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Processor Vulnerabilities Put Virtual Workloads at Risk

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Meltdown, Spectre exploits will likely lead to customers making tradeoffs between performance and security of applications, especially virtual and cloud-based apps

Back in January 2018, a consortium of security researchers from organizations including Google, Cyberus Technology and several universities disclosed two ominously-named vulnerabilities found in nearly all modern computer processors. These vulnerabilities broke open the floodgates for research into flaws in some of the most fundamental security protections found in computer processors. Meltdown, Spectre, and the other related vulnerabilities are significantly more dangerous and useful to an attacker in a virtual environment versus a non-virtual server or desktop. In response, I expect to see Intel and AMD eventually create separate processor lines to protect cloud applications from this threat.  

The Processor Speed Race
Modern processors handle dozens if not hundreds of applications simultaneously. Billions of transistors packed into multiple cores allow them to seamlessly and automatically switch between execution threads as needed. They typically enforce a set of rules on this dance of applications, including one very big one: The processor should prevent applications from accessing data from other running applications. Meltdown and Spectre allow malicious applications to break this rule.

Processing power continues to increase each year, but no longer at the same rates that we used to see when Moore’s Law still held true. Processor manufacturers have to use clever “cheats” to squeeze more performance from their devices as they run into limits of transistor technology. One of these cheats is an optimization technique called speculative execution 

Speculative Execution: Faster but Flawed
In a nutshell, application execution paths often contain many forks, or branches, where they may go down one of multiple code paths depending on the result of a calculation. The processor doesn’t know what branch the application will follow until it completes the calculation, but it can save time by guessing the outcome and continuing execution down that path while it waits for the calculation result. If it guessed correctly, it already has a head start and saves a few microseconds. If it guessed incorrectly, it simply discards the work it started and continues down the correct path.

Meltdown and Spectre both abuse speculative execution, though in slightly different ways. While the technical explanation could take a full article in itself, the short story is that they use speculative execution to load restricted memory into the processor’s memory cache and then use a few tricks to accurately identify the contents of that memory even after the process recognizes they shouldn’t be able to read it directly. The restricted memory could include anything from an administrative password to sensitive cryptographic keys on a Web server.

Spectre and Meltdown in the Cloud
While expanding the potential impact of malware on a desktop or non-virtualized server is never good, Meltdown and Spectre become much more dangerous in the cloud and virtual environments. An attacker with code execution on a physical desktop or server usually has much easier ways to elevate their privileges and access sensitive data from other applications. Using Meltdown or Spectre would be excessive.

But in a virtual environment, a single piece of hardware (for example, an EC2 instance in an AWS data center) can house multiple different tenants, each of which expects their applications and services to be completely isolated from the other tenants with which they share the resources. Usually, the hypervisor (the management software that handles virtualizing a single piece of hardware into multiple virtual servers) has strict security controls to enforce tenant isolation. 

But Spectre and Meltdown completely bypass these software protections by targeting the hardware itself. An attacker with access to one application on a cloud server could steal data from all the other applications using a shared resource on the same physical hardware, no matter how good the security of those other applications is!

Since Meltdown and Spectre’s disclosure, researchers have found several variants and other vulnerabilities that abuse speculative execution to access restricted memory. Intel and AMD, the two largest processor manufacturers, have been playing a cat-and-mouse game of patching these flaws, usually at the cost of processor performance. The performance loss has been up to 30% in extreme cases. This has led many desktop users, who are less impacted by Spectre, Meltdown, and the like, to disable the security options to retain more processing power. 

How to Solve the Problem
Mitigating this type of vulnerability in a cloud environment where security is paramount ranges from difficult to impossible. Patching these vulnerabilities requires difficult microcode updates to the processor itself. Because of these challenges, we’re likely heading towards a future where Intel and AMD manufacture different classes of processors that focus on either security or speed.

