Cybertalent on the Cheap

Published: 2014-12-22
Last Updated: 2014-12-22 02:00:37 UTC
by Tom Webb (Version: 1)
5 comment(s)

I recently attended an information security meetup and one of the main topics was building up security resources on a state/local government budget. This is not an easy task, but is something many people are facing.

When recruiting on a budget, it seems best to determine what makes a good security analyst. You are likely not going to be able to hire anyone with serious infosec training, so you need to look for raw talent. Much has been written about this, but here are the major qualities I look for.

  1. Strong experience in two or more of the following:

    1. Coding/Scripting

    2. Network Management

    3. Server Administration (Windows and Linux)

    4. Management of Core Services (DNS,Mail, DBA, ect..)

  2. Hungry to learn anything and independent learner

  3. Task oriented

  4. Wants a deeper understanding how attacks/defense work

Once you have picked a successful candidate, you'll need to setup a successful path for them. SANS has a a great layout for classes for what career path they should take (hxxp://

For full time handlers, in a large complex environment, it seems to take 18 to 24 months to get comfortable with most incidents. In smaller more controlled environments, this may be a lot shorter.

Please post in the comments about your experiences building talent and how long to get them self sufficient.


Tom Webb

5 comment(s)


For an organization on a budget, SANS Work Study is a great investment in people that meet the qualities you listed. Also, I have to push my former military colleagues - that's a great source of talent with non-conventional experience and training.
The challenge with the model you're pursuing is that you have to create a continuous training cycle, with junior/new folks learning from the seniors. Why? because as soon as they hit that journeyman or senior competence level, in, say, two or three years, they quickly figure out that their market value has greatly increased, perhaps even doubled. And, few organizations have a compensation model that can keep up with that rapid of an increase, to be able to retain those folks you've trained and made valuable.


I agree Chris, keeping talent is a different problem and likely a harder challenge than finding/training talent. In small agencies, you hope to use the argument to get better pay or new classifications for your people as you loose people. Pay for performance or added duties is one way to go.
SANS CyberAces hits the top three on your list. Cool.
These should put a "dent" in many concerns.

Congress passes 4 cybersecurity bills in pre-recess flurry
December 16, 2014 | By Fred Donovan

After failing to take action all year on cybersecurity, Congress rushed passage of four cybersecurity bills before hightailing it out of the Nation's Capital, reports the National Law Review.

The first bill, the National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014 (S. 2519), would codify the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, set up by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide a platform for the government and private sector to share information about cybersecurity threats.

The second bill, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (S. 2521), would amend the existing FISMA legislation to centralize federal government cybersecurity management in the DHS. The department would also get authority to scan the network of other federal civilian government agencies.

The third bill, DHS Cybersecurity Workforce Recruitment and Retention Act (S. 1691), would improve hiring procedures and compensation for cybersecurity personnel at DHS. The department would be required to pay its cybersecurity workers a salary comparable to cybersecurity positions at the Department of Defense.

The fourth bill, the Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act (H.R. 2952), would require DHS to conduct an assessment of its cybersecurity workforce every three years and to develop a strategy for enhancing the recruitment and training of cybersecurity workers.

All four bills await President Barack Obama's signature.

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