embedded engineer

The Embedded Cybersecurity Engineer Uncovered

Unlocking The Secrets Of Skills That Pay Off

Imagine a world where every connected device—a thermostat, a car, or a factory machine—could be a gateway for hackers. In this digital age, where cyber threats evolve daily, the role of cybersecurity engineers isn’t just important; it’s a critical line of defense. Nowhere is this more evident than in the fusion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Operational Technology (OT). This convergence marks a dramatic transformation in the industrial landscape, giving rise to a new guardian: the Embedded Cyber Security Engineer. Tasked with shielding embedded systems from increasingly sophisticated attacks, these professionals are the unsung heroes in our interconnected world.

This article dives into the depth of the cybersecurity engineer’s responsibilities, focuses on the embedded field, outlines essential skills for success in 2024, and sheds light on industry salaries and trends.

Role Of A Cybersecurity Engineer In The Embedded Systems Enterprise Environment

Cybersecurity engineers play a pivotal role in mitigating risks. These professionals, with adequate skills and experience in involved fields, are tasked with preventing attacks, testing for vulnerabilities and implementing corrective measures. The responsibilities of cybersecurity engineers embrace various domains, including firmware security, application security, network security, cloud and information security. They need knowledge of both security processes and technologies in all those very different fields.

Core Responsibilities of a Cyber Security Engineer in the IoT/OT and Embedded Landscape

Assess the IoT/OT and embedded context

Adequate knowledge of the target context is the base for any enforcement and prevention action. Cybersecurity Engineers conduct proactive analyses and tests on embedded systems using tools and methodologies distinct to embedded security. This includes firmware analysis, custom penetration testing tailored for embedded architectures.

 Risk-Informed Security Processes and Protocols

They work with structured frameworks to prevent the consequences of known and new vulnerabilities, taking into account physical and virtual assets. They collaborate with technical and non-technical teams  employing risk assessment frameworks designed for embedded environments, ensuring a comprehensive approach to identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in these specialized systems.

Identify and select secure development life-cycle best practices

They chose optimal cybersecurity processes and tools aligned with the threat landscape and with the company and team development lifecycle methodologies.

Develop and implement security in products and components

They can craft secure software, using embedded programming languages like Rust, C/C++, Python and others, and they guide development teams to pick up good practices across all phases of software development.

Stay updated on sensitive information and systems

They stay informed by following developments through organizations like the IoT Security Foundation and the International Society of Automation (ISA). Keeping abreast of the latest in OT and IoT security, they ensure robust protection against evolving cyber threats.

Support the IT department to investigate attacks to spot the root cause

They drive the establishment and upkeep of a Secure Software Development Life cycle (SDLC) by fostering collaboration across the organization. Their interactions with various departments, such as IT and management, are vital. This collaborative approach ensures that cybersecurity strategies are deeply embedded in every stage of the software development process, reinforcing the company’s defense against evolving cyber threats.

Generate design review reports and assist in audits

Maintain comprehensive reports detailing findings, recommendations, mitigations and required or  implemented changes, in collaboration with regulatory teams.

Skills Needed For A Cybersecurity Engineer In 2024

Success as a cybersecurity engineer requires a combination of hard and soft skills. These skills ensure the ability to navigate the technical landscape while collaborating effectively with stakeholders. These skills acquire even more importance in the embedded field. We’ll examine some of them.

Knowledge of programming languages and tools:

Mastery of programming languages, scripting languages, and automation tools is crucial for developing and implementing security mechanisms. The most important embedded programming languages they shall master include C/C++, Python and Rust. A proficient understanding of, at least, one programming language is a preferable starting point to build a brilliant cybersecurity career.

A deep understanding of operating systems (OS)

In the realm of embedded cybersecurity, the depth of required operating system knowledge extends far beyond the familiar confines of Windows or macOS. An engineer in this specialized field delves into the intricacies of systems like FreeRTOS and various Linux distributions (Buildroot, Yocto, Debian/Ubuntu), critical for IoT and embedded devices. This expertise is key, as it unlocks the ability to tackle unique, complex security challenges inherent to these niche systems, differing greatly from standard desktop environments

Proficiency in Embedded Concepts and Methodologies

Capability to handle limited computational resources and to optimize memory consumption and avoid unexpected behavior is essential for effective embedded practices.

Managing build systems for cross-compilation is also a must-have for an embedded engineer.

Experience with handling complex network architectures:

Proficiency in configuring communication among  diverse  hardware and software elements. Familiarity with the most common network architectures  including local and wide area networks, wireless and ethernet networks.

Understand and Implement Key Cybersecurity Standards

Cybersecurity in modern organizations is not just about compliance; it’s about deeply understanding and effectively implementing key standards. This includes using frameworks like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and ISO 27001, which are fundamental in shaping robust information security management systems. Sector-specific standards such as IEC 62443 for industrial control systems and ISO/SAE 21434 for automotive cybersecurity are focused derivations of the above frameworks. By aligning with these standards, they ensure comprehensive and tailored security strategies, giving guidance in specific domains.

Basic project management skills

Proficiency in project management is not just an added skill for a cybersecurity engineer; it’s a fundamental aspect of turning best practices into successful, realistic processes and plans. Mastery in various methodologies, including Lean/Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and Waterfall/Predictive models, is crucial. This expertise enables the engineer to tailor approaches to different project needs, ensuring that every initiative is executed efficiently and effectively. More than just managing tasks, it’s about strategically aligning projects with organizational goals and stakeholder expectations, thus ensuring that cybersecurity measures are not only technically sound but also practically feasible and organizationally aligned.

Prioritizing Human Factors in Cybersecurity: Communication and Collaboration

In cybersecurity, the emphasis on human elements, such as decision-making and emotional intelligence, is as critical as technical expertise. Effective communication skills are fundamental, especially when working alongside legal teams, regulatory bodies, and various stakeholders. These skills are crucial during and following security assessments, ensuring that complex technical details are conveyed clearly and that collaborative efforts are harmonious and productive. Recognizing the human aspect in these interactions highlights the importance of empathy and understanding in creating a cohesive team dynamic, essential for successful cybersecurity operations.

An eagerness to learn

Given the evolving nature of cyber threats, a continuous eagerness to learn and stay updated on industry trends is crucial for a long-term professional career.

Industry Salaries And What To Expect

The demand for cybersecurity engineers in the embedded field is on the rise, making it one of the most sought-after roles in 2023. Here are key trends and insights into salaries, according to SalaryExpert.

     Source: SalaryExpert

Key Takeaways

A career in cybersecurity for embedded systems experts is marked by its dynamic and ever-evolving nature, offering a wide array of challenges and learning opportunities. This field not only promises a continuous demand for skilled individuals but also ensures a journey rich in rewards and professional growth. For those considering a career in this area, the following key takeaways are crucial:

  • Emphasis on Problem-Solving: Success in this role hinges on a strong ability to solve complex, multifaceted problems.
  • Diverse Skill Set Required: The role demands a combination of technical knowledge and soft skills, each equally important for career advancement.


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