My Cyber Pathway: Security Analyst

As part of our new series of articles titled “My Cyber Pathway,” we’ll explore different journeys into the field of cybersecurity, shedding light on the steps, experiences, and expertise that have propelled our network into their critical roles. With a keen eye for security, our third article focuses on Security Analysts. We interviewed, Charlie Kelly, Senior Analyst at CrowdStrike.

What initially sparked your interest in cybersecurity and made you decide to pursue it as a career?

I’ve been interested in computers and technology for as long as I can remember, but my interest in cybersecurity began when I heard about ‘Blue and Red Teams’ and other aspects of cyber defence. That was probably about six years ago now. I love the feeling—and still do—of the tangible impact and fulfilment that comes from preventing an attack, learning from it, and ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

Could you provide an overview of your current role?

I’m a Senior Analyst in the Falcon Complete Team at CrowdStrike. Falcon Complete manages the cybersecurity for a rapidly growing number of companies across various industries and locations, so I encounter something different every day. I spend most of my time working from a real-time queue of ‘detections’ — potential malicious activities on a computer — and delve into them to understand the nature of the activity, whether it should be occurring, whether it has been observed before, among other considerations. I then determine whether any remediation or escalation is necessary, such as removing a file, isolating the host, or involving the customer or other teams. I also dedicate time to contributing to larger projects or goals within the team, mentoring colleagues, and fostering relationships with customers.

How long have you been in the industry and specifically as an analyst?

I’ve been in IT for nine years now (for my sins) and I’ve been an analyst for just under three.

What steps did you take to transition into the field of cyber security from your previous background?

Before taking on a security role, I spent the majority of my career in support and helpdesk positions across various companies and industries. During the latter half of that period, I sought to gain as much exposure as possible to different facets of security, including firewalls and web filters, as well as reviewing phishing emails and malware. Understanding both perspectives — offensive and defensive — is crucial, and this knowledge has been instrumental in my transition to a cybersecurity role. In essence, knowing how an attacker might target a company gives you insights into where to bolster your defences.

Were there any specific certifications or training programs that you found particularly valuable for developing your skills?

Two options spring to mind. The CompTIA Security+ certification is excellent if you’re just beginning or aiming to transition into a security role, or simply wish to further validate your knowledge. On the other hand, the Security Blue Team BTL1 training and certification is extremely current, practical, and well thought out. It serves as a solid starting point as well, but for mastering the fundamentals, I think the CompTIA is the way to go.

What are some of the key skills you believe are essential for a successful career within cyber security?

Having a solid technical understanding of the threat landscape is a vital skill, and this holds true whether it’s the specific landscape of the company you work for or in a broader context. I think it’s more crucial than ever to know who your adversaries are, along with the tools and techniques they are likely to employ. This knowledge gives you an upper hand at identifying potential threats and defending against them. Additionally, being a team player is essential, as is the willingness and preparedness to jump into something when you need to.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the cybersecurity landscape and the evolving tactics of cyber threats?

I spend a lot of time on Twitter (I’m not going to call it X) and Discord servers, as well as reading articles across the web around breaches, actor groups and other general happenings. The cybersecurity community is, for the most part, very welcoming and helpful, so there’s usually someone who will be able to point you in the right direction if you’re stuck or want to know where to find something. In-person events are great too, whether that’s a local group like a Ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society (LCHS) Chapter or a Hack The Box Meetup, as well as the bigger regional events like BSides or Securi-Tay. 

In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing cyber threats that organisations are facing today?

Without being a cliché answer, the big one is still ransomware. I think companies are getting better at stopping it and recovering from it, albeit slowly, but it’s still a really long way off where it needs to be. Awareness around identity security has been growing steadily too, as most breaches still occur from a stolen or compromised identity, but there’s still a lot to be done. I’m a firm believer that every corporate account in the world should have MFA by now…

What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career path as an analyst?

I think the most valuable bit of advice I can give to someone looking to get into the path is just to go for it. It’s daunting at first, for sure. There’s a lot to learn, and many analyst roles can be fast-paced and intense at times, but it’s probably one of the most rewarding parts of cybersecurity. There’ll be support along the way but if you discover it’s not your cup of tea, there’s a wide range of other roles within the field to try your hand at.

Oh, and if you are looking for a role, let’s chat. CrowdStrike have awesome swag. (LinkedIn)

How has cyber security evolved since you started your journey? Are there any emerging trends you find particularly interesting?

Again, not to be cliché, but AI. It’s everywhere, and it’s pretty much unavoidable if you’re in the cyber field. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see where the development of that goes over the next few years, for both attackers and defenders. Most cybersecurity platforms and products have some element of AI now, and it’s already proving to save time and reduce analyst interaction, but in the same breath, threat actors and scammers are already using the same technology to make phishing tactics more convincing, which is just the beginning I’m sure. Let’s wait and see.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions presented in this article are of Charlie Kelly’s own and do not represent CrowdStrike’s official stance. 

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