Sitdown With a SOC Star: 11 Questions With Recon InfoSec’s Andrew Prepare dinner thumbnail

Andrew Prepare dinner, safety operations director at Recon Infosec, is subsequent to take the new seat for our ongoing “Sitdown With a SOC Star” collection. Prepare dinner is a valued contributor within the Siemplify Neighborhood, the place he recurrently imparts his increasing knowledge as an incident responder and a Nationwide Guardsman.

Prepare dinner recounts the story of a ransomware occasion that introduced him to a small Texas city, explains why bodily whiteboards will at all times be higher the digital selection and shares arguably his greatest gripe in cybersecurity, plus an entire bunch extra.

Benefit from the Q&A!

1) Hello Andrew! Thanks for (nearly) sitting down with us. Inform us about the place you’re employed, what you do there, and the position safety operations performs there.

I work at Recon InfoSec, primarily based out of Austin, Texas. Recon was began by my good good friend Eric Capuano, who I met within the Texas Air Nationwide Guard. Eric had taken his ardour for cybersecurity and steadily assembled a crew of superior people with superior tales. I got here in because the director of safety operations liable for the course of our SOC, the supply of our MDR service, and the whole lot incident response. Safety operations is a serious pillar of Recon’s capabilities and important to our mission to guard our prospects. The work is rewarding, and I’m most excited to be constructing the kind of SOC and crew that I’ve at all times wished.

2) Describe your profession path and what propelled you to wish to work in safety operations.

I’d at all times been fascinated about computer systems, safety and programming. I give numerous credit score to my mother who labored in IT and whose faculty textbooks I saved stealing. As soon as I had my very own TV in my room, I feel I had TechTV on 24×7. I’m nonetheless upset about what occurred to that channel. Naturally, when it got here time to determine on my profession, I needed to pursue one thing with computer systems.

I joined ROTC a few weeks into faculty and by no means seemed again. Round that point, the U.S. Air had simply formally included our on-line world into its mission. The management and cybersecurity coaching I obtained within the Air Power, even whereas in faculty, was among the greatest on this planet. I’m tremendously grateful for the whole lot the Air Power gave me and I’m eternally searching for methods to move it on.

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On energetic obligation, I used to be a part of a tremendous crew who actually wrote the guide on how one can carry out risk searching within the Air Power. Our unit turned the template for standing up the nation’s first cyber safety groups. I’ve been centered on safety operations, risk searching and incident response ever since.

After leaving the Air Power, I joined the Texas Air Nationwide Guard part-time and sought out corporations that had the identical ardour for cybersecurity that I did. As soon as a month on drill weekends with the guard, I’d get glimpses into Eric’s firm and the work occurring there.

We discovered methods to work collectively often, however after a couple of years it turned foolish to not bounce in and be part of the Recon crew.

3) Because the pandemic emerged, what has been the most important problem dealing with your crew and the way have you ever labored to beat it?

A little bit tongue in cheek, however actually, an absence of whiteboards – particularly for incident response investigations, but in addition for routine issues like brainstorming, planning risk hunts and collaborating on playbooks. I’ve messed round with iPads and drawing apps, but it surely simply isn’t the identical as a big bodily whiteboard in entrance of everybody. If anybody has any concepts on digital whiteboard replacements, let me know.

I’ve messed round with iPads and drawing apps, but it surely simply isn’t the identical as a big bodily whiteboard in entrance of everybody. If anybody has any concepts on digital whiteboard replacements, let me know.

That being mentioned, we’ve benefited tremendously from transitioning to a remote-first tradition. Our workflows, applied sciences and crew occasions have shifted to accommodate individuals regardless of the place they’re. Because of this, we’re extra environment friendly and capable of pull from a bigger and extra numerous expertise pool with crew members from all throughout the nation. And all of us love the flexibleness of working from residence. There may be nonetheless enormous worth in assembly in particular person, so discovering the appropriate stability to convey individuals collectively once in a while is one thing we’re persevering with to work by way of because the pandemic evolves.

4) What’s a very powerful onerous ability(s) and gentle ability(s) for an analyst or engineer to own to maneuver to the subsequent stage?

I may say quite a bit, however let me make a case for a gentle ability/onerous ability duo: drawback fixing and programming. Individually they’re good, however collectively they’re nice.

