One of the great things about the way the cybersecurity community has matured in recent years is the openness and willingness to provide mentorship and assistance to newcomers to the field. The number of offers for advice, resume reviews, study guides and other assistance that I see in various social media and other forums is incredible! But why the change? Because we, as security professionals, know firsthand that if we want to get ahead of the curve, we need all the help we can get. The timing could not be better to dive headfirst into the rewarding career of cybersecurity. What I hope to do in this quick blog post is to give a bit of knowledge on the career of cybersecurity for both the career seeker and the hiring manager!
Degree versus Certs versus Real-World Experience.
The most common question that I get when I am asked about a career in cybersecurity is the best path to choose… degree, certifications, or real-world experience. I think this is one of the hardest things about choosing to transition into this field. The answer is not a simple one and it is not “one size fits all”. What I typically say is that there is absolutely no replacement for real-world experience. Dealing with normal, everyday user issues or complex and imperfect scenarios that exist outside of a lab environment – and in some cases failing miserably and then finding the right solution to bring it all back together after grueling time spent troubleshooting – prepares you for the worst that the world of cybersecurity can throw at you. Also, having the empathy that a security control that should be put in place could cause undue stress in an already stressful environment and may be the perfect scenario for some other, less restrictive controls but still meet the goal. These types of scenarios can only be found by having real-world experience. Experiencing this gives us thoughtful, knowledgeable, and engaged cybersecurity professionals. Depending on the organization that an entry level person can discover a role within, you can find yourself getting tunnel vision. This limits your growth by solely focusing on the daily tasks at hand rather than getting a wide breadth of knowledge of all topics within a subject.
With that in mind a great place to get the additional information that real-world experience may prevent is by studying on a degree path or within certification programs such as ISC2, CompTIA, EC Council, SANS, and others. These methods, while typically only providing cursory amounts knowledge about a given subject, allow you to explore different ideas, best practices, and new technologies that may sit outside of the typical workday. So, my answer to this question becomes a very drawn-out discussion about how a person learns, how they like to spend their time, and what the timeline for transition may look like for each individual person exploring this career.
Now I feel that I must mention another excellent resource at your disposal. The internet has a vast plethora of free and or very cheap resources that allow you to gain the knowledge that a traditional certification path or degree program may provide but allow you to apply the techniques learned in an active learning environment. Websites such as hackthebox.com or tryhackme.com are some examples of some relatively cheap resources that give training and hands-on experience.
Another great resource for those with some technical experience in IT and looking to transition into cybersecurity is testout.com. For job seekers and hiring managers alike, this can be a great tool. For the job seeker, you can show that your knowledge in a particular capability is up to par with industry certifications without requiring expensive exams and boot camps. For hiring teams, you can know that the candidate has a validated baseline of knowledge that can be used to fit them into a new role that may not be something they have done in the past.
Choose your own Adventure.
So, you’ve chosen a path and have decided how you’re going to explore the world of cybersecurity but you don’t know where you want to go. The best part about cybersecurity is the extreme number of things that you can learn and do within this field. If you love the idea of an endless supply of exactly the same task, working with structured data, and piecing 100 data points together to come to a conclusion, there is a place for you. If you need a very dynamic workday where you’re moving from topic to topic and providing feedback on how to accomplish very different goals, there is a spot for you. If you’re the kind of person that just loves to write documentation and match a specific requirement to its technical control… yep… there is a spot for you. And last, if you just want to see how quickly and effectively you can break (or break into) systems then provide options to solve the problems you exploited, there is a special place for you.
My point is that everyone is different and there is no single way to get into cybersecurity. Blue team, red team, purple team, white team are all options to take, and we need members of every sort of team to make security work effectively. So, find that niche that you like. Find that role that makes you want to get up early in the morning and late into the evening to satiate that passion and make a career out of it! There is space for everyone to choose their own adventure and make the journey their own!
Variety is the spice of security life!
