How Real Cybersecurity Pros Keep Their Cybersecurity Skills Sharp

We chat with two cybersecurity pros to find out what their go-to resources are for ongoing learning.
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Cybersecurity is an ever-changing field that requires keeping up to speed and constantly honing and developing new skills. That may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that there is a wonderful, welcoming and ever-growing cybersecurity community that provides plenty of resources to help keep you up-to-date and engage in hands-on practice of cybersecurity skills.

To help us understand what works for cybersecurity practitioners, we caught up with two of them – Gabriela Ariza and Kira Hays – to find out how they keep their skills sharp.

Keeping Up on Cybersecurity Skills

Cybersecurity pros will tell you, it’s essential to keep current with the latest trends, learn about recent attacks and constantly upgrade your skills. Ariza, cybersecurity specialist with the Society of Actuaries, stresses this as critical to your success.

Gabby A (1)“This field changes a lot,” she said. “I feel like within six months, new technologies are coming out. Almost daily there are new types of ways to breach a system. There’s constantly patches and updates, updating firmware, all that kind of day-to-day stuff that makes you want to learn on a daily basis.”

Most employers will sponsor your continuing education in today’s ever-changing landscape. There’s a critical need to keep cybersecurity professionals in the know so that they can effectively combat any attacks.

“The companies that really want to be successful have that training budget because they realize that it’s a field that really does change a lot,” Ariza said. “They need cybersecurity professionals to be on top of what is going on out there.” She recommends engaging in as many opportunities as possible, whether it’s a one-day bootcamp or longer-term training.

Don’t forget, there is also room for personal trainings, some small and others on a larger scale. Ariza recommends keeping a personal budget for training outside of company-sponsored education to pave the way for personal and professional growth.

“I usually have a smaller budget. It’s for things that maybe the company doesn’t really provide because it isn’t based off of my job role,” she said. “It’s more about me trying to advance to the next level.”

Kira HaysHays, technical support representative with Digital Uppercut, takes an active approach to managing her skills. She runs her own home network that mirrors that of corporate environments. In doing so, she practices her skills at home and then applies them on the job.

Hays encourages cybersecurity pros to actively search the internet to resolve any concerns. When faced with a problem she can’t immediately solve, she turns to the internet.

“Google is your friend,” she said. “There are so many different resources and communities which offer great up-to-date information.” Hays regularly performs searches to help resolve any issues she encounters, always learning from others in the cybersecurity community.

Ariza encourages cybersecurity pros to stay current with the news and other publications as well.

“Even just looking at the cybersecurity news and seeing what’s going on out there is critical for your day-to-day functionality.”

Cybersecurity Resources for Building Your Skills

As cybersecurity is such an expanding and evolving field, there are a plethora of resources for cybersecurity pros to reference as they work to strengthen their skills. We’ve split these resources into two different categories: learning resources and hands-on resources.

Learning Resources

If you’re studying for a certification exam or just looking to expand your knowledge, you will probably want to learn about cybersecurity concepts and gain a foundational knowledge base. To do that, you’ll need some learning resources.

  • CyberAces offers tutorials and courses and maintains users and groups for professionals to access.
  • CompTIA CertMaster Learn helps you master the skills covered by CompTIA certifications.
  • ITProTV provides tutorials and informative videos for different vendor certifications and various IT-based topics.
  • FEDVTE is a free learning resource for any government employee to help strengthen security skills.
  • Fortinet is a well-known resource for emerging threats and up-to-date information.
  • Cybernews provides trending content and the latest in cybersecurity news.
  • Infosec Magazine is another publication with great news and other resources, such as webinars and podcasts.

Hands-on Resources

Learning about the cybersecurity landscape is an absolute must. But, being able to practice what you learn in a simulated environment is how cybersecurity pros make the jump from knowledge intake to application. Check out these resources to put your cybersecurity skills to work.

  • CertMaster Labs gives you practice with critical hands-on skills in a real virtual environment. Now when you purchase an eLearning Bundle from the CompTIA Store, CompTIA CertMaster Learn and CertMaster Labs are integrated to provide a seamless experience of both learning and hands-on practice.
  • Hack the Box gives you the capability to compete against other cybersecurity teams from across the world, letting you learn from international practitioners.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is an in-depth resource for practicing cybersecurity which also provides great content on trending topics.
  • NICCS offers a Cybercareer Pathways Tool, where you can pick different job roles and see how they overlap with other job roles. Each job role explains what it is, what tasks you’d be doing, and what type of knowledge is needed.
  • Trend Micro focuses on the business aspect of cybersecurity and is an interactive tool. This resource goes beyond the technical aspects and helps cybersecurity pros learn how to make decisions.
  • Juice Shop is a web app you can take apart and learn from as you disassemble.
  • Try Hack Me is a learning tool for trying out different environments.
  • bwapp is a web app that’s completely filled with bugs. It allows you to actually test and work with different bugs in a simulated environment.

Cybersecurity Certifications

Practicing skills and expanding your breadth of knowledge is critical for success. But you also want to be able to show that you are proficient with particular skill sets —and to do that, you need IT certifications.

“If you want to be proactive and learn to keep your environment secure, you need to be current with the latest skills and know what it takes to be a better team member,”  said Ariza, who has CompTIA Security+. “That’s why certs and training are so important to keep you up on these skills.” While certifications act as a validation of skills, it’s also a way to keep advancing your career.

“I like CompTIA certifications because the vendor neutrality lets me take my education with me anywhere I go,” said Hays, who has CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+.

Ready to start studying? Writing out your plan will set you up for success. Download our free training plan worksheet to help get organized and make your dream a reality.

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