Deciphering Career Paths: Cyber Security vs. Network Security

8 min

As today’s digitally driven world continues to evolve, so do the threats and sophistication ...

As today’s digitally driven world continues to evolve, so do the threats and sophistication of attackers. With cyber threats occurring almost every 39 seconds, professionals in the network and security sector are increasingly sought after by tech companies. Aspiring talent within this space have an excellent opportunity to make a difference in the security landscape and decipher innovative ways of overcoming current and future threats.

Many entry-level candidates find the opportunity to shape the future of network and cyber security enticing. However, they find choosing between the two career paths challenging. 

Thankfully, this guide is here to help you decide which career path is best suited to your goals. We’ll define these two areas of security, the importance of both and what roles in both network and cyber security entail.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the following:

Cyber security vs network security: What is it?

  • What is cyber security?
  • What is network security?
  • Exploring the importance of cyber security vs network security
  • Understanding the importance of cyber security
  • Understanding the importance of network security
  • Deciphering the roles of cyber security vs. network security
  • What does a cyber security specialist do?
  • What does a network security engineer do?

Cyber security vs network security: What is it?

As we support you on your career journey in exploring the topic of network and cyber security, it's essential to begin by answering the question of 'what is it?'. 'What is cyber security?' and 'what is network security?'. By doing so, you'll have a confident definition of the two and may even start deciphering the differences and perhaps similarities between the two areas of enterprise security.

What is cyber security?

Cyber security focuses on protecting individuals and businesses from the various threats and cyber criminals present in the modern tech-driven world. Professionals working in cyber security operate across the broader enterprise security industry and are tasked with protecting and securing networks, software, and digital devices from cybercrime. 

A cyber security specialist's role is pivotal for ensuring sensitive data is safeguarded from falling into the wrong hands, utilising various methods to deter potential cyber-attacks. From security processes such as antivirus software, encryption, multi-factor authentication and firewalls, cyber security professionals adapt their approaches to combat the specificities surrounding particular threats. 

While technology continues to advance, so do the threats posed by cybercriminals. Therefore, it's imperative for cyber security specialists to monitor the network traffic of their employers or clients to predict and mitigate a threat before it causes any harm. It's also vital for cyber security specialists to stay ahead of current and future industry trends, including the most sophisticated threat tactics and measures of combating attacks. 

What is network security?

The role of network security also stands as a pivotal part of the broader enterprise security space, and individuals within this niche are dedicated to protecting public or private networks, IT infrastructure and data from potential network security threats. The main goal of network security is to prevent data leaks or interference during communications across networks, ensuring only authorised users can access data across the network. 

Network security specialists operate across multiple layers to prevent a multitude of network security threats, from data breaches, malware attacks, unauthorised access, fraud and identity theft. Implementing firewalls, encryption and software updates act as defence measures against these threats, permitting or blocking unwanted traffic based on predefined rules.

It's the responsibility of a network security expert to monitor the IT infrastructure, including the hardware and software associated with the network, and forecast and mitigate any potential network security threats. Like a cyber security specialist, it's essential for individuals working in this space to stay up to date with the latest network engineering industry trends, including the measures to strengthen a company's defence against various and potentially severe attacks.

Exploring the importance of cyber security vs network security

Since we’ve outlined what network and cyber security is, it’s also essential for you to understand the importance of the two. Doing so will help you realise the impact you could have on people and businesses by registering for the latest jobs and embarking on a career within enterprise security. Let’s start by understanding the importance of cyber security.

Understanding the importance of cyber security

As mentioned, cyber security professionals are tasked with forecasting, identifying and combating various cyber threats, from data breaches to unauthorised access and cybercrime. These threats can cause severe financial and reputational damages to organisations, with the average cyber-attack costing $4.45 million in 2023, an increase of 2.3% from 2022. 

So, regarding the importance of cyber security, this can mean anything from a specialist within this industry keeping sensitive information secure to safeguarding financial assets, preserving people's privacy, and maintaining continuity within a business. Let's outline these critical points as to why the role of cyber security is essential.  

  • Keeping sensitive information secure

Cyber security is paramount for protecting sensitive data and information from falling into the wrong hands. Unauthorised access to sensitive data, whether an employee's personal information, financial data relating to a person or business, or other confidential information, can result in severe consequences for an organisation or individual. 

Specialists in the cyber security field will create robust defence processes to mitigate data breaches within a company's IT infrastructure, ensuring any personal information remains confidential and free from fraud, blackmail, identity theft and the general leakage of sensitive information into the public domain.

  • Safeguarding financial assets

We've mentioned the financial impact a cyber attack can have, which is another reason a cyber security specialist's role is essential for ensuring organisations steer clear of economic damages and safeguard their financial assets. Especially in today's digital world, where conducting financial transactions has become the norm, the importance of cyber security professionals cannot be understated. 