Cyber security is all about risk trade-offs. Desktop computers and non-virtualized servers have less to lose from an attacker successfully exploiting a Meltdown-like vulnerability than virtual environments, where an exploit could be a disaster. Since their risk is substantially lower, they could benefit from remaining vulnerable in return for significantly better processor performance. Processors used in virtual environments would likely swing the other way: prioritize security over speed by removing speculative execution entirely (or possibly something slightly less drastic). This could lead to different processor lines, one focused on security with slightly degraded performance and another focused on pure execution speed that risks falling victim to speculative execution attacks.

Researchers have already opened Pandora’s box for processor security vulnerabilities and the days are clearly numbered for speculative execution in its current form. Since the original Meltdown and Spectre disclosures, researchers have discovered additional serious flaws nearly every other month. At this rate, something will have to change to keep cloud applications safe. Whether that will be a fundamental re-architecture on all processors or a split into different security and performance-focused lines remains to be seen.

Related Content:

Marc Laliberte is a senior security analyst at WatchGuard Technologies. Specializing in networking security protocols and Internet of Things technologies, Marc’s day-to-day responsibilities include researching and reporting on the latest information security threats and … View Full Bio

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How to Stay Safe While Playing Online Poker?

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Poker

If you can’t leave home or if your favorite poker rooms are closed, there are plenty of ways to keep playing poker. Online, dozens of poker sites are available to players all over the world.

In the absence of physical poker tables, virtual ones are taking their place. And there’s no doubt that online poker is getting more and popular. Despite this, the rules of the game remain the same. Whether you’re sitting at a real or virtual table, you need to follow the same poker rules to play the game. Being aware of the rules will help you implement sound poker strategies as you improve as a player.

That being said, rules and strategies are not the only things you need to survive online poker. While virtual poker rooms have introduced a new level of convenience and accessibility to the game, they also come with cybersecurity risks. Playing online – especially for real money – puts players in the radars of hackers and data thieves. And if you’re curious about playing at a virtual table, here are some tips for keeping your online information safe from prying eyes.

Table of Contents

Take password hygiene seriously

Never use personal info when creating a password. Change your password for your online poker accounts at least monthly. Instead of actual words, use a variety of letters, symbols, numbers, and other characters in every password. These are just some of the key password hygiene habits that every virtual poker player needs to follow. While it’s not the only cyber security tactic you can utilize, observing password hygiene alone can make your personal and financial data significantly safer.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) is a web security tool that encrypts and hides all your online traffic and activity from everyone else. Using a VPN can give you access to regional content outside your own, which is why they’re popular across the globe. For cyber security purposes, VPNs also ensure safe data encryption and transfer, and even disguises the whereabouts of its user. In short, they can make it significantly harder for your data to be stolen. This makes it especially useful for virtual poker players who need to input sensitive personal information as well as do financial transactions on the web.

Register for an IRS IP PIN

Hackers are a creative bunch. They can do much more than just withdraw money from your bank account. Armed with your social security number, hackers may also file a tax return in your name, or commit some other type of tax fraud. In order to prevent this, the Internal Revenue Service issues an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) to any legal citizen who requests it. If you get one, you need to give it to the IRS whenever you do tax returns, which allows them to verify that it’s really you. Should hackers manage to decrypt your data from bypassing a VPN or crack your password, they still won’t be able to commit tax fraud without your IRS IP PIN.

Stay legal

Before you install any poker apps or register for any sites, check their legal pages for safety certifications and licenses. See whether or not the links to these licensing/testing organizations are legitimate. If not, leave immediately. Stay away from both illegitimate and underground virtual poker rooms. In fact, it’s generally a good idea to always play within the bounds of the law. If your state doesn’t allow bank transfers involving gaming, there are many legitimate online poker rooms that accept cryptocurrency. By staying legal, you can ensure that your virtual poker experience is both safe and enjoyable.

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Online Cybersecurity Certification Programs

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Cybersecurity degrees

There are two reasons for online cybersecurity certification programmes. Certification programmes are excellent tools for advancing careers by keeping business awareness current for people who already have a degree or job experience in the field. Certification programmes may also help people who work in similar fields break into the cybersecurity sector.

