How to Transition from a QA Analyst to Cyber Security Analyst By: Alana Walker January 23, 2024 Estimated reading time: 8 minutes. Cyber security is like, so hot right now. In all seriousness, cyber security is one of Canada's fast-growing industries. It offers incredible growth opportunities, easy upward movement, a hefty salary, and flexible working hours. It's also a job you can feel good about as you are on the front lines of protecting people's private and valuable information. While anyone can break into cyber security with the proper training and qualifications, quality assurance (QA) analysts have an advantage as they already possess specific skills that are used in cyber security. To ensure we're bringing you top-tier information, we reached out to Jake Munro, our Lead Cyber Security Instructor who has transitioned from a different tech position. Consider this your how-to guide to making the switch. In this article: Why transition to cyber security? What is the difference between QA analyst and cyber security? How can I learn cyber security? Getting the right technical skills Practise your skills Networking and building a portfolio Gaining practical experience Cyber security certifications Why transition to cyber security? Cyber security is a fast-growing industry in Canada. Ali Ghorbani, the University of New Brunswick's computer science faculty dean and founding director of the Canadian Institute for Cyber security, warns that the country could be heading for a shortage of professionals. While this fact is worrying, this leaves the door open for new talent to step up and defend Canada's digital borders. Ghorbani mentions a need for homegrown talent, meaning it's a great time for those based in Canada to transition into cyber security. What is the difference between QA analyst and cyber security? While QA analysis and cyber analysis are two different jobs, some overlap exists. Generally speaking, QA primarily focuses on ensuring the quality and functionality of software applications. At the same time, cyber security is concerned with protecting computer systems, networks, and data from security threats. Munro adds, "A QA analyst would specifically test the security of new features or new applications, while a security analyst would monitor those applications for attacks or threats that are ongoing." Is QA related to cyber security? According to Munro, yes. In fact, any application built needs to be QA'd from a cyber security standpoint. With that in mind, let's go over some shared skills that may be transferable from QA to cyber security: 1. Analytical proficiency QA: Analyzing software requirements. Cyber security: Analyzing security threats and incidents. 2. Problem-solving aptitude QA: Identifying and solving software defects. Cyber security: Resolving security issues and breaches. 3. Technical acumen QA: Understanding software systems and architectures. Cyber security: Familiarity with network and system architectures. 4. Coding and scripting skills QA: Writing and executing test scripts. Cyber security: Using coding and scripting for security tasks. 5. Communication proficiency QA: Collaborating with cross-functional teams. Cyber security: Effectively communicating security risks to non-technical stakeholders. 6. Risk assessment capability QA: Assessing risks related to software quality. Cyber security: Conducting risk assessments in information security. Munro adds attention to detail to this list as picking out fine details easily hidden is a very important skill. By emphasizing these transferable skills, you can showcase your suitability for a cyber security role and demonstrate the relevance of your QA experience in the security domain. When applying, don't forget to highlight any relevant soft skills. Even if you have yet to work in cyber security, demonstrating to employers that you are adaptable, a natural problem-solver, a team player, and a strong communicator will help you stand out from the competition. How can I learn cyber security? Generally, there are three pathways to learning any tech-related career: self-study, traditional university education, and tech bootcamps. Let's go over them in more detail. Self-study Regardless of whether you want to pursue a cyber security career long-term, picking up essential skills on your own time can be an excellent way to test if the job is for you, and if you end up transitioning to cyber security, it shows employers that you take the initiative and are enthusiastic about the role. Pros: Can be done on your schedule and is the cheapest option as there are many free or inexpensive online courses. Cons: The lack of deadlines may be challenging for those benefitting from a more structured learning approach. University Many universities offer cyber security programs or programs in a related field. You may also be able to pass directly to a post-graduate program depending on your experience as a QA analyst. Master's specializations can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years. Pros: Looks good on a resume and can add legitimacy to your application. Cons: Longest option on this list and the most expensive. If you choose to pursue a bachelor's in cyber security, you'll spend 4+ years to change careers. Bootcamp Bootcamps, like Lighthouse Labs Cyber Security Program, offer a fast-tracked way into the tech sphere. You'll gain the industry skills employers seek, and most come with career and mentoring support. Pros: Good cost-to-program length ratio. It is usually the best option for those changing careers as they enter the job market quickly. Cons: Bootcamps are very intense and require a lot of focus and dedication to complete a large amount of material in a shorter time. Become a Cyber Security Professional in as little as 12 weeks! Classes start soon and there's room for you. Sign up Now Is cyber security a future-proof job? Cyber security is a great choice if you're looking for long-term job security. Cyber threats are only increasing in frequency and sophistication. Almost every industry is looking for employees who can protect their private information. With a predicted shortage of cyber security professionals on the horizon, now is a great time to join this exciting career path. Getting the right technical skills Adding the right tools to your portfolio will work in your favour with employers. It's also vital to showcase projects where you've put these skills into practice. Here are 10 essential technical skills required in cyber security: 1. Network security Understanding network protocols, firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and other network security measures. 2. Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing Identifying and assessing security vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications. Conducting penetration tests to simulate attacks and uncover weaknesses. 