What is the Difference Between an IT Professional and Cybersecurity Professional?

Many public power utilities or rural electric cooperatives have either no information technology (IT) department, or rely on understaffed IT departments.  In other cases, utilities contract to a 3rd party network and system administrator (3rd Party IT) to maintain networks and equipment.

Often 3rd Party IT contractors come onsite only when asked, mostly when the utility reports an issue with computers or network communication. In addition, the skillset of an in-house IT personnel or 3rd party IT contractor can vary greatly.  Some can strictly troubleshoot computer issues and install programs, while others have the knowledge and experience to build complex networks, set up virtual servers, and provision cloud services. However, in many cases, these professionals may not have the necessary skills, training, knowledge, and experience to handle cyber threats.

The purpose of this white paper is to help utilities understand the different skillsets of an in-house IT employee (or 3rd party IT consultant) and a cybersecurity professional.  We will define these differences and address how these two professionals can work together to improve cybersecurity protection of the utilities.

So, What is the Difference Between an IT Professional and a Cybersecurity Professional?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor categorizes information security analyst as a distinct IT occupation. As described, information security analysts, or “cybersecurity professionals,” are responsible for planning and implementing security controls to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems.

On the other hand, network and system administrators, or “IT professionals,” are responsible for the day-to-day operation of systems and networks, including the maintenance, configuration, and proper operation of computer systems, including servers and PCs.

Generally, IT Personnel Are Most Proficient At:

  • Installing computers and software, servers and printers
  • Updating operating systems, deploying software patches and firmware updates
  • Performing data backup and recovery
  • Designing, installing and managing networks (including wireless network connectivity)
  • Managing firewall(s) for day-to-day operations
  • Maintaining VoIP systems
  • Setting up, changing or removing user accounts
  • Addressing basic security practices (e.g. enhancing password complexity, enabling encryption on their wi-fi networks, turning on a firewall’s Intrusion Prevention System)

While Cybersecurity Professionals Are Most Proficient At:

  • Monitoring cybersecurity incidents and threats, including deep dive analyses of risks to help with incident response and remediation
  • Analyzing how various cyber incidents are triggered by various vulnerabilities found in different systems in the network
  • Performing vulnerability scanning of connected devices to proactively mitigate potential cyber risks
  • Researching the latest cybersecurity trends to share and update staff with cybersecurity information
  • Recommending enhancements to network architectures, firewalls, network switches, computing systems, operating systems, application security settings and to other security controls to prevent and minimize cyber-attacks and threats
  • Developing cybersecurity standards and best practices for their organization
  • Creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness through training
  • Testing to meet cybersecurity compliance requirements (e.g. NERC CIP, PCI-DSS), achieving higher scores on the APPA/NRECA Cybersecurity Scorecard, addressing cybersecurity benchmarks for RP3/RC3 certification, and more.

Are You Worried About Cybersecurity or Are You Experiencing a Threat? Then Contact Your IT Person and Engage a Cybersecurity Professional.

N-Dimension Solutions (N-Dimension) has been asked this question by numerous public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives – Who should I listen to when it comes to my network and cybersecurity? An IT professional or a cybersecurity professional?  The simple answer is…  you need to listen and heed the advice of both, as both provide a unique skill set and perspective. As a team, they provide the best advice possible. Few IT professionals know cybersecurity in-depth, and not all cybersecurity professionals have knowledge regarding your current networks and systems.  This is why utilities need both working together.

As noted above, information security is a field that requires specialized knowledge, training and experience. It is not just about technical products and equipment, but information security also must consider all technology, operations, personnel security, physical security, governance, and compliance requirements to achieve your information security goals.  Therefore, with the help of a cybersecurity professional, you can rest assured that you will be able to properly identify cyber threats and, consequently, implement appropriate cybersecurity controls.  A cybersecurity professional can work with your IT personnel (or 3rd Party IT) to successfully achieve your cybersecurity needs and to thwart future attacks.

Think of it this way: an electrician (i.e. IT professional or 3rd Party IT) can handle a variety of electrical issues based on strong all-around electrical knowledge.
However, when you need work done on your transmission or distribution lines at your electric utility (i.e. a cyber attack), you would not call a general electrician to do the work. Instead you would turn to a highly trained seasoned lineworker (i.e. cybersecurity professional).

What Can N-Dimension’s N-Sentinel Managed Cybersecurity Services Do For You?

N-Sentinel Managed Cybersecurity Service, offered by N-Dimension, has a highly trained and experienced team of seasoned cybersecurity experts available to support customers.

Experience That Matters

Our cybersecurity professionals have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of utility operations and plenty of experience working with over 100 plus public power and rural electric cooperative utilities.  

N-Dimension:

  • knows and understands cybersecurity in depth, covering IT (Corporate) and OT (Operations) environments
  • understands utilities
  • can communicate cybersecurity complexity and put them in the customers’ language
  • works well with 3rd party IT companies to enhance your cybersecurity posture
  • team has performed over 165 cybersecurity assessments, compliance pre-audits, and penetration tests for utilities
  • N-Dimension has co-written several cybersecurity industry guidelines, including but not limited to NIST IR 7628 (Guidelines for Smart Grid Cybersecurity), and the NESCOR Guide to Penetration Testing for Electric Utilities

N-Sentinel Providing Cybersecurity Intelligence

When the N-Sentinel monitoring team detects cybersecurity incidents on your network, a cybersecurity analysis is performed, and the team then works with your IT professionals to implement the identified remediation and mitigation protocols.

With N-Sentinel Vulnerability Assessment, your utility’s networked systems’ weaknesses are identified, and a cybersecurity team is ready to discuss the results and provide further guidance. With your N-Sentinel service, a team of cybersecurity experts are on-call to assist you or your 3rd party IT company to resolve your cyber issues.

Questions or Interested in a Free 60-Day N-Sentinel Monitoring Trial?

Email: sales@n-dimension.com , call 1-866-837-8884 or visit our website www.N-Dimension.com and click on the "Get A 60-Day Trial" button.

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