There are significant distinctions between the types of credential programmes that professionals can pursue and the types of certifications that will be more beneficial to students and entry-level professionals.

Table of Contents

Academic Certifications vs. Professional Certifications

Professional certifications are intended to supplement business professionals’ existing expertise and knowledge. Typically, they are aimed at advanced topics in cybersecurity, or at upgrading existing hands-on experience and technological expertise.

Current information security professionals use these certification programmes, as well as the tests that frequently follow, to improve their level of professionalism and advance their careers, as well as to stay current in an ever-changing industry.

Academic cybersecurity certifications are largely aimed at those looking to break into the information security field, whether from academia or another field. As a result, academic credential programmes are more broad in scope and introductory in nature. Some academic programmes, on the other hand, can be used as a more expedient and cost-effective short-term replacement for undergraduate and graduate college degrees.

These types of certification programmes can help aspiring cybersecurity professionals get a head start on their careers or simply provide a better understanding of what life is like in the information security sector. Academic cybersecurity certification programmes are plentiful and rising all the time, so do your homework and look at all of your choices.

Cybersecurity Certification Programmes Offered Online vs. On-Campus

Campus-based or real-world continuing education services necessitate a significant time commitment. Due to regional constraints, they can also necessitate compromises in terms of which schools and services are available. Some people learn better in a typical classroom setting, and campus-based formats are typically the best option for them.

Today, however, there are hundreds of excellent online educational options available. The primary goal of online courses is to provide students with more versatility. Though asynchronous online programmes are the most convenient, synchronous programmes often have benefits over campus-based programmes. Due to the absence of the commute associated with classroom-based classes, all forms of online qualification courses reduce the amount of time and effort spent avoiding traffic.

Since synchronous systems have fixed times for class instruction and, in many cases, student discussion, time and schedule flexibility is restricted. Asynchronous systems, on the other hand, are completely free of time constraints, allowing students to set their own schedules and advance at their own rate. Although online education has a tainted reputation in the past, high-quality courses from high-quality institutions are now widely accessible and rapidly expanding.

SANS Technology Institute is the largest provider of cybersecurity training and certifications in the world. SANS provides synchronous and asynchronous online instruction, with two different choices for each. Each student/professional will have different needs and barriers to training, so they must choose the type of online coursework that best fits them and their lives.

What to Look for in Online Cybersecurity Certification Programmes

Professionals in the field of information security must be continuously evolving, adjusting, and increasing. Since technology advances and security threats evolve at a rapid pace, the industry as a whole is constantly changing. The rule of thumb in every technology-related area is to develop or die.

As a result, cybersecurity practitioners must maintain a constant state of interest and knowledge throughout their careers. If professionals want to remain competitive in this field, they must continue to learn.

Keeping up with innovations and developments can be done by using a variety of methods. Industry associations are a great place to meet new people and share your experiences with those in your field. They often frequently host meetings, conferences, workshops, and other gatherings that provide unique educational opportunities. Standardized certification schemes, on the other hand, offer concrete evidence of unique educational achievements that anyone in the industry can understand and recognise.

Certifications and training can be extremely beneficial for students seeking to join the information security field as well as professionals seeking to advance their careers in cybersecurity. When looking for and selecting online cybersecurity certification programmes, keep the following requirements in mind:

  • What is the difference between a synchronous and asynchronous formats, and how do they integrate into a professional’s life?
  • The amount of time it takes to complete certification
  • The qualification program’s price
  • Employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement
  • Exams for equivalency that can be taken before the course are available.
  • Applicability of topic to desired entry point/career path
  • Credits for degree programmes are available.

Professional Online Cybersecurity Certification Programmes

Technical cybersecurity certification programmes are designed to meet market demands for skilled professionals’ expertise and knowledge, as well as professionals’ desire to increase their value and employment in the field. Topics and curricula are deliberately chosen to have the greatest possible positive effects. Individuals in all types of specialties may find credential programmes, as well as general skills and knowledge certifications aimed at specialised, high-level professionals.

