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How to hire Top Security Researchers


Hiring a Security Researcher involves several considerations that go beyond the individual's technical prowess. It's a critical process, as the role directly influences the overall security posture of an organization. The hiring process often starts with defining the role, requirements, and expectations, which can differ significantly depending on the size and type of the company.

In a startup, a Security Researcher may have to wear many hats - they might be involved in everything from penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, to incident response and policy development. They may need to be more adaptable and comfortable in a fast-paced, dynamic environment where resources may be limited, but the pace of work is high. On the other hand, in a larger company, the role may be more specialized and focused, with access to more resources and potentially dealing with more complex and larger-scale systems.

The hiring decision may also involve considering whether the role should be full-time or hourly. Full-time researchers can provide continuity, better understand the systems in place, and generally offer a more stable commitment. They are often more deeply involved in long-term strategic decisions and can provide more consistent value over time. However, they represent a larger investment and require a commitment to providing benefits and ongoing professional development.

Conversely, hiring a researcher on an hourly basis or as a contractor can be a more flexible, cost-effective solution, especially if the organization has a specific, short-term project or lacks the budget for a full-time role. These individuals can bring in a fresh perspective and specific expertise but might not offer the same level of commitment and continuity.

Additionally, the process should involve assessing the candidate's technical skills (like familiarity with programming languages, operating systems, and security tools), certifications, understanding of the current threat landscape, problem-solving ability, ethical standards, and communication skills. A strong candidate would also show a passion for continuous learning, given the fast-evolving nature of cybersecurity.

Moreover, the recruitment process itself can be multi-staged, involving not just an assessment of a candidate's CV and interviews, but also technical assessments, ethical hacking demonstrations, or even a review of the candidate's contributions to online security forums or open-source projects. These can provide practical evidence of a candidate's skills, knowledge, and commitment to the field.

In summary, hiring a Security Researcher is a complex process that requires careful consideration of a range of factors, including the specific needs and resources of the organization, the role requirements, and the skills and attributes of the candidates.

Technical Skills

Technical skills form the foundation for security researcher jobs. Firstly, a solid understanding of operating systems (such as Linux, Unix, Windows), network protocols (like TCP/IP, HTTP, DNS, SMTP), and databases is vital. Security analysts should also be competent in several programming languages, including Python, C/C++, Java, or JavaScript, as computer science is an essential aspect of their role. This allows them to create scripts, understand malware behavior, reverse-engineer threats, and implement fixes. They should also have proficiency in web technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL to evaluate web-related vulnerabilities effectively. Security researchers also require knowledge of encryption algorithms and protocols to ensure network security and secure data transmission, as well as a deep understanding of computer and network architectures. Moreover, they must understand various types of malware, exploits, and vulnerabilities that can affect systems.

Experience with Security Tools

A security researcher must be adept at using an array of security and network tools. For instance, they should be comfortable with using penetration testing tools like Metasploit, Burp Suite, Wireshark, and Nmap for conducting vulnerability assessments and network analyses. They should also know how to use IDS/IPS systems, firewalls, and SIEM solutions for threat detection and response. Experience with reverse engineering tools such as IDA Pro, Ghidra, or OllyDbg is also crucial for understanding the underlying code of malware or other malicious software. Knowledge of forensic tools such as EnCase or FTK can also be beneficial for conducting digital forensics investigations.


Certifications provide a benchmark for a security researcher's knowledge and skills. A Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification indicates that the candidate understands how to think and operate like a hacker, but ethically. The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, on the other hand, is a globally recognized credential that validates a candidate's ability to effectively design, implement, and manage a cybersecurity program. Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) offers a variety of certifications, including the GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware (GREM) certification, which signifies expertise in malware analysis. Finally, the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) focuses more on the management and governance of information security and can be beneficial for more senior roles.

Understanding of Threat Landscape

Understanding the current threat landscape is key for a security researcher. They need to know about the latest threats, vulnerabilities, exploits, and techniques used by cybercriminals. This includes understanding the motivations and tactics of various threat actors, from script kiddies to state-sponsored hackers. They should be well-versed with the MITRE ATT&CK framework, which categorizes and describes various tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors. The researcher should also keep abreast of the latest security advisories, bulletins, and reports published by various cybersecurity organizations and vendors. Experience with threat intelligence platforms and knowledge of darknet and hacker forums can also be beneficial for gaining insights into emerging threats. Finally, a security researcher should also have knowledge of laws and regulations relevant to cybersecurity to ensure compliance while conducting research.

Problem-Solving Skills

The essence of a security researcher's role is problem-solving. They are often presented with complex security issues that they need to dissect and understand before devising effective countermeasures. This requires a logical, methodical approach to finding solutions. Their problem-solving skills might be applied in a range of scenarios, from identifying vulnerabilities in blockchain technology, an app, or piece of software to dissecting a piece of malware to understand how it works. Familiarity with a formal problem-solving methodology, such as the scientific method or OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act), can be beneficial. Tools such as debuggers (GDB, WinDbg), disassemblers (IDA Pro), or fuzzing tools (AFL, Peach Fuzzer) can be integral to finding and solving security problems. These tools aid in testing systems for vulnerabilities, understanding software development behavior, and identifying potential security flaws.


