As more companies take their businesses to the cloud, there hasn’t been a better time to make a career in the cloud.
You might find it surprising that there are still many fortune 500 companies that haven’t taken their business to the cloud yet. For one reason or the other, these companies are still operating from their private data centers instead of the cloud. And as these larger companies (and smaller ones) make their way to the cloud, there is only a shortage of people for the cloud security roles; there is no shortage of jobs.
One such role is that of an Azure Security Engineer, which is one of the most highly paid and in-demand roles in the cloud space. In this article, we will discuss this role in detail, including the roles & responsibilities of an Azure Cloud Security Engineer, and how to clear the AZ-500 exam to become a certified Azure Security Engineer.
Microsoft Azure, one of the key players in the cloud space (alongside AWS & GCP) offers wide-ranging security features and capabilities for companies to run their business in a highly secured environment. Azure allows companies to create secure solutions without compromising their data security. It provides confidentiality, integrity, and availability of customer data while enabling transparent accountability.
Azure works on a shared responsibility model, wherein some security-related responsibilities lie on the shoulder of the customers and there are others that lie on the shoulders of the developers of the app. Image source: Microsoft
called AZ-500. It is for cloud professionals who are running their cloud infrastructure in Azure, and now want to move up their rank in a security role in the same organization. Before we go into the details of the AZ-500 exam, let’s first understand the roles of a Cloud Security Engineer.
The role of a cloud security engineer can vary from company to company, and from industry to industry. Your role as a Security Engineer at a Fintech company can be really different from when you’re working with a Healthcare company. Furthermore, it can also depend on the size of the organization. Azure security engineers often work as part of a bigger cloud security team to strategize and deploy cloud-based management and security systems & protocols.
The responsibilities of an Azure Security Engineer include maintaining security postures, identifying and remedying vulnerabilities using different security tools, implementing threat protection, and responding to security breach incidents and escalations.
So, a typical day in a life of a Security Engineer might be spent going over different apps with a Solution Architect, understanding how they have been architected, their security controls, and brainstorming ways to tie up the loose ends. You might find yourself doing a lot of documentation, and reviewing reference architectures, and design patterns with different members of the team.
The common responsibilities of an AZ-500 Certified Azure Security Engineer are:
Unlike other cloud roles, it can be tough to get yourself a job as a Cloud Security Engineer when you are a fresher. This role requires multi-domain experience in the cloud. It’s ideal for Azure professionals who have been working in Azure for about a year, in roles such as Azure Administrators or Microsoft 365 Engineers interested in taking on roles in the cloud security team. Thus, if you’re an absolute beginner, you should consider first clearing the AZ-104 exam (Certified Azure Administrator Associate) to first gather a fundamental understanding of Microsoft Azure, before taking on the AZ-500 exam.
Azure Security Engineer is typically a technical role. You should be able to read code and check the database to figure out whether it’s safe or it can be compromised. However, for making a successful career in Cloud security, you have to be prepared to go beyond. You might have to work not just on your technical skills but also on your softer skills and develop a more vigilant way of thinking. Can someone misuse your application? What can you do to preempt and prevent this misuse from happening? What are the security issues that might arise when your company upgrades to a new operating system? As a Security Engineer, these are the kind of questions you have to constantly think about.
Furthermore, you will have to be able to talk to people in a way that they not only understand the importance of security but also cooperate. Thus, being a people person and having good soft skills can help you go a long way, especially when a lot of what you do might come across to them as restrictive and limiting. You have to deal with people, such as analysts, developers, network engineers, administrators, DevOps, and even governance people, and bring them all together to ensure high system security.
And not just at the software level, a Security Engineer has to think about the physical security of software and its data to prevent theft. You might have to take the initiative to hire a new security guard, or new security cameras in so and so position. Once you develop this kind of a ‘security-first’ mindset, you can then start adding-up layers of new skills and tools to excel in your career as a Cloud Security Engineer.