Finally, after saying all of that, it is important to understand how we can improve this career field and reset our own expectations of what makes a great security professional. Because there are multitudes of different paths to follow to achieve an “education” in cybersecurity and there are unlimited types of roles to fill within this field, we can safely assume that it takes all kinds of people to make it happen. The only way to solve the reported cyber skills shortage is to take a step back and understand that there is no one way to do so. We need a large array of experiences and skillsets outside of the traditional IT and cybersecurity skillsets to bring cybersecurity programs to the masses and to make our information security programs something that can be adopted by everyone from the bookkeeper to the salesperson to the most technical network engineers. So, take a second when navigating careers in cybersecurity, whether seeking or hiring and find those skills that can bring a benefit to the team in a new, fresh way.
VP, Security & CISO
Green Cloud Defense
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of phishing, it was the age of ransomware, and the story goes on. The security industry continues to see how ransomware devastates organizations. According to a Fortinet 2021 report, the average weekly growth of ransomware is seeing an increase of around 10 times more than one year ago. (1) Extortion has become the norm in cybercrime and there is a massive financial benefit. Insurance companies continue to write policies that simply pay out millions of dollars in ransom demands despite the warnings of tired, frustrated technology professionals. Criminals are ramping up operations, emboldened by the guaranteed payoff. On top of this, security vendors stand waiting and alert, like a green recruit ready for their day on the front line. We have successfully created a world where the criminal knows big money is right around the corner. However, we can’t fool ourselves into thinking big businesses with large IT budgets and huge security groups were the only targets. We would also be severely inaccurate if we thought it all happens like some bad movie plot – “I’m in the firewall!” These scenarios are not realistic. Other forces are in play. They are organic in nature. We must not forget the human element to all of this: our end users.
One goal we may all have is to not have a resume generating event. Sure, common frameworks such as NIST and MITRE ATT&CK can most certainly create a base for proper protections, but the human element is often overlooked. This is a tale of two phish. We would miss the mark if we did not talk about the phishing, the whales, and the spears. Some may ask, “What is phishing?” Phishing is simply defined as an attempt to somehow get Alice or Bob to divulge sensitive information. Alice gets 100 emails a day; she is experiencing infobesity. It’s easy to see how a phishing attempt could be seen as a legitimate email. In an office down the hallway, Bob, the CEO, needs her to see an invoice and get it processed ASAP. Spearphishing goes after Alice, the little fish. Bob, on the other hand, is a very big whale. With whalephishing, the CEO is considered the main course. Alice receives the email and after a click, a reverse shell is in place; none is the wiser. Big surprise, that was not Bob. That was Nicole and she is four states away. The pesky macro that Nicole injected inside the email sets off a chain of events that would later cost money, time, and reputation. There were methods to gain that traction and persistence. Nicole targeted this MSP because she knew the initial attack surface was small but grows exponentially as enumeration exposes the MSP’s client base.
Again, let’s be honest; with power and position comes risk. Executives and the C-Suite are busy. Phishing scams are just not a priority to upper management. A 2020 Forbes article tackles this quite eloquently, “The longer management ignores the threat posed to customers by phishing attacks, the more likely an enterprise will repeatedly experience this type of attack.” (2) It’s a simple mistake to click on that urgent email from the CEO. Malicious actors know this; they bet on success. Phishing can be done via an email, a phone, or an SMS message. The objective is to become Alice’s friend, find her trust, and eventually gain access. Alice and Bob are not the only targets. Vendors and supply chains are bigger fish and are priority number one.
Supply chain attacks have been in the news recently. Remote management organizations have shown us how brittle our security posture is. These 3rd party vendor applications sit on a customer’s network without restriction and with elevated privileges. Remote management organizations have persistence into a network via a remote monitoring and management (RMM) application; it is there by design and provides access to client devices and networks. Who are these clients? Large companies use RMM solutions, but a large swath of attacks target Managed Service Providers and Cloud Service Providers (CSP) via an RMM solution. Supply chain attacks are one of the most serious vectors for compromise. By phishing and intruding inside the network of [insert remote management company], a malicious actor can obtain access to update repositories, vendor VPN connections, and other organizational controls. This is where MSP’s and CSP’s are advised to exercise caution. Supply chains and vendors are the crown jewel for criminals. Securing infrastructure by deploying network access controls, enabling endpoint protection solutions, and standing up firewalls is not sufficient. Employee education, phishing simulations, and security minded incentives will help to drastically reduce the number of security incidents in any organization. MSP’s and CSP’s must be prepared to handle a security event for their customers but also deploy good digital hygiene in their own environments.