Security researchers often have access to sensitive and confidential information. Therefore, a strong ethical foundation is of utmost importance. They should have a good understanding of what is considered ethical and legal within the framework of their work. This includes respecting privacy, abiding by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and avoiding actions that could harm individuals or systems. Knowledge of laws and regulations related to cybersecurity and data protection, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in the U.S. or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, is crucial. Certifications such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) can also attest to a security researcher's understanding of ethical hacking.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are paramount in a security researcher’s toolkit. They need to effectively convey their findings and recommendations to their project manager, various stakeholders or team members, from technical colleagues to non-technical executives or clients. This might involve writing detailed reports, presenting at meetings or conferences, or even providing training. They should also have the ability to write clear, concise, and actionable threat intelligence reports. A good security researcher will be adept at translating complex technical information into language that can be understood by non-technical personnel. Tools such as Microsoft Office or other presentation software will be important for preparing reports and presentations.

Passion for Continuous Learning

The cybersecurity landscape is dynamic, with new threats and technologies emerging constantly. This necessitates an enthusiasm for continuous learning. Security researchers should show a willingness to self-teach, stay updated with recent developments, and adapt to new technologies and techniques. This could involve regular participation in relevant webinars, workshops, and conferences. It could also involve engaging with online communities such as StackExchange, GitHub, or cybersecurity forums to share knowledge and learn from peers. They might also be expected to pursue advanced certifications or degrees to keep their knowledge up-to-date. Self-driven projects such as contributing to open-source projects or publishing independent research can also demonstrate a passion for continuous learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to hire a Security Researcher?

The cost to hire a Security Researcher can vary greatly depending on their years of experience, location, the size and industry of the hiring company, and the complexity of the work involved. In the United States, the average annual salary for a security researcher ranged from around $70,000 to upwards of $150,000. Higher salaries are typically paid by larger organizations or in locations with a high cost of living. Remember that the total cost will also include benefits, taxes, and potentially bonuses and equity, especially in tech companies.

Where can I hire a Security Researcher?

Security Researchers can be hired through various channels. Traditional job portals like Braintrust can be good places to start. Braintrust has specialized cybersecurity experts for more experienced candidates. Freelance platforms such as Braintrust, allows you to post a job for free. Networking events or cybersecurity conferences can also provide opportunities to connect with potential candidates. Online communities, forums, and platforms like GitHub can also be great places to discover talent passionate about cybersecurity.

How do I recruit a Security Researcher?

Recruiting a Security Researcher begins with a clear understanding of your needs. Create a detailed job description outlining the skills, experiences, and certifications required. Use channels like Braintrust to advertise the position and cybersecurity forums. Networking events and cybersecurity conferences are also great places to recruit. A rigorous selection process is crucial. This might include CV screening, several rounds of interviews, technical and ethical assessments, and possibly a review of the candidate's public work or contributions to the security community. For more specialized roles like vulnerability researcher or threat research, consider tailoring your recruitment approach accordingly.

How much does a Security Researcher charge per hour?

The hourly rate for a Security Researcher can vary widely depending on the same factors as mentioned above - experience, location, and complexity of the work. You might expect an hourly rate to range from $30 to over $100 per hour. More experienced or specialized security researchers could charge significantly higher rates, particularly for contract or freelance work. It's important to clarify expectations, responsibilities, and deliverables when negotiating hourly rates to ensure a fair agreement. Additionally, if you are seeking candidates with specific skills in areas such as computer science, network security, or cloud security, be prepared to discuss these requirements when discussing rates.

What is the salary of a security researcher?

The salary of a Security Researcher varies based on factors such as their level of experience, the size and industry of the hiring company, and geographical location. According to data up to September 2021, in the United States, the average salary range for a security researcher can be between $70,000 to over $150,000 per year. More experienced researchers, or those working in larger companies or high-cost areas, can expect to earn at the higher end of this range or even more. If you are hiring for positions in information technology, consider offering competitive salaries to attract top talent.

What does a security researcher do?

A Security Researcher, also known as a cybersecurity researcher, focuses on identifying, analyzing, and addressing potential threats and vulnerabilities in an organization's information systems. This involves conducting security audits, penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and threat modeling. They also analyze malware and other cyber threats to understand their behavior, origin, and impact. Additionally, they stay updated with the latest cybersecurity threats, attack techniques, and trends. They often work closely with incident response teams, providing valuable information for detecting and mitigating cyber threats. The role also includes communicating their findings, either within the organization or publicly to the wider cybersecurity community, through detailed reports or presentations. Having knowledge of security solutions like Palo Alto Networks can be advantageous for security researchers.

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