Keep in mind that, due to the constant evolution of technology and security threats, technical certifications must be updated on a regular basis to remain current and legitimate. Infosec professionals can find qualification programmes to upgrade and develop their expertise in any specialty within cybersecurity. There are several research and education organisations, as well as industry trade associations, that serve the certification needs of the industry.

The following are some of the most well-known and well-respected specialist cybersecurity certification providers on the internet:

  • GIAC
  • SANS
  • ISC2

Academic Online Cybersecurity Certification Programmes

The scope, intent, and effect of academic cybersecurity certification programmes vary greatly. Individual colleges deliver all of these programmes, and the programmes are as unique as the colleges themselves. Some, on the other hand, are provided by industry continuing education organisations and other stakeholders involved in raising cybersecurity awareness and expanding the workforce census. In university online credential programmes, there are a few categories to be aware of.

  • Programs for introductory/training certification
  • Certification services for undergraduates
  • Certification services for graduates

Introductory/Training Certification Programmes

As the world starts to comprehend the full weight of making so many networks and information warehouses vulnerable through online connections, the emphasis on and interest in cybersecurity is rising daily. Every day, more people consider whether cybersecurity is the right career path for them. There are a variety of low-cost or even free solutions for those interested in learning more about information security. SANS Institute has a range of online courses that can help you do just that. SANS offers free introductory courses as well as more advanced courses through its Cyber Aces programme.

Introduction to IT and Cybersecurity is an online course offered by Cybrary, another provider of business training and certifications. This free course teaches the four primary principles of IT and cybersecurity to help beginners determine which career path within the industry is right for them.

For students and professionals interested in switching professions to cybersecurity, baseline awareness and skills certifications are a great place to start once the decision to move forward has been made. CompTIA Security+ is the most well-known and well-recognized of CompTIA’s entry-level cybersecurity certifications. CompTIA is an industry continuing education association. It’s tailored to those who are already involved in IT and want to move into cybersecurity. It’s available from CompTIA and a few other places online.

Some colleges have cybersecurity training programmes for new students. Each one is custom-made by the school that offers it. Essentials of Cybersecurity is a credential programme established by the University of Washington. This course gives aspiring information security professionals an overview of cybersecurity departments in the real world, including how they function and how they’re structured. It also introduces students to cybersecurity terms and definitions, as well as assisting them in determining how well their experience and skills relate to the field.

The Cybersecurity MicroMasters Program, established by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), is a certification training series. Starting with Cybersecurity Fundamentals, RIT gives students a glimpse into the field of information management, network and system administration, information assurance principles, and simple cryptography. After completing the course, there is a road to certification. There’s a lot more in the MicroMasters Program in terms of courses and certifications for more advanced training, such as network security, forensics, and risk management.

Undergraduate Certification Programmes

Students can, of course, earn a complete bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity online. However, we’re talking about training and qualification programmes that don’t lead to degrees. A benefit of the cybersecurity programmes is that the majority of credits received can be applied toward a degree if students wish to continue their education.

The following are some examples of online undergraduate cybersecurity certification programmes. There are a plethora of other online undergraduate degree programmes. A more comprehensive list can be found at the bottom of this page.

  • Utica College Cyber Technologies Certificate
  • CSU Global undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity
  • American Military University undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity
  • Thomas Edison State University undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity
  • Champlain College online cybersecurity certificate

Graduate Certification Programmes

Graduate cybersecurity certification programmes, like undergraduate cybersecurity certification programmes, usually earn student points that can be applied toward a graduate degree. These programmes, like undergraduate options, differ greatly in emphasis, scope, time commitment, and cost.

Following are a few examples of graduate cybersecurity certification programmes offered online by some of the country’s most prestigious universities. There are plenty more to choose from. A more comprehensive list can be found below.