3. Cryptography Knowledge of encryption algorithms, secure key management, and cryptographic protocols to protect data in transit and at rest. 4. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Proficiency in using SIEM tools to collect, analyze, and respond to security events and incidents. 5. Secure coding practices Understanding and implementing secure coding practices to develop software resistant to security threats, including input validation, session management, and error handling. 6. Incident response and forensics Ability to respond to security incidents, conduct forensic analysis, and determine the root cause of security breaches. 7. Identity and Access Management (IAM) Implementing and managing access controls, authentication, and authorization mechanisms to ensure only authorized users have access to resources. 8. Web application security Knowledge of common web application vulnerabilities and techniques to secure web applications, including secure coding practices and web application firewalls. 9. Operating system security Securing operating systems by implementing proper configurations, patch management, and access controls. 10. Security assessments and audits Conducting security assessments, audits, and risk assessments to evaluate the overall security posture of an organization, system, or network. These skills contribute to a well-rounded cyber security professional. Keep in mind that cyber security is dynamic, and staying updated on emerging threats, technologies, and best practices is crucial for success. Does QA do security testing? Yes, QA analysts often conduct security testing as part of their broader testing activities. Security testing is usually incorporated to identify and address potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the system. QA professionals may conduct various security testing methods, such as penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and security code reviews, to assess the resilience of software applications against security threats. Practise your skills Getting hands-on experience, even before making the formal switch, can greatly improve your cyber security knowledge and skills. Here are a few platforms to get started: HacktheBox HacktheBox enables users to test their skills against real-life challenges. Perfect for those who learn best through practical, hands-on experiences. CyberSecLabs CyberSecLabs is a platform that contains a range of training videos for varying expertise levels. Whether you're a complete beginner or a seasoned professional, you can keep the learning going. Try2Hack Try2Hack is a series of games based on real-world attacks. If you're a gamer, this platform is peak cyber edutainment. HackXpert HackXpert provides free labs and training materials. Available at a lower cost, it's an excellent platform for exploring cyber security without a hefty initial investment. echoCTF echoCTF will put both your offensive and defensive cyber security know-how to the test. This is a great place to start if you want to round out your skills. Networking and building a portfolio Although cyber security roles are in demand in Canada, the job market can still be competitive. The best cyber security talent network themselves, putting a face to their resume and portfolio. In-person and Meetup events in your area can get you recognized, but online is where a lot of the action happens. Munro agrees, adding that being active on LinkedIn is a great place to start. "Networking in cyber security is very important and common. Having a strongly developed LinkedIn profile is the place to start. Making connections online and posting about cyber security related topics will help get your name out there and help you get found by recruiters easier. Many recruiters go to LinkedIn to find new cyber security talent." Gaining practical experience Beyond practising independently (a big plus to show off to employers), every cyber security professional aims to land that first role. When it comes to interviewing and landing that entry-level position, Munro says to place the focus on your most vital soft skills. "No one is going to expect you to know everything in cyber security, but focusing on how you speak about topics will help. Also, being able to say 'I don't know, but I can figure it out for you' is a big thing employers look for." Cyber security certifications Every cyber security professional, regardless of background or training, must acquire the right certifications for their chosen role and keep them updated. We've listed the top five below, but it's essential to do your research to know which ones are required for your chosen career path. Don't be afraid to reach out to a mentor or someone with more experience in your dream role and ask which certifications they have, how they decided which ones were necessary, and course-related study tips. 1. CompTIA Security+ Recognized globally, Security+ validates foundational cyber security skills. It's ideal for entry-level professionals, covering topics like network security, cryptography, and threat management. Munro adds that this is the first certificate to add to your arsenal. "It shows employers you're willing to learn to get better in your role." 2. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) CEH certifies individuals as ethical hackers, equipping them with the skills to identify and fix vulnerabilities. It is valuable for penetration testers and security professionals seeking hands-on hacking expertise. 3. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) CISSP is a globally recognized certification validating expertise in various security domains, providing professionals with advanced knowledge and skills to design, implement, and manage cyber security programs. 4. ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) CISM focuses on information security management, certifying governance, risk management, and compliance professionals. It's valuable for those aiming at leadership roles in cyber security. 5. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) OSCP is highly practical, certifying penetration testers with hands-on skills. It's renowned for its real-world challenges, enhancing professionals' ability to effectively identify and exploit security vulnerabilities. Wrapping up Switching from one job to another, even if the two share similar backgrounds, can feel like a considerable risk. You may be questioning whether it's worth it. However, even a risky change is worth it when you think you've gone as far as possible in your role or feel your passions evolving. With the right technical and soft skills, professional training, networking, certifications, and, most importantly, a supportive community (be it family, friends, or peers), you can find a flourishing career that aligns with your goals and values. It's well worth the switch. Take the first step in learning more about our Cyber Security Program by checking out the curriculum.