Ihor
Feoktistov
CTO at Relevant

How to Hire Cybersecurity Experts: A Practical Guide

#Dedicated teams

If you’re asking yourself, “How much should I spend on cybersecurity?” this Gartner report has the answer: “The amount you spend does not reflect your level of protection.” This extends to hiring cybersecurity experts as well. Often, a qualified cybersecurity expert can be hard to find locally and too expensive when you do find one.

There’s more. Cybersecurity is integral to your company’s development. The pace at which your team and business grow depends on hiring cybersecurity experts. You worry that delaying the hire is leaving your company exposed. Does that sound familiar?

In a way, hiring cybersecurity experts is a specialized skill. You need to prepare for the task, and Relevant is here to help you. This article has everything you need to know about hiring a cybersecurity expert, including the most practical and affordable choices.

Please note that the salaries and hourly rates mentioned in this article don’t equal the cost of hiring offshore software developers through outsourcing companies. Read more about how offshore software development cost is formed in another article.

there will be 2 million shortage of of cybersecurity professionals by the end of 2019

Know who you are looking for: cybersecurity roles

Before hiring cybersecurity experts, you need to know exactly what you want. Like all software roles, there’s no one description or title for a cybersecurity expert; there are only relevant skills. Even so, let’s take a look at some common roles and the skills required.

Application security engineer

This role involves writing, implementing, and testing software applications. Every line of code run in your company needs to be secure. This means they need to know multiple programming languages, including C, C#, Java, Python, Ruby, and JavaScript.

Application security engineers should have an interest in writing software and coding every day. It’s what they’ll be doing at the job. An indication is that they are part of open-source projects or have a record of making their own tools. A degree in computer science or computer engineering is definitely an advantage.

Security engineer

Security engineers create and implement processes that keep a company’s systems secure. They’re the gatekeepers against cybersecurity breaches. They must understand the industry and the organization since they need to know the workflow, evaluate security issues, and even anticipate possible issues as the organization changes or grows.

Security engineers need to be able to think fast, because they’ll be first responders in case of an incident, and a strong understanding of computer forensics will help diagnose and track the issue. It’s essential that they have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, or something similar. This is a relatively senior role, so prior experience in IT security is necessary.

Network security engineer

They’re in charge of your company’s network hardware and software. A network security engineer should be able to both establish and manage the network’s security.

This includes ensuring the firewall is up and running, setting up VPNs (virtual private networks), email security, and maintaining company servers. Managing the network means they will have to assess security risks to find vulnerabilities.

Network security engineers typically need a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) qualification.

cybersecurity talent market in the US
cybersecurity talent market in the UK

Information security analyst

Information security analysts deal directly with finding solutions for security problems. They have to be able to find security threats and come up with strategies to keep company data and networks secure from breaches. Large companies will have analysts working with specialists in networking and IT to set up security protocols.

They’ll need a bachelor’s degree in IT or network security, along with some actual experience. There are also additional qualifications, such as those related to ISO 27001 certification.

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IT security specialist

IT security specialists are the experts on an organization’s cybersecurity measures. This could range from configuring cutting-edge security software to instructing employees on data security. They also analyze past vulnerabilities to prevent future breaches.

However, cybersecurity means a range of things in an organization, so companies often have a specialist for each specific area, from web applications to networks.

IT security specialists need a degree in computer science or a related field. Relevant exams and certifications are a huge plus.

Penetration Tester

A penetration test is a simulated attack to understand just how vulnerable a system is to data loss. It’s a form of ethical hacking that then leads to solutions on how to prevent breaches. Penetration testers are experts at identifying weaknesses in digital systems and networks.

A penetration tester should ideally have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering, cybersecurity, or IT. They usually develop their skills in network-related roles before taking on full-time ones. Certifications in penetration testing, ethical hacking, and related fields add to the experience.

