The Network Security Architect

Stop users from romping joyously through your network with some l33t security skills.

The network security architect is the creator of the secure network, the builder of security systems that flex and evolve, and the bouncer of badly behaved users. The role is varied and demanding and fascinating for those who appreciate the need for great design and architecture and who find troubleshooting and problem-solving fun. This career is for those who are interested in the latest security architecture standards and frameworks and understand which security controls and solutions are best for which situations and applications. In short, you need to be like Clark Kent – wrapped in network performance and system capability with the ability to transform into a security superhero at a moment’s notice.

“The network security architect combines the knowledge of security hardware and software, organisational business and strategic needs, cyber security requirements and risks with the organisation’s policies, procedures and industry standards,” explains Johann Pretorius, director of the SAP Training and Development Institute.

With a deft eye on the network and a hand on the security tiller, the network security architect will plan, implement and maintain the organisation’s network technology strategy. They’ll identify its strengths and weaknesses while managing the complexities of web, WAN, mobile and VPNs while having an indepth understanding of the latest tools, security protocols, processes, and risks.

“The network security architect also has to take care of application and mobile security as well as security around the Internet of Things,” says Vishal Barapatre, CTO at In2IT Technologies. “The role has grown to prominence over the last three years due to the advent of new technologies and changes in emergent technologies, such as blockchain and microservices, and because security has become much more important to organisations.”

Companies are under pressure to follow best practice and be compliant across the network, particularly in light of POPIA, GDPR and increasingly stringent industry regulation. This role is that of the gatekeeper, the bouncer that kicks the unwanted out of the exclusive club while making sure that everyone has a great experience. The skills required for this role vary, but most will need generic infrastructure and security skills as a baseline, along with an understanding of technical protocols and their functions.

“These architects need to understand the nuances around the latest technologies and how these may impact the network and its security,” says Simeon Tassev, MD and qualified security assessor at Galix.

The network security architect will have an indepth understanding of software, access control, hardware and networking, along with experience in software development. They would also benefit from having the kind of personality that enjoys troubleshooting and critical thinking as these will stand them in good stead as they analyse incidents and manage system complexities.

“A background in ethical hacking would also be beneficial as it ensures they are capable of effectively identifying vulnerabilities and designing security measures and controls,” says Jacques Coetzee, information security officer at Luno. “Being able to stop and think like a hacker and watch the tactics that malicious actors deploy against an organisation, and then have the ability to defend against them is also a huge part of this role. This makes it both challenging and exciting.”

THE STEPS TO GREATNESS

What defines a great network security architect?

Jacques Coetzee, information security officer, Luno: Someone who has analytical and troubleshooting skills, attention to detail, a hands-on approach (not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in), effective communication of technical and non-technical information as well as the ability to collaborate instead of working in isolation.

Johann Pretorius, director, SAP Training and Development Institute: For network security architects, you need leadership skills in communication, to challenge complexity, be a results-driven person, accelerate in self-development, have the ability to work with teams, have negotiation skills, and be able to build trust.

Simeon Tassev, MD and qualified security assessor, Galix: The network security architect brings value in that they enforce security and access controls. This role is also important because applications-focused employees will focus on what the application can do for the business, and networking will focus on the connectivity of the organisation, but this role enables and brings all of these roles together.  

MAN THE DEFENCES!

Like most roles in the technology realm, that of network security architect can be approached from multiple directions. Here are some of the training courses, degrees and certifications that are recommended by experts in the field.

• Certified Network Defender certification, Torque IT

• Ethical hacker training – SANS Institute

• Certified information systems auditor – Infosec Institute boot camp

• Certified information systems security professional – IT Academy certification

• Cyber security – University of Pretoria training course that includes the NIST framework and ISO 27000

• Digital network architecture implementation essentials – CTU Training

• Computer science degree – UNISA, Pearson Institute, Wits, Varsity College and University of Pretoria have this degree on offer.

• SAP security certification – SAP Training and Development Institute

This article first appeared in Brainstorm.