Cyber security experts are responsible for safeguarding their clients' finances, reducing the likelihood or impact of the potential threat of unauthorised access to banking systems, and securing secure online payment processes. Without the role of a cyber security specialist and the measures they implement to deter online threats, companies and individuals would be at a greater risk of falling victim to financial crime.

  • Preserving people’s privacy

With the continued use and rise of social media, cloud computing, and IoT devices, individuals are constantly sharing personal information online. Of course, there is always the risk of private information being leaked, resulting in potential financial and reputational damages. 

Cyber security specialists help preserve user privacy by protecting against unauthorised access and interference, identity theft, and other malicious activities aimed at compromising personal data. Top cyber security professionals will implement a robust security framework to ensure individuals and organisations can navigate the digital world safely and confidently, knowing their privacy is secure.

  • Maintaining continuity within a business

Especially for organisations, the impact of a cyber attack can be devastating to their reputation. An attack could cause downtime, resulting in their clients losing out on the ability to access products and services. It could also result in the leakage of confidential client information. In both instances, a client could lose confidence in an organisation, which could be detrimental to a brand's reputation and ability to attract and retain business. 

Therefore, the measures implemented by cyber security specialists are also essential for maintaining business continuity. They can prevent any disruptions to operations while keeping client data secure. Whether it's ransomware, DDoS attacks, or other cyber threats, a proactive approach to cybersecurity ensures that businesses can continue to operate smoothly and serve their customers without interruptions.

Understanding the importance of network security

Network security jobs, like cyber security roles, are vital to individuals and businesses. Many reasons underpin the importance of professionals in this space, including their ability to protect against data breaches, safeguard against phishing attempts, preserve data integrity and prevent unauthorised access. In this section, we’ll look into the benefits talent within this niche brings as we support you in understanding the importance of network security.

  • Protection against data breaches

As mentioned, a data breach costs an average of over $4 million, whether through malware, ransomware or other network security threats. These attacks also leak data, putting individuals or organisations in grave financial and reputational danger. However, a network security specialist can implement measures such as antivirus software and firewalls; these malicious attacks and breaches can be mitigated.

  • Safeguarding against phishing attempts

A phishing attempt is when an attacker poses as someone or an organisation known to the user, typically via an email or text. Here, the attacker will attempt to trick the victim into revealing sensitive information or giving access to their network. When the victim clicks on the link in the message, they will unknowingly grant the cybercriminal access to the network, allowing them to steal financial assets and leak personal data.

Network security specialists are essential in implementing secure measures like access controls and encryption to defend against these phishing attempts. These measures can prevent monetary losses and data leakage, especially concerning employee and client information.

  • Preserving data integrity

Ensuring the integrity of sensitive data is upheld throughout its lifecycle is a significant objective of secure networks. Network security experts implement a diverse set of tools and techniques to safeguard data from corruption, manipulation or accidental deletion. This is particularly crucial for organisations that hold themselves accountable for maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of their client's data.

  • Preventing unauthorised access

If cybercriminals gain unauthorised access to a public or private network, they have the potential to manipulate data. This could result in data leakage and financial harm for an individual or organisation. Network security specialists curtail unauthorised access to sensitive data by implementing firewalls, antivirus software, virtual private networks (VPNs) and other security measures.

Deciphering the roles of cyber security vs. network security

Now you understand the importance of network and cyber security and how you can support people and organisations combat cybercrime by kickstarting a career in these positions, it's time to decipher the jobs of cyber security vs. network security. Here, we'll outline the typical responsibilities and skills required for network and cyber security jobs. We'll start by highlighting the role of a cyber security specialist.

What does a cyber security specialist do?

Cyber security jobs require talent to be the crucial guardian of sensitive information for an organisation and their employees and clients. These professionals are integral for preventing the compromise of personal, financial, and confidential data within a business, with the overarching goal of fortifying the company's systems, combating cyber attackers, and ensuring the seamless functionality of digital infrastructures.

Key responsibilities of cyber security jobs

Below are the primary responsibilities a cyber security specialist will be accountable for:

  • Mitigating cyber threats

The prime responsibility of a cyber security specialist is to be at the forefront of identifying and mitigating cyber threats. They actively work to prevent the loss or compromise of sensitive information by implementing robust defence measures and remaining vigilant against viruses and other malicious entities seeking to corrupt or gain unauthorised access to the company's data.

  • Security Operations Center (SOC) Oversight

A cyber security specialist operates within a Security Operations Center (SOC) in larger organisations. Here, they contribute to a multi-tiered team responsible for monitoring, directing, containing, and remediating cyber threats. Their responsibilities may range from installing and troubleshooting security solutions to crafting comprehensive security policies and training materials for colleagues.

