What Does a Vulnerability Assessor Do?
The Short Version
A Vulnerability Assessor (a.k.a. Vulnerability Assessment Analyst) scans applications and systems to identify vulnerabilities.
In other words, you are looking for trouble, searching a network for critical flaws. You are expected to present your findings in a comprehensive, prioritized list – the Vulnerability Assessment – that organizations can use as a blueprint for improvements.
Vulnerability Assessor Responsibilities
As an analyst, your major deliverable is the Vulnerability Assessment report. To that end, you may be required to:
- Identify critical flaws in applications and systems that cyber attackers could exploit
- Conduct vulnerability assessments for networks, applications and operating systems
- Conduct network security audits and scanning on a predetermined basis
- Use automated tools (e.g. Nessus) to pinpoint vulnerabilities and reduce time-consuming tasks
- Use manual testing techniques and methods to gain a better understanding of the environment and reduce false negatives
- Develop, test and modify custom scripts and applications for vulnerability testing
- Manually validate report findings to reduce false positives
- Compile and track vulnerabilities over time for metrics purposes
- Write and present a comprehensive Vulnerability Assessment
- Review and define requirements for information security solutions
- Supply hands-on training for network and systems administrators
- Develop and maintain a vulnerability assessment database
Vulnerability Assessors generally work as outside consultants.
Vulnerability Assessor vs. Penetration Tester
For a clear sense of the difference between Vulnerability Assessors and Penetration Testers, check out Daniel Miessler’s article, The Difference Between a Vulnerability Assessment and a Penetration Test:
“Vulnerability Assessments are designed to yield a prioritized list of vulnerabilities and are generally for clients who already understand they are not where they want to be in terms of security. The customer already knows they have issues and simply need help identifying and prioritizing them.”
“Penetration Tests are designed to achieve a specific, attacker-simulated goal and should be requested by customers who are already at their desired security posture. A typical goal could be to access the contents of the prized customer database on the internal network, or to modify a record in an HR system.”
In Miessler’s words, Vulnerability Assessors are list-orientated and Pen Testers are goal-orientated.
Vulnerability Assessor Career Paths
Like Penetration Testers, a lot of Vulnerability Assessors get interested in hacking during school or university.
There is no rule that says a Vulnerability Assessor can’t also be a Pen Tester. In fact, most cyber experts take on multiple tasks, including the role of a:
And so on. The blanket term for all these jobs is Security Consultant.
Similar Job Titles
A Vulnerability Assessor can also be known as a:
- Vulnerability Assessment Analyst
- Vulnerability Researcher
- Cyber Assessor
- Security Assessor
Vulnerability Assessor Salaries
This is a super-specialized job, so salary figures from the BLS and Payscale are nonexistent.
By scanning all its job listings for the term “vulnerability assessor”, SimplyHired calculates the average salary for a Vulnerability Assessor to be $61,497 (2018 figures). For the term “vulnerability assessor analyst”, the average salary estimate is $61,579 (2018 figures).
But we should note that these search terms include physical security specialists working in the field of vulnerability assessment. As a cyber security specialist, you’re likely to be earning $70-$80K in the Midwest and $85-$95K on the East and West Coasts.
Vulnerability Assessor Job Requirements
No degree is necessary for the job. An associate or bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Cyber Security or the equivalent is nice to have in your back pocket, but employers are more interested in real-life work experience. A master’s degree is not generally required.
Experience requirements vary according to the level of job difficulty. The general standard for cyber security specialist job is 2-3 years of related work experience in the field.
Employers can be picky when it comes to technical skills. We have pulled out some general requirements, but we recommend you check job listings and talk to colleagues/professors for specific advice.
- Windows, UNIX and Linux operating systems
- C, C++, C#, Java, ASM, PHP, PERL
- Network scanning tools (e.g. Nessus, ACAS, RETINA, Gold Disk, etc.)
- Computer hardware and software systems
- Web-based applications
- Security frameworks (e.g. ISO 27001/27002, NIST, HIPPA, SOX, etc.)
- Security tools and products (Fortify, AppScan, etc.)
- Vulnerability analysis and reverse engineering
- Metasploit framework
Here’s the thing about Vulnerability Assessors and Pen Testers – they don’t play by the rules. That’s why they’re so good at their jobs.
This is not to say employers will be happy to see a criminal record, but they will be interested in knowing if you are curious, creative and off-the-wall in your approach. Your job, after all, is to think like a bad guy.
Other important soft skills include anal-retentive attention to detail, a puzzler’s brain and strong oral and written abilities. In addition to drafting reports, you will be educating IT teams about better security practices.
Certifications for Vulnerability Assessors
We’ve listed a variety of certifications that crop up in job descriptions. Mile2 has a specific vulnerability assessment certification (CVA), but CISSP and penetration testing certs are often cited as must-haves.
- CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
- CPT: Certified Penetration Tester
- CEPT: Certified Expert Penetration Tester
- GPEN: GIAC Certified Penetration Tester
- OSCP: Offensive Security Certified Professional
- CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- GCIH: GIAC Certified Incident Handler
- CVA: Certified Vulnerability Assessor