Friday, 17 June 2016

The Car Salesman to the Mechanic.

So I made the big brave move into a cyber security specific role....

The rationale behind this was simple. Far too often in my world of business continuity did I encounter some CTO who was trying to pull the wool over my eyes when discussing IT risk. They would throw out a few technical terms I’d never heard of and I had no choice but to assume they knew what they were talking about. This needed to change so I decided to throw myself into IT and see what all the fuss was about.

Prior to making the move I genuinely thought my experience of delivering disaster recovery and work are recovery projects meant that I had a pretty good grounding on the subject. However, looking back I'd have to say I was definitely ignorant to what I didn't know. It occurred to me that in recent years I was the car salesmen to the mechanic. But as a security professional did I really need to fully understand the likes of networks, environments and infrastructure?

As part of my technical learning curve for my new role I started to research what training courses I could take to give me a good grounding but not make me an expert in a particular IT discipline (and trust me there are so many!). Most IT courses offer specific training but seldom offer an enterprise-wide view of IT in business. I initially looked at the ITIL courses because they cover service delivery in IT and that would give me an idea but I was working in security now and I needed something with a bit more context and meaning. This is when I arrived at the CompTia Security + course.

Well done. You can memorise stuff. Have a certificate!

I'm rather cynical about these intensive training packages. In my experience I tend to walk away having passed an exam (well done me) but never actually being that much better at my job come Monday. I have enough certificates to get me job interviews now. I wanted a course that would actually make me better at my job!

CompTia Security + Course

Let me start by saying that overall I liked this course. However, the first thing that initially put me off was the documented "24 months of networking experience" perquisite (on the fact that I didn’t have that!). Also, virtually none of the security jobs advertisements I had considered before made any reference to needing this course in the first place. It always mentioned CISM, CISA, CRISK and CISSP. So why bother? Well this is probably the first intensive course I have ever been on where I have walked away feeling more competent than I was before.

Disclaimer: all courses and content are delivered differently through different providers and instructors so my version is by no means gospel!

The Course:

The CompTia courses offer a range of sub-disciplines mostly to the benefit of network engineers and alike. Of course a key benefit of understanding networks is that you gain a full picture of the end to end IT set up (mostly). The Security + course focuses in on the likely vulnerabilities and threats you might encounter across the spectrum from mobile devices to databases and beyond. The instructor covered subjects such as cryptography, digital signatures, public key infrastructure etc. It’s provided me with some useful foundations to build upon.

There is an exam at the end of the course of which there are about 100 questions and the marking scheme which is weighted so I can’t give you at a specific pass level. I got the feeling it was like most tests at 75%.
While I would recommend this course to anyone working in the resilience sector (business continuity, disaster recovery, IT risk) I think some pre reading is definitely required to fully benefit from the time sat in the classroom. My first port of call was a fantastic resource call Cybrary. This free resource (once signed up) provided online courses from beginner up in networks. It did take a while but it really enhanced my overall learning. The instructor often made references to port numbers, IP ranges, subnetting etc. so I would highly recommend reading up beforehand!

But this is just my tip for a course I enjoyed and really benefited from as a beginner.


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