  • George Washington University Master’s of Engineering in cybersecurity
  • Boston University Certificate in Cybercrime Investigation  Cybersecrity
  • University of Maryland offers three graduate certificates in cybersecurity
  • Purdue University graduate certificate in cybersecurity

A List of Online Academic Cybersecurity Certification Programmes

The information in the following list of certification programmes is current. It isn’t a rating in every sense of the word. Instead, it is provided to provide training and qualification opportunities to those who are interested, as well as a comparison point between the options.

School Location Link to Program Website
Albany Law School Albany, New York Online Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
Alexandria Technical and Community College Alexandria, Minnesota Cybersecurity Certificate
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Graduate Certificate in Cybercrime
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Graduate Certificate in Digital Forensics
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Graduate Certificate in Information Systems Security
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Undergraduate Certificate in Cybercrime Essentials
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Undergraduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Undergraduate Certificate in Digital Forensics
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Undergraduate Certificate in Information Security Planning
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Undergraduate Certificate in Information Systems Security Essentials
American Public University System Charles Town, West Virginia Undergraduate Certificate in IT Infrastructure Security
Angelo State University San Angelo, Texas Online Cybersecurity Certificate
Bellevue University Bellevue, Nebraska Cybersecurity Certificate of Completion – Graduate
Bellevue University Bellevue, Nebraska Cybersecurity Certificate of Completion – Undergraduate
Boston University Boston, Massachusetts Online Graduate Certificate in Cybercrime Investigation & Cybersecurity
Boston University Boston, Massachusetts Online Graduate Certificate in Digital Forensics
Boston University Boston, Massachusetts Online Graduate Certificate in Information Security
Brookhaven College Farmers Branch, Texas Information Security Certificate
California State University-San Bernardino San Bernardino, California Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) Certificate
Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, Michigan Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, Michigan Undergraduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Champlain College Burlington, Vermont Computer Forensics & Digital Investigation Certificate
Champlain College Burlington, Vermont Cybersecurity Certificate
Champlain College Burlington, Vermont Enterprise Security Fundamentals Certificate
Champlain College Burlington, Vermont Information Security Graduate Certificate
Champlain College Burlington, Vermont Security Fundamentals Certificate
Champlain College Burlington, Vermont Software Security Certificate
Colorado State University-Global Campus Greenwood Village, Colorado Online Certificate of Completion/Degree Specialization in Cyber Security
Craven Community College New Bern, North Carolina CTI-Cybersecurity Diploma
Dakota State University Madison, South Dakota Graduate Certificate in Banking Security
Dakota State University Madison, South Dakota Graduate Certificate in Ethical Hacking
DeSales University Center Valley, Pennsylvania Online Graduate Certificate in Digital Forensics
Drexel University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity and Information Privacy Compliance
Elmhurst University Elmhurst, Illinois Certificate in Cyber Security
Fairleigh Dickinson University Madison, New Jersey Computer Security and Forensic Administration
Fontbonne University Saint Louis, Missouri Cyber Security Certificate
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem, North Carolina Certificate in IT- Systems Security
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem, North Carolina Certificate in IT-Cyber Security
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem, North Carolina Certificate in IT-Systems Security Cyber Defense
Georgetown University Washington, District of Columbia Certificate in Cybersecurity Strategy
Georgia Southern University Statesboro, Georgia Cybercrime Graduate Certificate
Grantham University Kansas City, Missouri Online Advanced Cyber Security Certificate
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts Online Cybersecurity Certificate
Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu, Hawaii Professional Certificate in Telecommunications Security
Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, Illinois Certificate in Information Security and Assurance
Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, Illinois Master Certificate in Cyber Security Management
Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, Illinois Master Certificate in Cyber Security Technologies
Indiana Technology-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, Indiana Medical Device Cyber Security
Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, Indiana Certificate in Cybersecurity Analysis
Iowa State University Ames, Iowa Information Assurance Graduate Certificate Online
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana Digital Forensics Certificate
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana Network Penetration Certificate
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana Network Security Certificate
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana Technical Certificate in Cyber Security-Information Assurance
