Why Is the Cyber Range an Advantage?
Cybersecurity jobs are not new. Ever since there have been computer networks, there has also existed the need to keep them secure. As networks have evolved and grown more sophisticated, so have those who try to compromise them. Hackers are not just "bad guys". Good hackers are ones who explore networks to test for vulnerabilities and alert admins and users so that the problem can be fixed.
So, how do you get a job in cybersecurity? Well, you can go exploring networks on your own and try to get into them, but that's not really advised (prison orange is probably not your best fashion color). Book learning and certifications will definitely get you started in the right direction, but the real prize is learning skills in a cyber range.
A cyber range is a controlled technology environment where cybersecurity professionals can interact with a real-world simulation and learn how to detect and stop cyber-attacks using equipment they could find on the job.
Eleven Fifty Academy's Brian Stone, who has spent 35 years in the tech space holding jobs such as programmer, network consultant, and network administrator, is a fan.
When he retired, his goal was to become a cybersecurity expert, which is how he found Eleven Fifty Academy and the range.
"When I went through the class and experienced the range, I knew it was a special place. "He's such an enthusiast that he says "If I could just have access to the range, nothing else, not get paid, not teach, I would do that."
Expanding on his enthusiasm for the Range, Brian explains "The range was such a fascinating thing for me because it's everything that a real corporate network is. The only person(s) who have access in a place like that are top-level technicians," noting that top-level was very limited - technicians just below the CFO.
"But in the range, I could have that same access to the network that those people did, and because of the ability to launch exploits, it was a more complex network than I experienced in my career."
Upon enrolling, he thought the course might be easy for him given his extensive networking experience, but he was surprised by the challenge it presented. He found himself taking numerous notes, and also exploring related topics on his own in order to bolster what he was being taught. "It exposed me to so much stuff, that even though I'd spent so much time in technology, I hadn't had access to. It was a perfect situation for me."
He was quick to note that while book-learning and certifications are necessary and will get you a start, adding the extra bonus of actual hands-on experience in a realistic environment like the range is really the way to stand out.
Graduating from the cybersecurity program from Eleven Fifty Academy has opened up new worlds and opportunities for him.
"This experience has allowed me to be exposed to stuff that, without the Academy, I wouldn't know about. I wouldn't be able to test the things I can today without the tools the Academy introduced me to."
"Besides just reading about it, I get a much deeper understanding of how this stuff works."
Exploring cybersecurity as a career
Cybersecurity covers a wide range of jobs, such as IT Technician, Information Security Analyst, Network or Systems Administrator, and Penetration Tester. Jobs in cybersecurity pay well, and salaries are known to increase quickly as an employee gains knowledge and has opportunities to advance from entry-level positions. Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are often the highest-earning titles, while entry-level opportunities like analysts and engineers are usually the most unfilled positions, as employees advance into more strategic roles within an organization.
Interaction on a cyber range can allow you the opportunity to hone the skills necessary and gain you an advantage to land one of those jobs.
Learning the course material and passing the certification tests is of the utmost importance, "...but if you're going to get a job, and you've got Range experience, you've worked with the equipment we've got at the Range, you're much better off than a person who just has certifications. You just don't get exposed to this type of equipment until you've worked at a place for 5 or 10 years."
Tips for cybersecurity bootcamp and beyond
Stone left Eleven Fifty Academy as a graduate and returned to instruct others in the art of cybersecurity. His passion for the subject and his experience show, as he has some tips for those who want to embark on this journey.
For those considering learning something new "You've got to be persistent. You've got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because when you read this stuff the first time, you're not going to get it all."
"Why don't I understand that?" will be a question you ask yourself, and that's OK. Stone advises just relaxing and keeping at it. "Persistence is really important."
He suggests carefully reading the material and taking (and re-taking) the practice tests. "Keep working until you can get to 90%" he advises. He also suggests looking up material on questions you missed, and those you only guessed at, even if you got them right. This will pay off in more solid knowledge of the test material and give you the confidence to know you'll do well.
Those who graduate from the programs typically start as Log Analyst or Help Desk before moving on to SOC Analyst. "You need to be able to talk about security, you need to understand the frameworks, and you need to be familiar with some of the equipment." But you don't have to be able to solve the security problems right away. That comes later. "It takes 5-10 years to become good in this field. It's not overnight. There's so much to learn."