As hackers get increasingly sophisticated at breaching the systems of cloud infrastructure of companies around the world, Cyber Security has quickly evolved into a career of choice for aspiring IT professionals. And Microsoft Azure being one of the major players in the cloud space, Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analyst is one of the most in-demand jobs in the cyber security space. So, if you are curious to know about the job prospects of a Certified Security Operations Analyst working on Microsoft Azure, this article is for you. We have laid down the steps for entry-level candidates to clear the SC-200 exam and become Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analysts. We also take a close look at what the job of a Security Operations Analyst entails and the necessary skills & mindset you need to succeed in this role.
Hackers are becoming increasingly creative in infiltrating an organization’s computer networks. It’s no longer rare to hear about a company making it into the news because their data got stolen and was made available for sale on the darknet. As a result, Cyber crimes are expected to cost as much as 10.5 trillion by 2025. These crimes so far have come in different forms such as destruction of data, stolen money, theft of personal and financial data, hacking, malware, credentials stealing, and reputational harm. That’s why companies these days need almost an army of cyber security professionals to protect their business against hackers.
If there is any vulnerability, any potential weakness in the system, there are attackers who are ready to take advantage by infiltrating into an organization’s IT infrastructure. Hackers start with open-source intelligence gathering, ie. gathering intelligence about their target, finding vulnerabilities, getting access, and then being persistent in their attempts to break in. How do they get in? Well, there can be multiple entry points. Often, it’s an insider who has been part of the organization or company employees clicking on a link due to lack of knowledge or lack of awareness, making them pray for a phishing scam. They can stay hidden in the organization and make fatal damages by stealing the latest data and leaving the network untraced once they are done.
This is where companies need a Certified Security Operations Analyst, as they are the people responsible to detect the attack and block them before the damage can happen. An entry-level analyst is essentially the frontline of this defense. It’s his or her job to constantly evaluate security breach alerts coming from different sources or sensors and use her brain to decide whether the threat is real or not. Please note that not everything a Security operations Analyst sees is a breach, and it’s up to the analyst to decide whether the alert is worth the time and money.
Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analysts typically work as a part of a SOC team, also known as the Security Operation Center. A SOC team is made-up of cyber-security professionals whose job is to protect an organization's IT assets from cyber threats. The roles & responsibilities of a security operations analyst can vary in each company depending on different variables such as industry, size, and nature of data at stake. Some organizations have in-house security operations and then there are smaller to medium size companies that prefer to outsource this to managed security service providers to save cost.
Talking specifically about the role of a Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analyst, your job is to protect the system and mitigate any future attacks on the infrastructure being run on the Microsoft cloud. This role primarily investigates, responds to, and hunts threats using Microsoft Azure defender and Microsoft 365 defender, Azure sentinel, and other 3rd party security products. You have to constantly review and recommend new strategies to keep your organization’s data security upbeat by identifying any violation of your organization’s security guideline policies. You have to also come up with stronger policies. Mitigating threats using Microsoft Azure defender and Microsoft 365 defender, and Azure sentinel. As a security Operations analyst, you will be required to perform threat management, monitoring, and response using different Microsoft security solutions.
This monitoring to prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to cyber threats ‘around the clock’? Why around the clock? Because bad guys don’t take weekends off or go on Christmas Holidays. In fact, systems are more vulnerable during these times as companies are short on staff these days. So, if you choose this career path, you have to learn to be on your toes all the time and be more persistent & alert than the attackers.
Furthermore, there can be no manual when it comes to hunting a threat as every threat can vary a lot depending on the nature of the data and software at stake, the volume of data, industry, geography, and scale of the organization. So, it really comes down to the proactiveness of the SOC analyst team to build the security playbooks for its organization.
One of the key characteristics of a good SOC Analyst is critical thinking while carrying out proactive investigations. Companies would be more interested in seeing the problem-solving side of your personality than your academics.
On a quieter day when there are not a lot of attacks, a good Security Operation Analyst doesn’t sit ideal, waiting for the next attack. He or she looks into the backend of his or her detection tools and writes new signatures proactively for possibly emerging threats. So that SOC team never misses a threat that you were supposed to be detecting. The Analyst has to be quick and effective at triaging the data coming from a stream of alerts.
As an operations analyst, you will be working on the organization’s information security and ensuring that the overall security goal is achieved. You have to collaborate with your team and stakeholders to secure information technology systems in your organization, including on-premise, and cloud solutions.