James Madison University Harrisonburg, Virginia Online Graduate Certificate in Cyber Intelligence
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland Post-Master’s Certificate in Cybersecurity
Keller Graduate School of Management New York, New York Graduate Certificate in Information Security
Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, Georgia Graduate Certificate Program in Information Security and Assurance
Kentucky Community and Technical College System Versailles, Kentucky AAS in Computer and Information Technologies – Information Security Track
Kentucky Community and Technical College System Versailles, Kentucky Security+ Certificate
La Salle University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Lake Superior College Duluth, Minnesota Certificate in Information Security Management
Linfield College McMinnville, Oregon Certificate in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics
Long Island University-Riverhead Campus Riverhead, New York Advanced Certificate in Cyber Security Policy
Lynchburg College Lynchburg, Virginia Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Marshall University Huntington, West Virginia Graduate Certificate in Information Security
Massachusetts Bay Community College Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts Advanced Cyber Security Certificate
Metropolitan State University Saint Paul, Massachusetts Certificate in Information Assurance and Information Technology Security
Middle Georgia State University Cochran, Georgia Certificate in Cybersecurity
Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, Minnesota Certificate in Computer Information Security Management
Mississippi College Clinton, Mississippi Certificate in Cyber Security and Information Assurance
Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield, Missouri Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate
Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, Missouri Big Data Management and Security Graduate Certificate
Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, Missouri Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, Missouri Information Assurance & Security Officer Essentials Graduate Certificate
Mitchell Hamline School of Law St. Paul, Minnesota Certificate in Cybersecurity and Privacy Law
Moraine Park Technical College Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin Information Technology – Information Security Certificate
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California Certificate in Applied Cyber Operations
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California Certificate in Cyber Operations Infrastructure
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California Cyber Security Adversarial Techniques graduate certificate
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California Cyber Security Defense graduate certificate
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California Cyber Security Fundamentals graduate certificate
Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, Kentucky Cybersecurity Certificate
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, Virginia Cybersecurity Career Studies Certificate
Norwich University Northfield, Vermont Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensics Investigation
Norwich University Northfield, Vermont Graduate Certificate in Critical Infrastructure Protection & Cyber Crime
Norwich University Northfield, Vermont Graduate Certificate in Cyber Law & International Perspectives on Cyberspace
Norwich University Northfield, Vermont Graduate Certificate in Vulnerability Management
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus Stillwater, Oklahoma Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance
Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia Cyber Security Certificate
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park, Pennsylvania Certificate in Information Systems Cybersecurity
Purdue Community Global Indianapolis, Indiana Computer Forensics Postbaccalaureate Certificate
Purdue Community Global Indianapolis, Indiana Information Security Postbaccalaureate Certificate
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester, Massachusetts Certificate in Computer Systems Engineering Technology – Cyber Security
Regent University Virginia Beach, Virginia Certificate of Graduate Studies in Cybersecurity
Regis University Denver, Colorado Graduate Cyber Security Certificate
Robert Morris University Moon Township, Pennsylvania Certificate in Mobile Forensics and Security
Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, New York Online Advanced Certificate In Cybersecurity
Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas Graduate Certificate in Data Assurance
Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas Graduate Certificate in Digital Investigation
SANS Technology Institute Bethesda, Maryland Cyber Defense Operations Certificate
SANS Technology Institute Bethesda, Maryland Cybersecurity Engineering Certificate
SANS Technology Institute Bethesda, Maryland Incident Response Certificate
SANS Technology Institute Bethesda, Maryland Penetration Testing & Ethical Hacking Certificate
SANS Technology Institute Bethesda, Maryland Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Cybersecurity
St Petersburg College Clearwater, Florida Certificate in Cybersecurity
Stanford University Stanford, California Advanced Computer Security Certificate
Stanford University Stanford, California Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
St. Bonaventure University St. Bonaventure, New York Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, New Jersey Graduate Certificate in Systems Security Engineering
Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, New Jersey Secure Network Systems Design Graduate Certificate