We see Alice and Bob every day. We know them, we work with them. In short, we are Alice and Bob. Our goal is to avoid Nicole at all costs. To avoid phishing attempts, we must first recognize the threat so we can eliminate it. Verify everyone and when in doubt, contact the person that sends an attachment. Hover over links and verify the domain but avoid clicking on links in emails, if possible. Get into the habit of reading the voice on the other end of the call. Are they being extremely nice and asking how your family is, how the baseball game is? Is this person trying to slide into your life for any curious reason? Be wary and have common sense but if anything, perform the following:
Trust no one, verify the rest.
Solutions Engineer, Cloud and Security
(1) Fortinet, Inc. 2021. Global Threat Landscape Report
(2) Stolfo, 2020, Why The C-Suite Should Care About Phishing Attacks Against Customers, accessed 20 September 2021, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/04/01/why-the-c-suite-should-care-about-phishing-attacks-against-customers>
You’re logging in for the first time in a while. But you can’t remember what your password is. Is that even the right username? Which email did I sign up with? You try a couple combinations with no luck. Looks like you’re going to waste some more time going through the password reset process.
Sound familiar? It should, because we’ve all been there. If only there was a way to create and securely store passwords and passphrases without having to memorize them all.
Password Managers. Enter the password manager. There are a lot of them out there, some paid and some free. But seriously – you really do need this in your life. A password manager will revolutionize the way you secure your accounts and help you create long and difficult passwords without having to even memorize them.
So how do password managers work? The concept is relatively simple. A password manager is an application on your local device that maintains a database of all your usernames and passwords. To unlock that database and keep it secure you configure one “master password” to access the information. This master password should be long and complex, of course, but it is the only password you need to memorize. For bonus points, create a passphrase like “yellowflowerprariegreenland” – it’s easy to memorize and insanely difficult for cybercriminals to crack.
So say you need to log in to Facebook. No problem. Navigate to Facebook, spin up your password manager, give it the master password, locate your Facebook credentials and then copy and paste. Voila. In fact, you may not even know what your Facebook password is (because it’s too long and complex to remember), but you’re able to log in regardless. It really is that simple.
One of the other great things about using password managers is that they encourage you to create long and complicated passwords or passphrases for your accounts. Many of them even offer an integrated password or passphrase generator that can be configured for desired complexity.
Seriously, do yourself a favor and get a password manager. Then take the time to go through all of your accounts and ensure that they are all in your password manager and – most importantly – that they have long and complicated passwords or passphrases that would take modern computers billions of years to break! It might take a bit of time to get all of your accounts integrated, but the juice is well worth the squeeze.
If you’re not sure where to start with password managers, have a look at some of the most popular services:
Multi-Factor Authentication. So you’ve set up your password manager and integrated your accounts. How about taking it a step further and to really lock down your information and ensure you don’t become another cyber crime statistic? Again, the answer is surprisingly simple – multi-factor authentication!
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is just what it sounds like – authentication with multiple factors. These factors are most commonly what you are (biometrics), who you are (personal information), what you know (secret), and/or what you have (e.g. a key or a card). When you combine authentication into a requirement for two or more of these factors, then you have MFA. Believe it or not most people have been using MFA for a long time now. Think about when you withdraw some money from an ATM. You are required to provide something you have (a card) and something you know (a pin code). And there you have it.
So even if you forego the password manager, MFA can literally stop cybercriminals in their tracks. Because with MFA even if someone manages to break get ahold of your username and password, they won’t be able to get far without also having your MFA solution.
Need some suggestions on MFA solutions? Again, in no particular order, we’ve got you covered:
Though we generally recommend that you avoid using MFA through SMS texted codes due to the vulnerabilities it has, even this can be an adequate deterrent for cybercriminals looking for an easy score. So if you can’t be bothered with MFA, first of all we encourage you to rethink that decision. But most importantly, do try and sign up for the SMS- or email-based option on your accounts if possible.
