on protecting the network from cyberattacks, their strategy, expertise, and responsibilities can differ. But their combined efforts are vital in protecting your network. 

So, let’s look at what separates engineer from analyst and how to hire each for your cybersecurity team! 

Cybersecurity Engineer 

For network defense that is practical, thorough, and tailored to your organization’s needs, you need a cybersecurity engineer. Also known as a network or information security engineer, they can keep your network safe from a variety of cyberattacks such as hacking, malware, and even insider threats.  

How? By designing, implementing, and troubleshooting cybersecurity architecture and solutions for your network. To do this, they identify threats and vulnerabilities within systems and software through penetration tests and audits. Once they’ve performed their assessments, they design the solutions your organization will use to keep data secure.  

They will also continually assist with troubleshooting and finding ways to improve security infrastructure through upgrades. Engineers will work with other members of the cybersecurity team to identify these upgrades, based on testing and assessments. 

Top Skills for a Cybersecurity Engineer 

Because engineers handle the design of cybersecurity solutions, they need several hard or technical skills, as well as certifications. Here is a list of important hard skills for engineers, plus a few soft skills: 

  • Identity and Access Management principles  
  • Proficiency in coding languages such as Python, C++, Java, and more 
  • Extensive knowledge of database platforms and operating systems 
  • Networking skills such as subnetting, routing protocols, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and encryption techniques 
  • Problem-solving  
  • Communication 
  • Project management  

Don’t forget to include required skills and certifications in your cybersecurity engineer job description.

Interviewing an Engineer 

Designing the processes and software that keep your network safe is a major responsibility, so it’s important to know how to vet candidates for this role. Here’s a list of cybersecurity engineer interview questions to get you started! 

  • What are encoding, encryption, and hashing? 
  • Can you explain a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack? 
  • What is Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) and when would you use it? 
  • When have you used cross-site scripting? 
  • Have you ever experienced a serious breach, and if so, how did you respond? 

Cybersecurity Analyst 

Cybersecurity analysts are useful following design implementation and they’re a huge asset in maintaining the integrity of your network defenses. They will analyze designs and solutions created by cybersecurity engineers to assess their effectiveness and/or identify vulnerabilities to potential threats. 

To combat cyberattacks, these individuals must stay vigilant of most network activity. They are responsible for monitoring security incidents, risks, and network traffic. In addition to surveying these processes, analysts will:  

  • Investigate incidents and respond to events in real time 
  • Install firewalls and encryption programs 
  • Create plans to fix vulnerabilities 
  • Develop and promote best security practices 
  • Conduct threat research to predict future risks or attacks 

Like the engineer, the analyst assesses and identifies threats to network security and evaluates how successfully the network has been secured. However, the analyst is doing this to determine weaknesses within existing designs so that they can work with other cybersecurity experts to plan and execute upgrades.  

Top Skills for a Cybersecurity Analyst

Analysts also need to be well-versed in all security principles and possess certain cybersecurity certifications. However, they need less experience in design and more experience in network protection. Here are some skills to look out for in your next cybersecurity analyst: 

  • Incident analysis, reporting, and response 
  • Risk assessments and penetration testing 
  • Intrusion detection software and systems 
  • Network security control  
  • Threat research  
  • Knowledge of best practices and regulatory guidelines 
  • Collaboration and communication 
  • Risk management 

Interviewing an Analyst 

Maintaining the solutions that protect your organization’s network is equally as vital as designing them. Here are a few interview questions to help you hire a knowledgeable cybersecurity analyst. 

How would you monitor multiple systems at once? 

Where would you use an intrusion detection system (IDS) versus an intrusion prevention system (IPS)? 

A server has become compromised, and the server owner wants to shut it down to prevent future threats. Why might this be a bad idea? 

Phishing attempts that appear to be from internal employees are actually coming from the outside. Is there an easy way to flag these emails? 

How would you initiate an upgrade—from finding the vulnerability to collaborating with other teams? 

Engineer vs Analyst: Who Do You Need for Your Team?  

The key difference between cybersecurity engineer and analyst is this: Engineers design and implement security architecture, designs, and solutions while analysts monitor their effectiveness and help find ways to improve them.  

The key similarity is that both are working to prevent your network security from failing. The engineer is responsible for engineering data protection measures and the analyst will analyze them to ensure the network is secure. But because they’re both central to different parts of the network lifecycle, both the analyst and engineer are strategic hires to your cybersecurity teams. 

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