Student Profile: Maintaining Computer Security and Blocking Evolving Cybersecurity Threats
Interview with Michael Woods
The following profile is the sixteenth in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Job title: Information Security Specialist, CACI, Inc.-Federal
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Security
1. What have you been doing since you completed your bachelor’s degree from AMU?
After completing my bachelor’s degree with AMU, I started an unpaid internship, teaching CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ classes. A few months after I started doing that, I received a job offer from CACI, Inc.-Federal and started working as an information security specialist in Crane, Indiana.
2. What inspired you to pursue a career in information security?
I have always been interested in computers. After retiring from the Marine Corps, I took the time to get my degree in an area of interest. After some research on the industry, I decided cybersecurity was the area that interested me the most.
3. How did you prepare to enter this field?
I prepared for the information security field by obtaining my bachelor’s degree in information systems security, while at the same time pursuing my CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ certifications. I also found a mentor who had been in the cybersecurity field to keep me on the right path and point me in the right direction when I was struggling with something in a specific area, such as subnetting.
4. How has the knowledge you acquired for your bachelor’s degree assisted you in your career?
The knowledge I gained from my bachelor’s degree has been instrumental in my career. I find myself using the things I learned almost every day.
I know that I will continue to use that information. However, I must continue to seek new information and stay up to date with best practices, because the cybersecurity field evolves every day.
5. What are the soft skills that someone entering information security should have?
Probably the number one soft skill someone in the cybersecurity field will need is a passion for learning. Information technology is constantly changing and so is cybersecurity.
The threats we see today will evolve. As they change, cybersecurity specialists will have to develop their skillset to keep up with the changing cybersecurity landscape.
Other soft skills an individual in the cybersecurity field needs are research and writing. As the cybersecurity landscape changes, an organization’s policies and policy enforcement will have to change with it. Cybersecurity specialists will be required to do the research into industry best practices and understand how users utilize the system, so they can keep an organization’s security plan up to date.
The last soft skill I will touch on is collaboration. There is a good chance you will not be the only cybersecurity specialist on your organization’s staff and teamwork is vital when it comes to information security.
On the same note, more and more areas of an organization are getting involved as cybersecurity evolves. That means having those difficult discussions with the Chief Information Officer, legal, users and vendors to come up with the best solution for your organization.
6. What certifications and security clearances are essential in this career field?
If you will be seeking employment with the government or a contractor that works for the government, CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ are required. The security clearance will be determined by the project on which you work.
7. What did you have to do to receive your security clearance?
Having retired from the Marine Corps, I had a security clearance when I applied for the position I currently hold. However, as I understand it, the process is the same: the Standard Form (SF) 86 must be filled out. Based on that, the government completes a background investigation to determine your eligibility for a security clearance.
8. What are the biggest challenges facing our national security right now?
The biggest challenge facing our national security is debatable. As a cybersecurity specialist, I can tell you one of the largest threats national security faces is cybersecurity.
There were cybersecurity threats as recently as May and June of this year. In May, the WannaCry ransomware attack crippled government and infrastructure in countries all over the world.
Then, the Petya ransomware attacked the same vulnerability in June. Not learning their lesson from WannaCry, organizations all over the world were affected all over again.
9. What advice would you give to people seeking a career in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is a broad field and the certifications mentioned earlier are baseline entry level certifications. It will be important for individuals to decide what area of cybersecurity they want to focus on. This decision will help them determine what other certifications they will need and help narrow the focus on jobs that hold the most interest for them.
Also, anyone seeking any cybersecurity job should be ready to continue learning. Most, if not all, certifications expire and will require Continuing Education Units (CEUs). The cybersecurity landscape is continuously evolving and they must be able to evolve with it.
10. What do you do in your free time?
Depending on the time of year, I can be found at my daughter’s cross country or track meets. I can also be found at my son’s soccer or baseball games.
When I am not at one of those places, I like to hunt and fish. I can be found on the lake or in the woods. When I’m not involved in one of these activities, I like to tinker with development boards like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Currently, I am using an Arduino Uno board with the Arduino software to make my son a self-driving, remote-controlled car that uses an ultrasonic ranging module to avoid obstacles.