10 essential skills for cyber security contractors

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Increasingly when speaking with IT contractors, many tend to tell me they’ve dabbled in numerous areas of cyber security – especially as senior security members of a client’s workforce or as Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs).

Based on these interesting conversations, and informed by placements we’re seeing, I have managed to identify the top 10 essential skills for cyber security contractors, writes Georgina Day, head of cyber security at staffing giant Leap29.

1. Analytics 

Cyber Security Analytics - being a combined use of technical tools to identify and protect security events that cause threats to IT systems – has got to top this 10-strong list!

Analytics is ‘done’ using historical data and real-time data. For the end-user (‘the client’), it provides results that show both the threat potential and the wellbeing of the network. So Cyber Security Analysts are key for organisations which want to make understanding the general safety of their network easier.

2. Computer Forensics

Computer Forensics includes network, mobile and digital. All of which with different purposes of course!

However the overall reason for computer forensics is data recovery and analysation.

Some real-world case studies where computer forensics have been used include Apple’s ‘trade secret theft’ by a rogue engineer, back in 2018.

3. Network Security

An understanding of network protocols, architecture, and security mechanisms is crucial for defending against network-based attacks and designing secure network infrastructures.

Securing remote access via VPNs and MFA helps ensure communication of data and risks over public networks. Confidentiality continue to be a vital aspect of network security, notably encryption which prevents unwanted access to sensitive information.

4. Threat Intelligence

The clue here is in the name! It’s the usage of software to provide information on data that firms/ individuals need to be able to detect, block and eliminate security threats. The result? Allowing stricter data protection and less access from external parties.

This practice can be done as part of a SOC, or an individual analyst/architect within a firm.

5. Incident Response/ Forensics

IR and Forensics is essential for an individual to have to be repeatedly hired in the security space.

With IR and Forensics under your belt as a contractor, you’re in effect demonstrating the ability to handle security incidents and conduct forensic investigations. A freelance security consultant with this combo in their skillset is effectively saying they can analyse security breaches, providing a benchmark which provides as essential criteria for firms looking to identify and respond to threats effectively.

6. Communication

This isn’t what you expected perhaps in a recruiter’s list of 10 essential skills for cyber security contractors!

However communication is vital when working in security. I’d go so far as saying that without being a clear, smooth and/or effective communicator, none of the other technical skills in this list will be effective for very long!

User awareness of your role and educating individuals within the organisation, including engaging with stakeholders if you are a senior consultant or involved in a wider security response group, further to reporting incidents and disclosure agreements, while potentially having to manage vendor relationships and GDPR compliance, is all key.

7. Operating Systems

Operating systems serve as the foundation of IT infrastructure and play a critical role in ensuring the security, reliability, and integrity of systems and data.

Being able to understand operating system security principles and implementing appropriate security measures is an essential component of a comprehensive and well-oiled cybersecurity strategy.

Operating systems are the foundation for running apps and executing tasks, allowing access to security controls and user access management as well as providing support for virtual technologies, facilitating departments to reduce both overall risk and the free movement of attackers.  Firms we supply now manage their entire security departments with it!

8. Cloud

It is hard to imagine a world without the cloud in 2024!

Firms we supply now manage their entire security departments with it!

Why is it important?

The cloud allows for continuous security updates and patch management which helps organisations stay ahead of emerging risk. It offers built-in security features such as IAM and threat detection – allowing companies to secure their cloud deployments with no need for external investments (thus saving money in the long term).

Cloud computing offers robust disaster recovery, allowing the replication of data across different geographical areas.

Overall, without the cloud a lot of companies wouldn’t have a ‘hub’, or a  ‘backup’ – making it an essential component for modern security organisations.

9. Software Testing

The goal of software testing (an area which will soon be demystified on Free-Work) is to find errors, gaps, or missing requirements in comparison to the actual requirements.

Software testing is definitely a crucial aspect of security; it allows individuals to identify vulnerabilities, access security controls, identify gaps in defences, ensure configuration is secure, detect malicious behaviour and prevent data breaches – all of which very neatly sum up cyber security!

10. Compliance/Auditing

You very rarely see a job advert in technical security without aspects of compliance and auditing mentioned, even at junior levels!

GDPR/ HIPAA/ PCI DSS/ ISO27001 all sing under the regulatory requirements hymn sheet.

For many organisations, particularly corporations, compliance is more than a nice-to-have and is non-negotiable, meaning any failure to comply can lead to the eventual closing of entire companies – making it high up on the importance list.

Data protection and privacy provide regulations to enhance customer trust and portray confidence from organisations to handle individuals data securely.

Third-party assurance and continuous improvement falls within this bracket also, helping organisations ensure their partners are complying with the relevant requirements as well as providing the ability to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of their cyber security and identify areas that can be improved.

10 essential skills for cyber security contractors? They’re 10 security must-haves for organisations too

Upon reflection, cyber security wouldn’t be what it is if even just one of the above skills or areas were to be removed; all ten ingredients are needed to create, maintain and ensure a robust, functional security programme – as a contractor, and as an organisation.

Written by

Georgina Day


As head of cyber security at Leap29, Georgi plays a key role in client and candidate management within the Cyber Security market. Through her years working within the tech space, covering IT support, cloud Infrastructure and cyber security, Georgi has developed a strong understanding of the market and a wide network of qualified professionals. She prides herself on finding candidates that not only have the technical knowledge and experience, but who also drive business growth for her clients.

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