cisco cyber ops scholarship experience

A few months ago I tossed my name into a sign-up for a Cisco Cyber Ops Scholarship program which provides training for qualified individuals to achieve the Cisco Cyber Ops certification. This certification, unlike everything else with Cisco, does not require having another Cisco cert under one’s belt already. A week ago, I received an email stating I could finally start the next step, which is look over the rules and fill in a small “candidate intake survey.” A few days later, I received a link to take a “prequalification” exam. A few more days after that, I received a note that I was accepted and had to take another small survey. At this point, I’m awaiting more feedback on when I can start the training. I’m hoping to kick this off through Q1 and Q2 of 2018.

What is the Cisco Cyber Ops certification? Stealing from someone on Techexams who put it very succinctly: “The CCNA CyberOps is for someone who wants to be a SOC analyst, examining packets and flows on a dashboard.” By contrast, there is also the CCNA Security certification. “The CCNA Sec is for someone who wants to be a network security admin, setting up appliances and firewalls.” Honestly, this sounds like Cisco’s play into the cybersecurity world, and a good one, as otherwise you need to slog through all the courses and studying to implement devices, when many analysts just want to be able to use, tune, watch, and wield the tools once deployed. On a more detailed level, the Cyber Ops cert is the combination of two tracks/exams: Understanding Cisco Cybersecurity Fundamentals (210-250 SECFND) and Implementing Cisco Cybersecurity Operations (210-255 SECOPS).

Are there requirements? Yes, you’ll have to check the rules. I qualify for having an old Security+ certificate in my name. Plus I passed the prequalification exam and accepted the terms/conditions.

What’s the prequal exam like? Clearly I won’t get into details, but the exam was something like 60-ish questions over 45 minutes and covered topics in the course: Windows, Linux, Cisco/Networking, and Infosec topics. Honestly, I found this pretty challenging as my Cisco-centric networking is rusty. I’d honestly say about 50% of the exam covers CCENT and CCNA R&S topics. So plan and study accordingly.

Do I expect to learn much from this? As far as Windows, Linux, and Information Security topics, I honestly doubt I will learn too many new tricks or information; keeping in mind that I’ve done troubleshooting on both platforms for many years as a sysadmin. However, I hope to brush off plenty of Cisco networking rust and bone up on that more than I am today. I think I’ll probably learn the terminology Cisco wants to use for security topics. I also would like to know more about the actual course details, as I can then properly recommend the certification for those looking to possibly get into infosec and want to know what else to look into besides the normal Security+ -> self-study route. The entry level route is one that is difficult to prove or know you’re ready for, especially since infosec is cross-disciplinary. If a cert can demonstrate knowledge in the above 4 categories without needing x years of job experience or 4 other separate certs (Linux+, CCENT/CCNA, Windows something, Security+), that can be a good thing.

Why are Windows and Linux included? As an analyst, I believe the goal is to be able to investigate and troubleshoot alarms and events. This includes being able to log into some servers and run some troubleshooting tools and utilities to see what’s going on, like listing processes, ports in use, look at logs, and maybe do some scripting or command line kung-fu. It’s fine if you can watch a dashboard for events, but real value in security folks is a broad ability to troubleshoot and investigate platforms at least on a superficial level, and not accidentally break things operations depends upon in the process.

Am I so far interested and excited about the cert? For the industry, I actually am. Sure, it’s Cisco-centric, but this cert should demonstrate that someone is ready to put some boots on the ground in a SOC. Security+ and other certs are ok, but there’s lots of trivia and often not a lot of practical skills you can put to use in month 1 of an entry level job. For that alone, I’m pretty excited about this offering and what it means for our entry level tier of folks, who badly need better support to get ramped up out of school.

How do I plan to study for this? First, I’ve already been looking up experiences from others who have taken the course successfully. Seems there is material worth reviewing that lay outside the course materials themselves. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far to check out. I have also seen mention the ITProTV has videos on the course, which I might try to get access to (keeping in mind that November/Thanksgiving special deals are coming up!)

Whatever the scholarship-provided training materials/labs/access will be.
CCNA SECFND book: https://www.amazon.com/Cyber-SECFND-210-250-Official-Certification-ebook/dp/B06Y1RYPL5/
CCNA SECOPS book: https://www.amazon.com/210-255-Official-Pearson-Cybersecurity-Curriculum-ebook/dp/B071JVMJ8T/
Regular Expressions: https://www.debuggex.com/cheatsheet/regex/python
Regulat Expressions: https://www.debuggex.com/cheatsheet/regex/pcre
NIST 800 61: http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.800-61r2.pdf [pdf]
NIST 800 86: http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/Legacy/SP/nistspecialpublication800-86.pdf [pdf]
Wireshark filters: http://packetlife.net/media/library/13/Wireshark_Display_Filters.pdf [pdf]
CVSS Calculator: https://www.first.org/cvss/calculator/3.0

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