Security Consultants

Security consultants need to be able to analyze all security measures implemented in a company. They are required to know the best security systems and methods, study breaches, and manage the implementation of solutions. In addition to technical expertise, they must also be aware of regulatory needs and laws on data protection.

Security consultants should have a degree in computer science, information security, cybersecurity, and related fields. Some expertise in IT business and cybersecurity laws add to the role.

Security Architect

This specialist’s primary role would be to design systems that are resistant to cybersecurity threats. A security architect needs to have both hardware and software knowledge, skills in programming, and the ability to create cybersecurity policies. This is a senior role requiring experience in planning and managing computer and network security. It is also a leadership role that requires strong communication and organization skills.

Cybersecurity experts salaries in various countries

Now that you know who they are, you’ll want to know how much their skills cost. Once again, there isn’t one answer. How much you pay depends on factors ranging from seniority and expertise to where they live. The following gives you an idea, based on average salaries collected by career sites.

Cybersecurity experts salaries in various countries
*Please note that the salaries mentioned above don’t equal the cost of hiring offshore software developers through outsourcing companies. Read more about how offshore software development cost is formed in our article.
$200,000 is the cost of security attack for a company

But just knowing how much to pay isn’t enough when hiring cybersecurity experts.

Job description example for an application security engineer

There’s no such thing as a ‘safe system’ — only safer systems.” That’s from Google’s job description for a security engineer. It’s the sort of understanding that you should be looking for in your expert, apart from all the technical requirements.

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Here is a typical job description for an application security engineer. Now, this is only a basic set of requirements, with each industry having an additional set of needs.

Who we are looking for

We are looking for a skilled security engineer to work on internal and external software products with a focus on security. On a regular day, you will analyze software design and implementation to assess risks. You will work to develop standards, solve security problems, and set up defenses at each phase of the software development cycle.

Your responsibilities

  • Design security infrastructure and drive its implementation
  • Implement and test advanced software security techniques
  • Performing continuous security testing and code review to improve software security
  • Troubleshoot and debug issues
  • Design new software solutions to mitigate security vulnerabilities
  • Maintain technical documentation
  • Develop a familiarity with new tools and best practices

Your expertise

  • Experience in a cybersecurity role
  • Experience with security code assessments
  • Experience with application penetration testing
  • Software development experience in one of the following core languages: Ruby on Rails, Java, Javascript, and .NET
  • Experience with multiple programming languages such as C#, Python, Go, Rust
  • Adequate knowledge of web-related technologies and network-related protocols
  • Interest in security research and development
  • BS degree in Computer Science or related field

When you’ve found a candidate that matches the job description, you still need to ensure they’ve actually got the expertise and the personality to do what you need done.

Interview questions to ask a cybersecurity expert

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a checklist to hire cybersecurity experts? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Yes, there are some things all cybersecurity experts need to know. It’s also a bit easier when you know exactly what you want your hire to do. Nevertheless, here is a list of common questions to ask a cybersecurity expert.

Evaluating hard skills

There are so many questions to ask when hiring a cybersecurity expert, and at least some of them will be based on experience and industry. The following questions, though, are the most common ones.

Assessing soft skills

Personality and curiosity are the sort of skills you cannot provide training for. It’s inherent and often just as essential as technical skills.

  • What do you think a typical day will be like in this role?
  • How would you go about assessing risks?
  • What was the last software tool you developed, and why did you develop it?
  • What was the one thing that you achieved at your last job that you’re most proud of?
  • What tech blogs do you read to keep updated on cybersecurity?
  • How do you engage with the global cybersecurity community?

Hiring cybersecurity experts: 3 ways to go

Modern IT employment is not restricted to in-house talent. Even highly technical skills are part of the gig economy, and it’s not difficult to find great freelancers. Then there’s also the option of using another company’s assets to complete projects. Let’s look at all options you have to hire a cybersecurity expert.

Hire Freelancers

The gig economy is very organized now. Platforms for freelancers, like Upwork, Freelancer.com, YouTeam, and Toptal, offer a systematic way to find specialists. You create an account, advertise for the role, and choose from the best freelancers on the platform. There’s some good and some bad that comes with this option.

