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How to become an information security officer

Becoming an information security officer (ISO) in the NHS requires a combination of education, training, and relevant experience. To apply for the role, you should carefully review the specific job advert and tailor your application to meet the qualifications and requirements outlined in the job description.

What is an information security officer?

In NHSScotland, an information security officer (ISO) is responsible for the following:

  • Making sure that reasonable security measures are in place for valuable information assets.
  • Ensuring the resilience of digital-driven healthcare services, including sensitive healthcare data.
  • The secure operation of information systems within their area of the NHS.
  • Developing and implementing security policies.
  • Conducting and analysing information security risk assessments.
  • Providing information security advice.
  • Managing security incidents.
  • Promoting a culture of security awareness among staff.

They also oversee compliance with information security regulations and work to mitigate cyber security threats. This ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of NHS information.

The role is crucial to maintaining the trust of patients by keeping their information safe and secure. Robust information security creates a trusted environment for NHS delivery partners. It reassures them the NHS takes the security of the information underpinning digital systems seriously.

Information security officer on a group video call

Starting your career as an information security officer

Choosing subjects at school

If you are interested in a career as an information security officer, useful school subjects include:

  • Computer science
  • Maths
  • English

Speak to your guidance teacher or careers adviser about subjects offered at your school.

Three volunteers standing outside a hospital entrance

Workplacements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to do a work placement to get some experience working in healthcare. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to college, university, or a new job in the NHS.

Education and training pathway

Formal information security certifications are essential for the career development of any information security professional. The most widely recognised include the following qualifications:

  • International Board for IT Governance Qualifications (IBITGQ)
  • Information System Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
  • International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2)
  • British Computer Society, The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) Learn more about information security qualifications.

Find out more about information security qualifications.

Often ISOs have relevant work experience in at least 2 infosec domains. Some have a few years of experience and an undergraduate degree in a subject such as:

  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology
  • Cyber Security

Some positions may require a master’s degree, professional certifications, or both. To become officially certified with a well-recognised professional body, you’ll need to pass an official exam, for example:

To become an ISO, typically, you should have several years of professional experience in information security or related roles. The specific experience requirements may vary based on the level of the position. For example, some people move to an ISO role after working as:

  • senior network security engineers
  • senior security systems analysts
  • senior security administrators

You can apply for ISO vacancies on our recruitment website.

Networking and seeking guidance from current information security professionals within the NHS can be valuable in navigating the application process.

Get to know the role

An information security officer in the NHS has a critical role in ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of valuable information assets. Some include sensitive healthcare data and underpin information systems. Most of these assets are digital, but the scope of the role also covers paper data and information in other formats, including imaging and sound, which are not always used in a digital format.

A list of typical tasks related to the role:

  • Develop and implement information security policies, standards and procedures tailored to the specific needs of your area of the NHS.
  • Identify and assess security risks and vulnerabilities within the NHS to protect against potential cyberattacks.
  • Educate NHS staff on security best practices and raising awareness of security threats to prevent accidental security breaches.
  • Manage and respond to security incidents and data breaches, including investigating the causes, mitigating the damage, and implementing measures to prevent future incidents.
  • Help with audit processes, so that the organisation complies with legislation related to information security and adheres to regulatory requirements.
  • Provide advice, oversee, and monitor access to NHS systems, so that only authorised people have access to sensitive information.
  • Oversee the selection, implementation, and maintenance of security technologies such as firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption tools.

You’ll need these skills:

  • Proficiency in various aspects of information security, including network security, vulnerability management, risk assessment and management, and incident response, is crucial. Knowledge of security tools and technologies is also important.
  • Information security officers often need strong communication skills to convey security policies, procedures, and risks to non-technical staff within the NHS.
  • Collaborative skills are essential as you may need to work closely with other departments and healthcare professionals to implement security measures and respond to incidents.
  • Given the rapidly evolving nature of the information security field, a commitment to staying updated with the latest security threats and trends is important.
  • Familiarity with healthcare-specific regulations and standards is useful. Knowledge of legislation, including the Data Protection Act 2018/UK GDPR and also the NIS Regulations, is essential due to the sensitive nature of healthcare data.
  • Leadership skills and the ability to lead and coordinate security efforts across different NHS departments and teams.

You’ll work with:

  • data protection officers
  • senior information risk owners
  • information governance teams
  • cyber security officers
  • IT departments
  • clinical staff
  • senior management and executives

As an information security officer, you may work in:

  • office settings
  • data centres
  • healthcare facilities

Remote working may also be possible.

Learning and development

Many NHS ISO roles require relevant certifications such as:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certificate in Information Security Management Principles
  • other recognised certifications in cyber security

Professional bodies

While membership with professional bodies is not mandatory for information security officers in the NHS. However, joining relevant professional organisations can be highly beneficial for:

  • networking
  • staying informed about industry trends
  • accessing valuable resources and certifications 

Some professional bodies that an information security officer may consider joining include the following:

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