Your Path into Cybersecurity: Hone in

A series based on the original 10 step pathway.

Carving out your little corner in this industry is quite important. In a world that is ever so dynamic, it helps to have a specialization. This allows one the ability to focus and expand one's knowledge in a particular area.

But before you do that - how do you know which area you'd like to focus?

This can be a difficult decision for many people and for others they are thrown into a particular area. Let's stick to the basics on this - how does one find answers? No, this is not a trick question. We find answers by first asking questions. So, lets break this down.

Check out the 'Find Your Focus' mindmap I put together, based on fundamental questions one could ask of themselves.

Each branch of the mindmap asks a couple questions related to a particular discipline within Cybersecurity.

If you can answer these questions, you'll be more equipped to align your interests with a specific field.

From there, it is up to you to seek out opportunities, people in some of the aligned areas and project of which you could work. Be strategic and intentional in your pursuit. Tell others about your interests, tell them about your plans and what you are working on. People love to help those that are helping themselves.

So, whatever path you choose, give it your best, take what you can from the experience and continue to grow. Remember, if you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing; and if you are not growing, you, my friend, are stagnant...and who wants that?!

If you find any more my articles helpful, I'd love to hear from you!

Your Path Into Cybersecurity: Familiarization (Series 1:Ep3)

A series based on the original 10 step pathway

Hey guys, I'm back with point three. As stated therein...

"Familiarize yourself with the many disciplines in the field - It is hard for me to answer questions about getting into the field, when one does not have an idea of the area in which they’d like to focus. Do you want to be offensive or defensive, project focused, or on the front-lines, reactive or proactive? Guess what? There are also areas that are not technically focused. For a list of disciplines within the field, check out the Cybersecurity Workforce Framework."

Familiarizing yourself with many disciplines in Cybersecurity does not mean you need to try to be a master of them all - who can do that?! With an industry as dynamic as a growing child, it is best to gain a base level of knowledge across disciplines and hone in on an area of particular interest to you.

What appeals to you, is something of which you need to discover. NICCS provides a helpful framework through common language that breakdown different areas of discipline.

Buzzwords aside - think about what part of the security spectrum you want to focus; from Security Architecture to Research and Development (and everything in between).

Also, check out, the list of "20 Coolest Careers" posted by SANS (and listed below), which also provides job descriptions, courses available to increase your knowledge in the area, why it is cool, and why it makes a difference...I don't know about you, but I want to make a difference, dammit!

Disclaimer: "Coolest" is subjective and relative, so don't shoot the messenger.

The field is wide and vast, and the industries of which that are making it a priority, is every growing.

So, happy searching, hunting, analyzing, researching, exploiting, testing, developing, managing, and all the other adjectives that apply to what we do on a daily basis.

I hope this helps. See ya in my next post.

Your Path into Cybersecurity: Understand Networking (S1: Ep2)

A series based on the original 10 step pathway

To “Understand Networking” was the 2nd point in my original 10 step pathway article.

Networking is a fundamental component of Cybersecurity. How can one protect a network that one doesn’t understand? <I’m out in cyberspace waiting on the answer>...still waiting.

So, some people may be thinking - “Ok, computer networks, got it! But what exactly do I need to know?” Well, there is great deal to explore, and the depth of your knowledge will only make you that much more desirable. I can't tell you the best mode for you, as we all have different learning styles. But remember, the development of computers began in the 1950s; and there has been much iteration and innovation since then -- I think this is debatable. I actually think we experienced slow and steady growth, then a surge in innovation. But, I digress.

Understanding basic concepts, such as, the OSI model, protocols (e.g. TCP/IP, DHCP, ARP, ICMP, HTTP, FTP) will give you a foothold on how networks function under the hood. It’ll allow you to discern how packets are being transmitted and if typical methods of transmission are being used. You’ll be able to identify how data moves across stacks, and if traffic you are observing follows expected RFC (IETF Request For Comment) standards.

You should understand network infrastructure - the resources that enable network connectivity. If you have a grasp on the way infrastructures are setup, you should understand how the hardware and software of your network work together to allow communication flow, organization and management of the enterprise - within and between intra, inter and external networks.

With that, you’ll be able to ascertain why communication is occurring between certain IP addresses, why traffic is being off-loaded to another server and a host of other important types of activity on your network.

Think about it - a network designed for high availability, which is true for most enterprise networks, should be highly available, fault tolerant and redundant. If you understand how your network is setup to achieve these goals, you should have much of the information you need to be in a better position to protect it.

There are tons of free resources online to get you up to speed on your networking knowledge. However, my favorite suggestion, is to work on a project to reinforce theoretical concepts.

So, queue project proposal. If you are just starting out, build a small home lab. Check out all the home labs with varied complexity at /r/homelab/.

I promise not to wait a whole month before writing Ep 3. Geez! Time waits for no one.

Your Path into Cybersecurity: Ask Yourself (S1: Ep1)

A series based on the original 10 step pathway

As stated in my last article, if there was enough interest, I would make this a series. So guess what - series, it is! I’ll break down each of the high level topics I mentioned in the first article. If you don’t remember or did not read it, you can catch up here.

To summarize, the 1st point was “Ask Yourself - can I work well under pressure and can I deal with the ebbs and flows of a highly dynamic industry?”

 

What does this mean?