Cybersecurity is filled with unsolved issues and limitless options. These issues overlap and cascade in ways in which generally obscure what the precise drawback is. We want individuals who can determine and prioritize the appropriate issues, ask the appropriate questions, assess choices critically, and take a look at options.

Let me make a case for a gentle ability/onerous ability duo: drawback fixing and programming. Individually they’re good, however collectively they’re nice.

When an issue solver additionally is aware of how one can code, they grow to be a builder and an innovator. Somebody who can each determine an issue and in addition develop their very own answer is invaluable. I encourage everybody on my crew to make use of these expertise to assist us “construct the machine.” Builders transfer quicker, iterate shortly and, finally, ship extra worth. One other profit is that realizing how one can program additionally makes you a greater analyst. Understanding how code runs, how techniques and processes speak to one another, how API calls work, and the way “the cloud” is linked all translate to understanding issues like malware, vulnerabilities, exploits and assault chains.

5) Which frequent risk impacting organizations worries you probably the most/retains you up at evening?

It’s at all times one thing totally different, however a straightforward goal to hate is ransomware. (Editor’s observe: Siemplify simply created The Definitive Information to Ransomware Response e-book, which you’ll be able to obtain without spending a dime right here.) I hate ransomware as a result of it’s too quick and too damaging. By the point it occurs, the battle is misplaced and we’re choosing up the items. Because the attacker’s dwell time shrinks, the chance to interject and disrupt their malicious exercise shrinks as effectively. It’s an sadly widespread and uneven assault.

Ransomware is all about preparation. You nearly should be good. Within the present state of cybersecurity, perfection is not possible. Even the “fundamentals” like multi-factor authentication are advanced in actual organizations with actual individuals simply attempting to do their jobs. On prime of that, even in case you’ve finished the whole lot effectively, you possibly can nonetheless be hit by some zero-day vulnerability or supply-chain assault like SolarWinds. Ransomware is likely one of the main threats motivating our prospects to be proactive about bettering their safety posture. It’s additionally a big a part of why we’re centered simply as a lot on detection and response as we’re with serving to our prospects make progress on their safety initiatives.

6) What’s one piece of recommendation you’d give for somebody contemplating a profession in safety operations?

After studying some actual drawback expertise and how one can code, I’m going to go along with working towards empathy.  Cybersecurity is disturbing for everybody: analysts, IT people, workers, enterprise leaders, and all the remaining. It requires fixed vigilance in opposition to an adversary who’s intentionally attempting to destroy, steal, and disrupt. It doesn’t assist when that adversary is deliberately focusing on holidays (e.g. the 4th of July Kaseya ransomware assault this 12 months) for max impression and obvious spite.

Empathy goes a good distance towards maintaining us all on the identical crew and maintaining that crew glad and wholesome. Burned-out and stressed-out safety analysts are ineffective and don’t final lengthy. Blaming IT for not fixing not possible issues with restricted budgets doesn’t assist make something safer. Imposing impractical controls in opposition to customers who simply wish to get by way of the day with out worrying about no matter “phishing” is simply results in anxious and annoyed workers. A dose of empathy in how we predict by way of cybersecurity challenges and options results in higher outcomes.

7) What’s the most attention-grabbing factor you’ve realized (or realized about your self) because the pandemic started? It doesn’t should be associated to safety.

It’s been a tough few years for everybody. Pre-pandemic, I took psychological well being without any consideration and assumed it was straightforward. In hindsight, I’d simply been fortunate that issues typically went effectively for me. It appears apparent now, however nothing is price sacrificing your psychological well being for.

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Because the pandemic, I’ve shifted numerous priorities. I’ve additionally been way more deliberate about taking breaks with intention, going to the fitness center (bouldering is superior), being aware and connecting with associates. It additionally seems “gratitude” is one thing you ought to be growing as a substitute of simply having.

8) What’s your proudest skilled accomplishment?

 I nonetheless get a kick out of the time a normal talked about me in her testimony to Congress. It was my first 12 months on energetic , and I used to be nonetheless in coaching. I suppose I peaked early. Okay, however actually, I’m happy with the work my Nationwide Guard unit did in response to the 2019 Texas ransomware occasion.

Twenty-two Texas cities have been struck in a single day in a coordinated assault. Important providers have been down, like police departments and courts, so the urgency was quick. The state had triaged the victims by their capability to assist themselves – these least succesful have been prioritized for Nationwide Guard assist. Nobody actually knew what was occurring but, and I used to be among the many first out the door. I left early within the morning with the tackle of a small metropolis’s Police Division 4 hours away. My directions have been “shield well being and security, report what you discover, and assist with restoration.”