  • Comprehensive System Analysis

Unlike roles focusing on specific aspects of the system, cyber security specialists must adopt a holistic approach. This involves analysing the business's infrastructure and systems to identify vulnerabilities and potential risks. Their expertise allows them to develop and implement effective strategies for mitigating these risks, providing organisations with confidence in the stability and security of their systems.

  • Conducting risk assessments

Cyber security specialists are experts in assessing and securing software applications. They use their skills to detect vulnerabilities and malicious activities within networks and infrastructure. By conducting customised risk assessments, they also ensure the company operates within the necessary compliance with corporate policies. An in-depth understanding of TCP/IP, networking protocols, system administration, and security elements is integral to their role.

Requirements and skills

Successful cyber security specialists typically come equipped with the following skills:

  • Proven experience as a cyber security specialist or in a similar role within enterprise security
  • Ability to perform network segmentation to contain breaches and restrict unauthorised access
  • Hands-on experience in analysing data logs, network data, and information on archived attacks with a keen eye for detail
  • Familiarity with operating systems, including Linux and Windows
  • Expertise in utilising vulnerability scanning solutions to proactively identify potential cyber security risks
  • Proficient in the use of antivirus and security software, ensuring a comprehensive defence against cyber threats
  • Experience in encryption and decryption 
  • A degree in a relevant subject, such as cyber security and computer science

Candidates looking to secure the latest cyber security jobs can find themselves working in the roles below:

  • Cybersecurity analysts  
  • Cyber security engineers 
  • Cyber security architects  
  • Cyber security consultants
  • Information security consultants  
  • Penetration testers 

What does a network security engineer do?

Network security engineering jobs involve maintaining the integrity of an organisation's data within its networks. This role encompasses a range of responsibilities, from continuous monitoring for security breaches to developing robust security protocols to forecast and combat potential network security threats.

Key responsibilities of network security jobs

Here are the primary responsibilities of a network security specialist:

  • Monitor and detect threats

Network security experts continuously monitor an organisation's networks for signs of vulnerability. They utilise advanced tools and technologies to identify potential weaknesses in the system and forecast threat detection.

  • Simulate attacks and vulnerability assessments

They conduct simulated attacks and penetration tests to proactively address potential security risks. This involves analysing the network for vulnerabilities, understanding threat patterns, and devising strategies to strengthen the system against possible security breaches.

  • Develop security protocols

A crucial aspect of a network security expert's role is developing comprehensive security protocols. These protocols serve as preventive measures to mitigate cyber-attacks, including viruses, phishing attacks, spyware, and trojan horses.

  • Oversee infrastructure maintenance

Ultimately, a network security specialist plays a pivotal role in maintaining the infrastructure of a network. This involves ensuring that all network users, software, and devices can be used safely and securely. Through network maintenance, engineers reduce downtime and other disruptions to ensure the networks work seamlessly around the clock.

Requirements and skills

A career in network security demands a robust set of technical skills, including:

  • Ability to identify and test networks for vulnerabilities
  • An analytical mind to evaluate potential and recurring cyber threats
  • Experience in implementing encryption techniques to secure data
  • A deep understanding of how to implement security measures in cloud environments
  • Coding skills, with proficiency in languages such as Java, JavaScript, SQL, PHP, Python, and C
  • An in-depth understanding of networking equipment like routers, firewalls, VPNs, and network monitoring tools
  • A degree in network engineering, computer science or a relevant subject
  • Completing network engineering courses  

If you’re considering a career in network security, check out our guide on the 5 top junior network engineer jobs to launch your career. Here, we delve into the below entry-level jobs:

  • Junior network engineer
  • Junior NOC engineer
  • Junior penetration tester
  • Junior cyber security analyst
  • Junior fibre network designer

Rounding up cyber security vs network security

Understanding the distinctions between network and cyber security is crucial for individuals embarking on a career path in enterprise security. Cyber security specialists play a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive information, preserving financial assets, protecting privacy, and maintaining business continuity by actively identifying and mitigating various cyber threats. 

On the other hand, network security engineers focus on securing networks, preventing data breaches, safeguarding against phishing attempts, preserving data integrity, and controlling unauthorised access.

Both professions contribute significantly to the overarching goal of fortifying digital infrastructures against evolving cyber threats, with their skills and responsibilities showing various differences and similarities. Ultimately, whether you’re looking to pursue a career in cyber security or network security, individuals in both fields contribute to the resilience and security of organisations in the face of the ever-evolving tech world where cyber threats loom large.

If you’re considering applying for cyber security or network security jobs, take inspiration to get your career started by reading our guide: How to Transition into a Network Engineering Job.

Power your future with the best network and cyber security jobs

If you’re looking to kickstart your cyber security or network security career, we can help. Our enterprise security recruitment consultants specialise in connecting aspiring talent like you with the top opportunities on the market.

Get in touch with a member of our enterprise security team and discover the range of network and cyber security jobs we can offer to power your future today.