Pros of hiring a freelancer:

  • It’s cheaper than hiring in-house as you don’t pay benefits
  • You can get competitive rates in a competitive market
  • You can match specific experience to your specific needs
  • It’s perfect for one-time projects or minor updates

Cons of hiring a freelancer:

  • There’s less accountability as freelancers are individual contractors
  • There’s a greater risk of loss of data
  • Managing remote work is complex and can delay projects
  • There’s no backup as freelancers do not work in a team

Hire in-house

Hiring is difficult. It was once the only way of doing business and still makes sense for key positions. It’s a process that takes a lot of time, effort, and is a long-term investment.

Pros of hiring in-house:

  • There’s greater accountability, especially important for long-term projects
  • You often have more qualified candidates looking for long-term employment
  • There’s greater control over projects and time
  • No data needs to be handed over to an outsider

Cons of hiring in-house:

  • It costs a lot more to hire an in-house IT team, especially for smaller companies
  • You only get access to a particular expertise, unless you have a big team
  • You’ll have to invest more in tools and software required for all projects
  • You’ll have to invest in keeping the in-house team trained and up to date

Hire cybersecurity experts through IT Companies

Imagine what it would be like to have a team ready to go as soon as you decide on a project or a product. Outstaffing is an excellent option if you’ve decided an in-house team is not what you want.

This doesn’t mean there’s a limit on the scope of the project. It could be big-budget or small, short-term, or long-term. What you’re getting is reliable talent that reports to you at a much lower cost.

You select a team that fits your cybersecurity development needs, and they come with the tools and technology required to complete the task. For instance, Relevant Software provides everything you need to hire the experts you want. But they can also do all the preliminary work, cover the bases, and you only need to make the final choices.

Pros of hiring cybersecurity experts through IT companies:

  • It makes the most sense financially
  • It’s more reliable than freelancers as this is a team with a product manager
  • You still have control over the project
  • You get to choose the expertise you want
  • You don’t have to worry about the software and hardware tools needed for the project

Cons of hiring cybersecurity experts through IT companies:

  • You need to put effort into communication, choose the best channels
  • The best outstaffing company might not be in your timezone

Now, while this might seem like an easy option, there is an obvious danger. You have to find the right company. This is not easy. You can always Google “the best outsourcing firms,” but that’s not efficient.

Instead, go to a website like Clutch. It’s a trusted service that reviews B2B IT solutions providers. There’s a lot of data available that helps you choose the right one.

How we help companies get cybersecurity experts

Relevant Software works with mature cybersecurity engineers, and 92% of the team is composed of specialists with advanced degrees located in Ukraine. We provide application and cloud security as well as penetration testing services and IT security consultancy.

We know how to safeguard your company against cyberattacks. Here are some companies we have worked with, providing talent and extending our cybersecurity expertise:

  • 24Onoff: A time-tracking and project-management SaaS platform for the construction industry. The idea was to reduce paperwork for construction companies.
  • Biderator: An auction platform for construction work that connects contractors and clients and provides them with a transparent bidding process.
  • FirstHomeCoach: A UK-based FinTech company whose product navigates buyers through the complicated steps of purchasing a property and connects them with trusted advisors to help secure a mortgage, get insurance and handle all the legal paperwork. It was important to ensure that sensitive user data was always secure.

Summary

Hiring cybersecurity experts is complex because there are a number of skills to consider, and even small companies need experienced experts for cybersecurity development. The business-minded option — considering cost, time, and flexibility — would be to outsource cybersecurity expertise. So, if you’re looking for a vendor with top cybersecurity professionals and hands-on experience in the field, contact us.

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Written by
Ihor Feoktistov
CTO at Relevant
I make sure our clients get the highest code quality and the best tech talent on the market. I am also a Software Engineering Advisor for startups. Let's connect.

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