Cyber Security Internships & Placements: A Closer Look
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Considering a future as a cyber security guard? Jump over to our jobs page to find work experience in this field.
Have you seen Skyfall? It’s quite good for a Bond film. A real thriller. Adele sings the theme tune.
There’s a scene early on where Bond meets Q for the first time. A small tiff ensues. They argue over who is the more dangerous.
Q tells Bond, ‘I could do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pyjamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you could do in a year in the field’.
And he’s right. One man with a laptop really can cause The Day After Tomorrow-level damage. Enter the cyber security team.
In this short blog we are going to breakdown the field of cyber security and have a look at cyber security internships.
What is cyber security?
Cyber security is the practice of defending networks, data and technological systems from cyber attacks. Let’s begin with breaking down the types of threats that cyber security experts spend their days and nights fighting...
MALWARE Short for ‘malicious software’. It’s the more technical term for describing a computer virus, which in turn sounds like it’s describing a MacBook that has shingles. The most common examples of malware are ransomware, spyware, trojans, worms and social engineering.
RANSOMWARE This form of cyber attack is becoming increasingly common. In a ransomware attack, victims must pay a ransom to decrypt files, however the putting forth of dollar doesn’t guarantee the encrypted files will be recovered.
PHISHING Not to be mistaken with fishing. In this attack fraudulent messages will appear as if from a reputable source with the purpose of stealing sensitive information (such as credit card details).
SQL INJECTION A Structural Query Language (SQL) injection, which is one hell of a name, is an attack on a server in which malicious code is inserted in a server to reveal hidden data.
DENIAL-OF-SERVICE ATTACK A system or network is flooded with traffic to shut it down.
Cyber security is but one branch of the IT sector, and there are opportunities to get placements and internships in many other areas. Read our guide to IT internships to discover what’s on offer.
What do cyber security professionals do?
There are three key pillars of cyber security, and they define what cyber security guards do on a day-to-day basis...
PEOPLE Employees are often the biggest security risk when it comes to preventing cyber attacks. There was a time when it was highly fashionable for people to leave memory sticks containing highly sensitive information on trains. Cyber security staff train employees within their company (or in a consultancy role) to ensure they are not putting a company at risk.
PROCESSES An organisation’s processes are crucial to preventing cyber threats. The role of the cyber security team is to put processes in place to reduce these threats, and review the processes as the threats evolve.
TECHNOLOGY Once a cyber security analyst has identified the risks their organisation faces they can then identify the technology required to prevent them. Technology is deployed to reduce the risk of cyber risks, or completely prevent them. Analysts have to make a risk assessment to decide what controls to put in place.
The Financial Times have a spectacular three-part series on Cyber Security. It's well worth a read if you want to find out more about the industry.
Getting work experience in cyber security
It’s becoming increasingly important to get work experience while you’re at university. There are an average of 41 applications for every graduate job in the UK. It’s competitive - like Mario Kart.
This is true even in the IT and technology sector, which is the fastest-growing in terms of opportunities for graduates.
Getting work experience will significantly improve your chances of becoming a cyber security guard after university. Here’s why…
Meet employers, they'll remember you
Where do employers look to find graduates? One of the first places look is their undergraduate intake, or in other words, past placement students and interns.
Businesses hire undergraduates to try and find the best students for their graduate schemes. On top of this, it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to introduce candidates to their company culture. It’s very tactical.
Interns and placement students really do have a better chance of securing a graduate role. So much so that 54% of hires made by the Top Undergraduate Employers in the UK were former placement students and interns.
Get soft skills (to complement your technical skills)
Graduates are often not ready for the professional workplace. The university experience doesn’t really reflect the professional environment. They are like chalk and cream cheese.
Degrees tend to be individual-centric; it’s all lectures, lie-ins and essays. You might leave university with the knowledge and technical skills needed to work in cyber security, but lack the soft skills to succeed.
It’s skills like time-management, the ability to accept criticism and manage-up that employers are looking for. They are crucial and transferable to any working environment.
Doing a placement or internship is an opportunity to develop these skills alongside your degree. Even just a short internship with a cyber security team will help prepare you for the real thing, and will show employers that you have the minerals to begin a career in the field.
Cyber security internships
FOR: One and all
DURATION: 4-16 weeks
WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-Mar
The majority of internships take place during the summer, so they are creatively advertised as summer internships.
An cyber security intern is not employed to be a photocopier or maker of tea. They join a team, shadow experienced professionals, contribute to projects and get a first-hand look at what it’s really like to work in cyber security.
Doing an internship like this is not only a marvellous addition to your CV, it’s an opportunity to work out if cyber security is the right path for you.
Watch this delightful video for an insight into a day in the life of working in cyber security. A cat makes a short appearance.
Cyber security placements
FOR: 2nd years
DURATION: 5-13 months
WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-May
There are a few different names for placements - some people call them ‘student placements’, others say ‘sandwich placements’, but they all refer to the same thing.
Placements are designed to give students a full year of professional work experience. They take place in between the penultimate year, and the final year of a degree. For that time, a placement student is a full-time employee for their company.
If you’re considering pursuing a career in cyber security, applying for a placement is a good first step. There are two types of cyber security placements on offer. You can either work for a company that specialises in cyber-security, or work with a smaller, in-house cyber security team of a large organisation.
Who are the best companies to work for?
Below is a list of the top companies that offer cyber security internships...
Written by Conor
Conor has been writing for RateMyPlacement since July 2016. He joined the company straight out of university, after his dreams of joining the Fire Brigade were dashed due to his pyrophobia. When Conor isn’t putting words together, you’ll find him watching David Attenborough, thinking about sandwiches or talking to his cat.