The Definitive Information to Ransomware Response [Free E-Book Download]

I’m happy with this work for 2 causes: First, it was humbling to see how far our crew had come. Virtually everybody I labored with in each the Air and Military Nationwide Guard had some position within the success of our state-wide response. Watching everybody fill their roles, piece collectively the puzzle and work collectively as a crew was wonderful. This response put our years of workouts, coordination and preparation into perspective and confirmed that we have been heading in the right direction. Second, town I labored instantly with was eternally grateful and actually wanted assist. Residents and officers by no means anticipated anybody would present as much as their small municipality, so with the ability to do one thing for them was immensely gratifying.

9) Which safety metric do you assume is most underappreciated/underrated? And which is probably the most overrated?

Considered one of my favourite metrics is the idea of “wins.” These are circumstances the place our analysts took some motion in opposition to a malicious occasion earlier than it turned worse or led to an incident. These are the circumstances the place our crew added worth and our analysts received within the struggle. Analysts are hungry for attention-grabbing work and wish publicity to malicious circumstances. Going too lengthy with out a “win” as an analyst is discouraging. For our prospects, necessary circumstances spotlight the worth of our work, and each is a lesson for them to enhance.

Within the Siemplify Safety Operations Platform (Editor’s observe: Recon InfoSec is a Siemplify buyer), we mark our wins as “necessary” and observe these circumstances rigorously. The amount of those wins is necessary – too many and we’re not doing sufficient to forestall “shut calls,” too few and we could also be ineffective at our detections. Out of all of the time-based metrics we’ve, imply time to detect (MTTD) and imply time to remediate (MTTR) for necessary circumstances are important. Each different metric can seem out of whack, but when we’re nonetheless persistently on prime of our necessary circumstances then we’re nonetheless doing effectively.

10) When you may repair one factor concerning the safety vendor house, what wouldn’t it be?

Your expertise doesn’t “do” risk searching. Risk searching is a human-driven effort that requires human-level pondering. I’ve been pushing in opposition to this ever since leaving the Air Power (right here’s an instance in 2016: “Risk Looking: Extra Than a Advertising and marketing Buzzword). It’s getting higher however I’ll proceed combating this struggle till I’m certain it’s finished.

Risk searching is pushed by a perception that current detection efforts have failed. You can’t purchase or implement a expertise that checks the “risk searching” field now and eternally. It is advisable assume it has additionally failed or is inadequate. The uncomfortable perception that what we presently have is inadequate to fulfill the risk is what drives safety operations ahead. It’s essential to proceed to enhance your individuals, their processes and the way they use expertise.

Your expertise doesn’t “do” risk searching. Risk searching is a human-driven effort that requires human-level pondering.

The important thing to risk searching is people who find themselves pondering critically, producing hypotheses, gathering proof and testing their hypotheses. They might use outdated expertise or new expertise. They will automate elements of it and grow to be extra environment friendly. However you can’t take the human out of risk searching. When you assume your expertise is working with out people second-guessing it, you’re stagnant and not risk searching. Really proactive risk searching is important to repeatedly bettering and evolving safety operations.

11) Once you’re not SOCing, what’s your favourite factor to be doing and what do you want about it?

 Working day-after-day on a pc, generally you simply actually need to remind your self that your physique is greater than a method in your mind to sort on a keyboard. My spouse and I attempt to keep energetic, or at the least get out of the home often. We actually like indoor bouldering as a result of it entails numerous drawback fixing. Whereas I benefit from the sluggish and regular progress, bouldering is simply inherently enjoyable with out worrying about progressing. I’m too hen to go bouldering exterior.

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We additionally received into birding throughout the pandemic. I by no means thought I’d be birding, however someway I received hooked on this sport of actual life Pokémon. We additionally go mountaineering and biking with associates often. Actually, something to be social and energetic is a win in my guide.

As a lot as I encourage my crew to remain energetic, they in all probability do extra to encourage me. A fast instance – one teammate hiked 200 miles, and a month later ran 47 miles across the Grand Canyon. That’s enormous. You couldn’t pay me sufficient to get up at 3 a.m. and begin operating like that.

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