What Is a Cloud Security Engineer?

What Is a Cloud Security Engineer? was originally published on Forage.

What Is a Cloud Security Engineer?

Cloud security engineers have become increasingly essential to companies across many industries as cloud-based cybercrime becomes more widespread and pernicious.

As a type of security engineer, cloud security engineers are responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining the security of an organization’s cloud computing environment to protect against cyberthreats.

Ready to learn more about a cloud security engineering career? In this guide, we cover:

What Does a Cloud Security Engineer Do?

Cloud security engineers use cloud technology to recognize and stop threats to cloud systems, ensure security controls are properly implemented and configured in cloud environments, and create cloud-based programs and systems.

This role includes identifying and mitigating potential cloud-based security risks and developing and implementing security controls for the cloud, such as access control, data encryption, and network security.

Other typical tasks are:

  • Ensuring compliance with relevant security regulations and standards
  • Conducting security assessments and audits to locate and address vulnerabilities
  • Setting up firewalls to protect cloud servers, cloud databases, and sites hosted in cloud infrastructure
  • Implementing security monitoring and alerting systems to detect and respond to unauthorized access and potential threats
  • Managing access to cloud platforms and cloud services

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A 2021 study by IBM found that the threat landscape in the cloud is rapidly expanding as attackers increase their focus on cloud targets. The result is that organizations across many industries are now more vulnerable than ever to losing control of their access credentials for tens of thousands of cloud-based accounts.

“In most companies, the cloud security engineer is engaged in analytics of the company’s cloud infrastructure — that is, infrastructure hosted in the cloud and adaptation of security tools,” explains Maxim Beloenko, vice president of global sales at the network security services company Qrator Labs.

Cloud Security Engineer vs. Security Engineer

A cloud security engineer is different from a security engineer  — also called a network or information security engineer. Security engineers are responsible for creating and executing general cybersecurity solutions to protect data, rather than specifically working with cloud-based security solutions.

“The cloud security engineer is directly aimed at studying the cloud infrastructure, and those specific vendors that the company chooses and provides the most secure operations in this cloud infrastructure,” Beloenko says.

Cloud security engineers can work in a wide range of industries, including IT and cybersecurity, finance and banking, health care, government, retail and e-commerce, and manufacturing. The specific industries they work in may depend on their experience level, skills, experience, location, and organizational needs.

>>MORE: Learn about the cybersecurity career path.

Cloud Security Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

Cloud security engineering is a well-paid profession, with an average base salary of over $136,000 per year, according to Payscale, and $141,000 per ZipRecruiter.

“The salary of a cloud security engineer mostly depends on education, experience, and the amount of responsibility attached to the role,” says network security engineer Andreas Grant, founder of Networks Hardware.

Location is another key factor influencing salary. For example, if you’re a cloud security engineer in San Francisco, the median base salary is around $124,00, with the potential to earn $153,00 or more per year. Your total compensation, including bonus and benefits, could reach nearly $180,000. In Tallahassee, Florida, the average base salary is just under $90,000 but could stretch to total compensation of over $132,000.

And the job outlook for this profession is excellent. Cloud security engineers have a bright future with a five-year projected job growth rate of 136%, according to CyberSeek. This is one of the fastest growth rates of all areas of cybersecurity engineering. In addition, cloud computing is the fifth fastest-growing and in-demand skill set in the U.S., and nearly 30% of cloud computing jobs require cloud cybersecurity skills.

>>MORE: What Is a Network Security Engineer?

Cloud Security Engineer Skills

Like many IT roles, cloud security engineering requires both technical hard skills and soft skills, which are more general workplace skills.

Hard Skills

In addition to understanding different operating systems, two other core skills are a solid understanding of cybersecurity and computer science principles, explains Grant. “A cloud security engineer often has to put on a detective hat, so being able to identify and troubleshoot security issues is a must.”

Beloenko notes that this role also requires knowledge of products, platforms, and services inside the cloud infrastructure for a particular vendor, such as Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, VMware, and Open Stack.

“You need excellent knowledge of the infrastructure of at least one provider in relation to all the products that are available, how they are connected, how access is organized, what typical mistakes can be made with such an organization, what threats exist for the cloud infrastructure, and how in this infrastructure of this particular vendor organizes counteractions to these potential threats,” Beloenko says.

Other technical skills essential for this role, according to full-stack software engineer Percy Grunwald, include:

  • Security best practices. A cloud security engineer should have a strong understanding of security best practices and how to apply them in a cloud environment, such as implementing access controls, data encryption, and network security.
  • Compliance knowledge. This requires familiarity with relevant security regulations and standards, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and how to ensure compliance in a cloud environment.
  • Network security expertise. You also need a strong understanding of network security concepts and technologies, such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and virtual private networks (VPNs).
  • Programming and scripting skills. You may need to write code or scripts to automate security tasks or integrate security tools into the cloud environment. Familiarity with programming languages — such as Python and Bash — can be helpful.

Soft Skills

Essential soft skills for cloud security engineers include:

“A cloud security engineer may work with a team of other security professionals, as well as with non-technical stakeholders such as business leaders and end users,” Grunwald explains. “Strong collaboration and communication skills are important for effectively working with these diverse groups.”

How to Become a Cloud Security Engineer

You can take more than one path to become a cloud security engineer. Still, in general, the career requires a combination of technical skills, hands-on experience, and a strong understanding of security best practices and regulations. “Gaining relevant education and experience — as well as earning relevant certifications — can help you build the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this field,” Grunwald says.

Here are some steps to becoming a cloud security engineer.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field

Many employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an area such as computer science, cybersecurity, or information technology. “A degree in these fields can provide a strong foundation in the technical skills needed to be a cloud security engineer,” Grunwald says.

Get Relevant Certifications

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree can be a good start — but not having a degree shouldn’t keep you from trying to get a foot in the door. “There are so many online educational resources these days that all you really need is motivation,” Grant explains. “Some of these are free, so there is really no excuse for not trying your best. Achieving certifications can get you to entry-level jobs and that’s really all you need.”

Several certifications can help you demonstrate your expertise in cloud computing and security. Certifications like the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) can help you stand out in a competitive marketplace, while adaptability and attention to detail will help you get things done, according to Grunwald.

Other popular certifications for cloud security engineers include:

  • Google Professional Cloud Security Engineer
  • Microsoft Certified Azure Security Engineer Associate
  • AWS Certified Security
  • CompTIA Cloud+
  • Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)
  • GIAC Cloud Security Automation (GCSA)

Gain Experience in Cloud Computing

Many employers also look for candidates with hands-on experience with cloud computing technologies. “You can gain this experience through internships, part-time jobs, or by working on personal projects that involve cloud computing,” Grunwald says.

>>MORE: Learn about cloud computing with PwC’s Cloud & Digital Virtual Experience Program.

Learn About Security Best Practices and Regulations

In addition to technical skills, a cloud security engineer should have a strong understanding of security best practices and relevant regulations. Grunwald recommends learning about these topics through courses, online resources, and/or by earning additional certifications.

Build a Strong Portfolio

A solid online portfolio of projects and experiences related to cloud security can help you stand out to potential employers. “Consider creating a portfolio that showcases your cloud security skills and experiences, including any relevant projects you’ve worked on or certifications you’ve earned,” Grunwald concludes.

Ready to explore a security engineer career with a top company? Learn what it takes to be a cybersecurity professional by enrolling in Forage’s free virtual experience programs:

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