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Want to develop cybersecurity skills? Try SANS Institute's NetWars

IT Best Practices Alert By Linda Musthaler, Network World
November 30, 2012 09:36 AM ET
Linda Musthaler
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Network World - Are you looking to refresh your resume with some new skills? If so, consider learning all you can about cybersecurity, a discipline in high demand with good future career prospects.

Here are three signs that cybersecurity is a growth market:

1. In October, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that the nation may face a digital Pearl Harbor and that a cyber-terrorist attack could paralyze the U.S. economy. He said that a top priority is to invest in the development of skilled cyber-warriors needed to conduct operations in cyberspace.

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2. Tech training company Global Knowledge has named the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) one of the top eight credentials for 2013. According to Global Knowledge: "It's no longer the tried-and-true CISSP certification that matters. Applications, networks, health and privacy are just some of the areas of concern and those working in security with cutting-edge technology are highly sought after. The demand exists for developers who can build secure applications, network engineers with security certifications, and architects who understand how to secure systems and processes."

3. The SANS Institute's NetWars tournaments have grown so popular that the research and education organization has scheduled its first NetWars Tournament of Champions. According to Ed Skoudis, director of the SANS NetWars Project, the goal is to try to help the country build a pipeline of 10,000 or more skilled cybersecurity practitioners so they can help defend our country in cyberspace.

I caught up with Ed Skoudis a few weeks ago to learn more about NetWars and how regular IT professionals can take advantage of the program to develop cutting-edge skills. Good news: This is a program you can use to build upon your network knowledge to become skilled in cybersecurity.

SANS Institute started the NetWars Tournament project about two years ago in response to a dearth of skilled cybersecurity experts. NetWars is a multi-level training program and fun competition that helps you develop and master skills pertaining to cybersecurity. As you step through each level and validate that you have acquired the necessary skills, you get awarded points that are the competitive aspect of NetWars. Similar to a multi-player video game, you are competing against others in a particular session to attain the highest number of points and win the tournament. Skoudis says this friendly competition keeps people motivated to learn more.

All of the NetWars exercises are hands-on and interactive, with a focus on the types of skills you can use in your job every day. There are five levels in the program designed to help you develop skills in these critical arenas:

• Vulnerability Assessments 
• System Hardening 
• Malware Analysis 
• Digital Forensics 
• Incident Response 
• Packet Analysis 
• Penetration Testing

NetWars comes in two forms: Tournament and Continuous. NetWars Tournament runs over an intense two- to three-day period, at a conference or hosted on-site. The conferences are typically SANS Institute conferences or others that SANS is affiliated with, and any attendee can participate in the NetWars Tournament. Many enterprises, government agencies and military bases are using NetWars onsites to help identify skilled personnel and as part of extensive hands-on training.

Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation.

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