Every day brings new reports of data breaches and security vulnerabilities. Recent incidents include breaches of data belonging to customers at Madison Square Garden and current and former sailors in the U.S. Navy.

Meanwhile, ransomware and phishing schemes continue to wreak havoc on corporate networks. In one ransomware attack targeting the San Francisco’s light rail system, Muni, in late November, hackers breached ticket machines and demanded 100 bitcoins with a value of about $70,000. Rather than pay the fine or shut down the network, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency temporarily brought these machines offline, and customers enjoyed some free rides.

Companies face the challenge of finding security professionals who can accurately identify these types of threats and their origin.

“With the growing threat of data breaches, people are seeing a more significant need to invest in their security posture,” said Adam Holland, senior director of forensic services at Walmart Technology. “New breaches, vulnerabilities and technology are creating additional ways that our data can be collected, stored, accessed or abused.”

Tech Better spoke to Holland to learn about the five qualities that are critical for security professionals tackling today’s cyber threats.

Adam Holland, senior director of forensic services at Walmart Technology
Adam Holland, senior director of forensic services at Walmart Technology

1. Security mindset

With all of the data threats and information coming at security professionals in real time, companies seek people with a talent for quick critical thinking. Infosec professionals must be able to analyze potential threats to understand what’s “noise” and what isn’t.

A security mindset also means having the instincts to make a plan on the spot to keep a platform secure. As technology changes constantly throughout the day, “we have to come up with our own ways to be able to handle the information and the new technology, and quite often develop new ways ourselves within the industry,” Holland said. “That’s the kind of mindset that is really beneficial to many of the roles within information security.”

2. Trustworthiness

Security professionals have to be trusted decision-makers; poor choices and unethical behavior represent potential security threats.

“Not to dismiss any other roles within an organization, but you’re being trusted to protect very sensitive data and to access things that a lot of employees would not have access to,” Holland said. “Quite often, you have the power to make some decisions that could have a very longstanding impact on a business. You have to show that you have a history and a background that supports that level of trust.”

One area companies look at to gauge trustworthiness is social media. Social media posts live on forever, and they “create a pattern and a visual representation of your decision-making capability,” Holland said.

Be careful not to share links to malicious sites that could spread malware, or post anything that might raise concerns for a potential employer.

3. Reverse engineering

When examining a threat, security professionals must be able to take a step back and analyze how it began. One approach is to retrace software code to determine where the threat originated.

“For security, a lot of times, you’re looking at the same technology that the end user has in front of them, but you have to look at how it operates in reverse,” Holland said. “We have to figure out how it produced this, what happened to make this function occur and what happened to create this vulnerability.”

In October the U.S. government updated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, allowing cybersecurity researchers to re-engineer software without the possibility of prosecution.

4. Tinker mentality

When people have a tinker mentality, they have a motivation to experiment with technology. This trait is valuable for companies operating in an open-source environment. “They’re the gamers, the techies, the folks that are going to go home and want to build their own email servers,” Holland said.

The infosec professional is constantly examining new configurations while keeping up with infrastructure needs and changes in the regulatory environment, including HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and PCI.

To succeed in cybersecurity, professionals must have the ability to “think beyond available solutions or directions to troubleshoot and search for answers,” Holland said.

5. Solid communication about risk

Security professionals must have the ability to communicate the seriousness of a security threat to both peers and leadership and explain why certain data must be protected. “If you can not communicate that message appropriately or in a timely manner, then you can actually compound the problem,” Holland said.

Effective communication is essential as security professionals build a business case for investment in the fight against cyber threats. Decision-makers need to understand that investment must come before a major breach or intrusion occurs.

“We’re not only reactive, but also proactive in what we’re doing,” Holland said. “We need to be able to communicate the importance, the need, the risk factors, all those things that are taking place.”

Keeping vital systems secure and protecting against data breaches are among the essential requirements of security professionals at companies such as Walmart Technology. For cybersecurity opportunities at Walmart Technology, search openings.

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