Incident Response, for example, is often compared to a fire drill. It’s like ummm, what happened here, I need this, have to analyze that, I need to provide a status update to stakeholders, my colleague needs assistance, and so on, and so on…

Whoa…that’s some stir crazy, squirrel chasing type behavior.

I’m sure you can understand the need for a calming force - one who is knowledgeable, can set expectations, delegate appropriately and keep the incident flowing. This skill is beyond pure technical abilities. This individual encompasses technical prowess, strong communication skills, leadership abilities, conflict management and influence. Go you, you unicorn.

Additionally, due to the dynamic nature of the industry, I believe individuals that function well with identifying and working on new problems on a consistent basis thrive and can survive a lucrative career.

How do you become one of these unicorns?

I know, you thought they were mythical creatures. However, proper training with regards to the aforementioned qualities can be delivered. It’s just up to you to seek it out, if it does not come naturally. Think about that one colleague on your team that commands an incident, that seems so calm amidst the madness, that keeps you all on track. Talk to him/her - ask their advice. More often than not, it is fear, confidence, and non-existence of accountability that stand in the way of your ability to level up in this arena. So, toss those feelings aside and live outside your comfort zone for a while. You will soon find that you are now comfortable.

I’m interested in helping more women secure their path into Cybersecurity. If you are a woman interested or looking to transition into in the field, feel free to reach out to me.

As always, all views are those of my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the company for which I work.

Your Path into Cybersecurity

I’m often asked how should one get started in Cybersecurity. I could probably write a multi-page article on this, but TLDR. However, here are 10 tips when considering a career in the field.

 

  1. Ask yourself - can I work well under pressure and can I deal with the ebbs and flows of a highly dynamic industry?

  2. Understand Networking. Prior to the term “Cybersecurity” and universities offering a major for the field, SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) came from Networks, Infrastructures, etc. and had a keen interest in Security. You can’t protect a network that you don’t understand.

  3. Familiarize yourself with the many disciplines in the field - It is hard for me to answer questions about getting into the field, when one does not have an idea of the area in which they’d like to focus. Do you want to be offensive or defensive, project focused, or on the front-lines, reactive or proactive? Guess what? There are also areas that are not technically focused. For a list of disciplines within the field, check out the Cybersecurity Workforce Framework.

  4. Build a base level knowledge bank across several disciplines of Information Security - Then hone in on a particular discipline. Know enough about a particular area of the industry, to where when people need help, they come to you.

  5. Learn to say “yes, but…”, instead of no! This is something I learned from a close friend who was in sales. He always said “yes, but”; even when he did not quite know how he would deliver. This ideology forces security folk to think beyond the innate security components and understand the business, and what it would take to put forth a business driven, but security focused product/service.

  6. Yes, coding is important. I’m often asked, “Do I need to know how to code to work in Cybersecurity?” The short answer to this is yes and no. It all depends on the area of InfoSec in which you are interested. Either way, it will only help. In many disciplines of the field, it will be a powerful skill. Your skill level can also very and that is ok. As defenders, we have many doors to secure, so automation is key - we need all the help we can get. Your coding skills can be very beneficial in this area. If you are a responder, analyzing malware will be a necessity, so understanding it beyond dynamic analysis is very helpful. As a PenTester, you will use code to craft exploits or white scripts to make your offensive activities more efficient. These are just a few areas in which those coding skills could be put to use. If you are wondering what language you should learn - I would hedge my bet on Python. Check out Learn Python and Python for Security.

  7. PoC your Skills - Oh you got skillz?! Create a project - whether it be community focused, specifically for work, or for your own internal arsenal. This will allow you to gain a deeper understanding in the area, work through some real world issues, testing and implementation. Not only could it be beneficial to your upskilling; but it could also act as proof to a prospective employer or client that you know what you claim.

  8. Stop being such an introvert, already! I know it is hard, but in this industry, like many others, it is mostly about who you know. Building that community allows one to learn and share, to build courage, trust and keep connections open and warm for when you need them. Check out security related events on Meetup and follow-up some cool people on Twitter - here is a list. Also, check out The Power of Weak Connections.

  9. Mentor and be mentored - I believe in the saying “ be somebody before you say you need somebody. This boils down to proving yourself and bringing something to the table before expecting it from others. People in the industry are more than willing to help those that also prove themselves to be resourceful.

  10. Be a lifetime learner - This industry will require consistent drive and a love for learning. The beauty of it all, is that most of what you need to know or would want to know is available free of charge on the interwebz. The community is full of folk who are interested in contributing, so there is always opportunity to learn from others and in turn, provide your contribution. People tend to ask, “Do I need certifications?” I’m of the mindset that thought providing questions can be more powerful than answers. So, what are you trying to achieve by getting a certification and what is the potential value of attaining it? Are they helpful - yes, they can be. If you earn the right certification, it can prove to the world that you are knowledgeable in that particular area. However, that is not the only way to prove your skillset. Certs also tend to be expensive. But expensive is relative. So, for example, if a $5k training and cert yields you a $10k raise, its is more than worth it. What is the opportunity cost? That is what you should consider. I have 5 certs, so it is safe to say, I think they are valuable. However, mine were all employer paid - so the decision on worth, if self paid is much different. Check out SANS, for a list of training opportunities and the accompanying GIAC certifications.


 

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it

- Margaret Thatcher