How to try to get into forensics and cybersecurity
I have been contemplating writing a blog about my adventure in forensics and cyber-security for long time. I truly didn’t know where to begin or even how to begin. A colleague suggested I begin telling my stories with the different steps I took to get here and the errors or series of unfortunate events, I should say, that has guided my career in digital forensics.
I can honestly say that 10 years ago I didn’t know anything about computers, their inner workings and much less about how to investigate and analyze the data that was store on them. I didn’t know what malware was and what a compromise meant in terms of computers. My experiences and skills were all learned on the job, on a case, project, compromise, incident response, research, mentors, friends and by breaking thinks on occasion. Bet, you wouldn’t think a Blue Screen of Death on your PC would teach you anything, think again. Hopefully, this 3 steps help provide thoughts on approaching this career with an open mind and curiosity, that is needed to excel in such a field and with the understanding that sometimes, it just can’t be explained.
Step 1: Make someone extremely angry that they move you from one organization to the next ( I truthfully did not know what I did)
This step will probably not be the same in your adventure but it led to the beginning of mine. When I was moved, I ended up in an organization that not many people knew existed at the company I was working for at the time. They were actively working forensic cases using a combination of Windows and Unix/Linus operating systems. Talk about being over my head, I came in with no computing background other then using the internet, youtube and writing papers for school. Imagine getting thrown into an operating system that is not commonly used in homes or outside of computing types of career fields. It was a huge challenge but, I decided to jump right in.
Step 2: I don’t care how you jump but jump!!
This was one of the biggest challenges in my life, I need to excel to show myself that I could do it. I had to learn an entire new system and utilize it to accomplish the task I needed to finish for the new organization. If you have never seen how technical people use a Linux operating system, think about that blinking green light on a black screen that started typing, telling Neo (Matrix) to follow the white rabbit, or for a more modern visual, the very small scenes of Mr. Robot, where you see code or text being written across a black screen, seemingly not knowing what it means or does.
I was drowning in information, but at the end of six months, I had accomplish so much and felt like I had become a Linux beast, sort of.
As you can imagine the common thread to learning everything was repetition. The fact that the operating system was in my face day in and day out, was eventually the success to my learning. Now it did not mean I did not need further training over time but, by overcoming this first challenge I was introduced to terminology, functionality and a common language to discuss my needs to technical mentors. It helped with also identifying the terms needed to google in order to find free training resources across the web.
Step 3: Do not half-ass it
The career field of digital forensics and cybersecurity is always changing and everyone is in a constant mode of learning and training in order to stay up with the times or get ahead of it. A good friend of mine and I always debated on, “what common disciplines almost always interlaced all the information in forensics and cybersecurity?” Those three areas or combination of areas where most people fall into knowledge wise are the following:
- Operating Systems
- Computer Science
If a person can be extremely knowledgeable in any two of these then they would probably be ahead of a lot of individuals in these career fields as it seems the average knowledge amongst these domains, if you will, in my experience, has been that most people have knowledge in 1 of these and then have half-ass knowledge of 1 other.
The knowledge needed in order to be successful requires understanding of operating systems and how they work; networks and communications between machines and the humans using those networks; everything runs off software or written code, the ability to read a variety of coding languages and understand the functionality of the code. The computer science or reading of code domain seems to be the least found amongst a lot of these career fields as people who can do it can find themselves in better financial positions as developers.
My strongest domains are in the operating systems and computer science disciplines and am currently learning the networking piece. I am constantly learning and always run into a new challenge, but I have always been able to overcome or advance in my career based on these 3 knowledge bases.
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