Securing a certificate isn’t mandatory to land yourself a job. However, preparing yourself for certification gives a structure to your learning process and more holistic knowledge about cloud security. Besides, many companies make certifications a mandatory requirement for high-stake roles such as Cloud Security Engineer. Employers take certification as proof that you’re serious about taking a security role, and that you have a holistic understanding of the application of cloud security.
Remember each previous exam helps you pass the following one, thus compounding and excelling your forward to a successful path. The process of preparing for AZ-500 certification can multiply your odds of making a flying career in Cloud security. It gives you a structured way of learning cloud security. Plus, having a certification under your belt will give you the much necessary confidence when appearing for a Cloud Engineer job interview.
Please note that it’s not an entry-level certification. You need previous experience in the cloud, along with a good understanding of threat control, managing identity and access, and implementing security controls. Candidates for this exam should have subject matter expertise in implementing security controls, threat protection, and managing identity access. The person should also have a solid understanding of data protection across applications and networks.
While there are no mandatory prerequisite exams before the AZ-500 exam, Cloud professionals to clear this exam should have hands-on experience in the administration of Azure. Again, this is why having an AZ-104 under your belt can help you go more prepared for this exam.
The AZ-500 exam can cost you $165 and can be given in 4 different languages, including English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Unlike the (ISC)2 CCSP, which is broad and vendor agnostic, AZ-500 is vendor-specific - Microsoft Azure. The passing score for this exam is 700.
Microsoft conducts the AZ-500 exam to test your knowledge in the following areas of cloud security:
Besides objective vanilla questions such as multiple choices, there will also be in-depth scenario-based questions, such as how a KQL query will be configured in a JSON template or how things would be configured in a KQL query.
The main goal of this exam is to educate candidates about Azure security. Not just theoretical knowledge, the candidate should be able to actually do the security and threats troubleshooting in order to clear this exam. Please note that, just because you have a certification, doesn’t guarantee you a job. You need to do a lot of lab practice - the very basics of securing a virtual machine on the cloud.
Clearing AZ-500 will require you to develop a good understanding of fundamental concepts related to cloud security such as defense in depth, separation of duties, and due diligence. You have to be able to look at the data, evaluate how sensitive it is, what the regulatory bodies are watching, and what are the applicable rules & regulations that can lead to lawsuits against your company. Then you have to be able to go through the regulatory checklist from bodies such as FedRAMP, GDPR, and PCI to ensure compliance. This enables you to have constructive dialogue with other members of the team to ensure bulletproof processes to ensure high security.
You have to be comfortable with infrastructures such as code, security operations processes, cloud capabilities, and other Azure services. Clearing AZ-500 exposes you to wide-ranging concepts related to Cloud security including:
The first step is to learn the basics from Microsoft’s Learning Path for the AZ-500 exam. While you can access the learning material here as a guest user, you should consider registering to track your progress, and earn badges. You can also create a Microsoft Sandbox for free, and use it for practicing various security components, and adding security controls in the lab.
The other thing that can really help you is to attend local security meetups and conferences. Here you get perspectives on different kinds of security threats other companies are facing, and also how their own unique ways to deal with them. Follow the news related to cloud security, Also, you have to keep yourselves updated on the tools, and case studies, including the whereabouts of potential vulnerabilities.
If you’re looking for a more disciplined way to prepare for the AZ-500 exam and learn with the support of instructors who are truly experts in cloud security, you should consider joining the preparatory classes from Readynez. It’s designed especially for cloud professionals who have a full-time jobs and now want to earn AZ-500 certification to take-on cloud security-related roles in their organization. Take advantage of Readynez’s proven exam preparation methodology to help you clear their AZ-500 exam with ease, and take on critical security roles in your organization.
The job of a Security Engineer can be fun if you have the attitude of a problem solver. If you have a vigilant, curious, and problem-solving head on your shoulder, this might be an ideal career for you. However, this exam is certainly not an easy one to crack, especially if you’re starting new.
If you have any questions related to this article or the AZ-500 exam, please don’t hesitate to contact our team.
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