As always, remember that with any security tools and practices, nothing is ever completely safe. In fact, there are ways to circumvent any security tool. But at the end of the day, just use common sense and think before you click!
Green Cloud Defense
Insurers are considering all possible ways that hackers may use cyber attacks to develop better underwriting standards for policies that can protect enterprises and their intellectual property from these attacks. A new change in underwriting will also come to the policy holder as there will be requirements to “beef up their own cyber defenses” and protection solutions according to Tom Reagan, Marsh McLennan’s head of U.S. cyber practice.
Cybersecurity insurance is at an inflection point but it is on pace to be a $3 billion industry. With this much money at stake, insurers will surely put in place tighter coverage standards and increase prices. Therefore, it is paramount that policyholders increase not only their cybersecurity solutions along the industry standards but, also, increase their awareness to this new and persisting threat.
Given the reactive nature for these new insurance offerings the policyholder needs to make sure they are compliant. This means companies and individuals need to follow compliance frameworks like CIS, NIST CSF or ISO 27001. Adhering to these standards can ensure that your company has proper processes and standards in place to address the overall risk.
These industry standard frameworks are designed to be easy for any organization of any size or level of security risk to adopt. The framework is not a rigid “checklist” – it is a tool that will help organizations identify and prioritize actions within their cybersecurity strategy based on the organization’s risk profile and industry. Together, with a properly executed insurance policy, you are protected as best as you can be in the event of an attack.
You can use the below questions to self-audit and assess your cyber risk. This will help you to understand what your risk tolerance is and to make decisions for the amount of coverage required or risk to be transferred.
Companies are increasingly relying on cybersecurity insurance to help transfer their risk , once determined, that comes with such attacks. But the policy holder must be proactive in planning their defense when preparing to take on a cybersecurity insurance policy.
Once you have answered the questions above and have properly assessed your cyber risk tolerance, insurers will look to have an answer for these five crucial questions:
Preparing your organization to answer these questions and having a candid conversation with your insurer can help you ensure that you’re meeting your policy’s requirements. By having these candid conversations, you can show your willingness to participate in the shared responsibility model and own those controls that must be put in place according to your chosen framework. Any discrepancies can be communicated, and a plan developed, to ensure that progress is made to become compliant with your policy and framework.
Bottom line is that changes are coming to cyber insurance coverage. Taking the time today to be proactive in how you assess and manage your risk, develop your internal security program maturity, and prepare for the worst will put you in a position to get the most out of your cyber insurance investment.
VP, Security & CISO
Green Cloud Defense
GREENVILLE, S.C. (July 6, 2021) – Green Cloud Defense (“Green Cloud”), a cloud technology and security solutions provider, today announced it has deepened its relationship with Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cybersecurity solutions, to provide a managed Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) service as well as an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) service.
The two new solutions significantly strengthen and expand the security product portfolio of Green Cloud Defense, one of the largest independent channel-only cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers in the country. In addition to SIEM and EDR, the company also offers managed email security and managed firewall solutions, part of the Fortinet Security Fabric, to all their Managed Service Providers (MSPs) across the United States.
“As the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve and mature, our channel partners are actively searching for solutions to provide data protection and security for their end users,” said Keith Coker, CEO. “Since the acquisition of Cascade Defense earlier this year, we’ve been laser-focused on delivering the latest technology in combatting threats like phishing, ransomware and zero day attacks and improving visibility and response times.”
Green Cloud’s managed SIEM product is powered by Fortinet’s FortiSIEM solution which helps identify insider and incoming threats that would pass traditional defenses. The company’s managed EDR service is powered by Fortinet’s FortiEDR solution which delivers advanced, real-time threat intelligence, visibility, analysis, management, and protection for endpoints both pre- and post-infection.
Today, Green Cloud Defense has 70 employees, serves 700 channel partners, operates six data centers and has a Security Operations Center (SOC) in Spokane, Washington.