Although not mandatory, having the following can make you a stronger candidate for hiring for this role:
Besides, the job of a Security Operations Analyst isn’t easy. Every day, you have to be able to wear multiple hats, as each day will bring new challenges. One minute, you might find yourself troubleshooting a host-based sensor that’s not producing the right telemetry, and the next moment you might find yourself chasing down a suspicious parent-child process creation. A quieter day might have you just deal with a couple of phishing attacks and there might be a day when you feel the sky has just fallen down when you’re dealing with a series of targeted campaigns, or sophisticated malware attacks. You need to be able to manage data loss prevention policies to assess and recommend sensitivity levels inside risk policies.
You have to also be comfortable facing a problem, not know anything about what caused it, what could have prevented it and how to fix it while finding your way to still being able to get to the root of it. People who make for a good SOC analyst are critical thinkers and problem solvers. If their toaster breaks down, they don’t throw it away. They open it, trying to understand what went wrong. If you hate solving puzzles as a kid, then Security Operations may not be the right career path for you.
In fact, SOC analysts often face something known as ‘alert fatigue’. It is like running on a treadmill without feeling you’re not getting anywhere. You get bombarded by alerts after alerts - most of which is noise. As a Security Operations Analyst, it’s your job to tune down your sensors to produce more actionable signals vs noise. Otherwise, a SOC analyst can get immune to these alerts, as he or she can get drowned in a pile of 50,000 alerts that spans months and years backward.
To become a Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analyst, you have to clear the SC-200 exam. Clearing this exam helps you get yourself well versed with topics related to the security aspect of Microsoft services, including securing identities.
The exam fee is USD $165. You’re asked 40-60 questions, and you have to score at least 700/1000 to pass SC-200. This exam is only available in English, as you attempt a mix of multiple-choice and scenario-based questions. You might also come across yes and no questions, in which you will be presented a security threat scenario, along with a proposed solution in which you have to tell whether the solution is right or wrong - yes or no. There are also fill-in-the-blanks questions wherein you might have to select the missing step by selecting a dropdown option. Additionally, you might also encounter hands-on lab questions.
You can book your SC-200 exam using Pearson VUE or schedule the exam from the Microsoft SC-200 exam page. You will need to log in to your Microsoft account using your email. If you haven’t already created an account, you need to create an account first to schedule the exam. Select the examination by entering the exam code or name: ie. SC-200.
If for any reason you fail to achieve the passing score of 700/1000, you will need to wait for 24 hours before reapplying and rescheduling the exam from your Microsoft certificate dashboard.
As compared to other exams, it’s relatively an easier exam to crack.
Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analyst (SC-200) exam assesses your ability to do technical activities such as defending against threats with Microsoft defender defending against threats with Azure defender and defending against threats using Azure Sentinel.
Being a role-based certification, SC-200 is a great certification for a senior staff member in an organization’s security Operations center role. Security Operations Analyst plays a key role in data retention, alert notifications, and attach surface reduction rules. So, these are the key focus areas of an SC-200 exam.
As you might notice above, Azure Sentinel is the most important part of your overall preparation for the SC-200 exam, as nearly 45% of the questions come from this section. So, to clear this exam - it’s really important that you’re able to configure an Azure sentinel workspace to use the data connectors for ingestion of data sources in Azure sentinel. You need to be able to build up and design the analytic routes, for example, create a custom analytics route to detect specific routes to hunt for threats using the Azure Sentinel portal.
If you prefer self-learning to prepare for the exam then Microsoft offers wide-ranging and comprehensive resources to help interested candidates prepare for the exam using its books, instructor-led training, and Microsoft community. You can use practice test papers to cover a larger set of security threat scenarios.
However, self-learning is for you only if you have the necessary time and discipline. Furthermore, there are other challenges related to self-learning such as when you’re new, you don’t know where to start and whether the material and test papers you’re using are the latest or not. And you have no one to go to if you get stuck on a question, wasting your precious time that you could put somewhere more productive.
Learning from instructor-led training such as Readynez SC-200 preparatory classes might be your surest way to become a Microsoft Certified Security Operations Analyst. During this course you'll learn how to perform the following technical tasks: mitigate threats using Microsoft 365 Defender; mitigate threats using Azure Defender; and mitigate threats using Azure Sentinel. Plus, you get access to mentors who take you aside, show you the ropes and ensure you clear your certification with confidence and ease.
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