Stevenson University Stevenson, Maryland Online Certificate in Digital Forensics
Sullivan University Louisville, Kentucky Certificate in Cybersecurity Administration
Sullivan University Louisville, Kentucky Certificate in Network Support Administration and Security
Sullivan University Louisville, Kentucky Cybersecurity Professional Certificate
SUNY Westchester Community College Valhalla, New York Cybersecurity Certificate
Syracuse University Syracuse, New York Certificate of Advanced Study in Information Security Management
The University of Montana Missoula, Montana Cyber Security Professional Certificate
The University of West Florida Pensacola, Florida Certificate in Intelligence Analysis
Troy University Troy, Alabama Online Cyber Security Certificate Program
Tulane University New Orleans, Louisiana Graduate Certificate in Cyber Technology Fundamentals
Tulane University New Orleans, Louisiana Graduate Certificate in Cyber Defense
Tulane University New Orleans, Louisiana Graduate Certificate in Cyber Leadership
University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, Alaska Healthcare Privacy & Security Certificate
University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona MISonline – Enterprise Security Certificate
University of California-Irvine Irvine, California Information Systems Security Certificate Program
University of Dallas Irving, Texas Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
University of Denver Denver, Colorado Information System Security Certificate
University Of Fairfax Roanoke, Virginia Cybersecurity Best Practices (CBP) – CISSP Graduate Certificate
University of Fairfax Roanoke, Virginia Information Security Professional Practices (ISPP) Graduate Certificates
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, Illinois Computer Security Certificate
University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky Online Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
University of Maine at Fort Kent Fort Kent, Maine Information Security- Certificate
University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland Certificate in Computer Networking
University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland Certificate in Homeland Security Management
University of Maryland- University College Adelphi, Maryland Certificate in Information Assurance
University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Policy
University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Technology
University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, Nebraska Executive Certificate in Cyber & Cyber Security Law
University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, Nebraska Information Assurance (IA) Certificate
University of New Haven West Haven, Connecticut Certificate in Cybercrime Investigations
University of New Haven West Haven, Connecticut Certificate in Digital Forensics Investigations
University of Phoenix Phoenix, Arizona Advanced Cyber Security Certificate (Undergraduate)
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania CAS in Security Assured Information Systems (SAIS)
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Cybersecurity Professional Education Program
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity, Policy, and Law
University of Rhode Island Kingston, Rhode Island Cyber Security Graduate Certificate
University of Rhode Island Kingston, Rhode Island Graduate Certificate in Digital Forensics
University of Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity – Awareness and Education
University of Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity – Cyber Intelligence
University of Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity-Digital Forensics
University of Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity-Information Assurance
University of Vermont Burlington, Vermont Certificate in Computer Software – Cybersecurity Track
University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia Certificate in Cybersecurity Management
University of Washington-Seattle Campus Seattle, Washington Certificate in Cybersecurity
University of Washington-Seattle Campus Seattle, Washington Certificate in Ethical Hacking
University of Washington, Tacoma Campus Tacoma, Washington Certificate in Information Security & Risk Management
University of West Georgia Carrollton, Georgia Online Certificate – Fundamentals of Computer Forensics
University of West Georgia Carrollton, Georgia Online Certificate – Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
Villanova University Villanova, Pennsylvania Certificate in Information Systems Security
Villanova University Villanova, Pennsylvania Master Certificate in Information Security Management
Villanova University Villanova, Pennsylvania Master Certificate in Information Security Management – Government Security
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Virginia Graduate Certificate in Information Security and Analytics
Walden University Minneapolis, Minnesota Graduate Certificate in Fundamentals of Cyber Security
Webster University Saint Louis, Missouri Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security Threat Detection
Wichita State University Wichita, Kansas Certificate in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
Worcester Polytechnic College Worcester, Massachusetts Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
Wright State University Celina, Ohio Cyber Security Analytics Certificate
University of Maryland- Global Campus (formerly UMUC) Adelphi, Maryland Cybersecurity Technology
University of Maryland- Global Campus (formerly UMUC) Adelphi, Maryland Cybersecurity Management and Policy
PC Age Jersey City, New Jersey Certified IT/Cybersecurity

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How to Become a Cryptanalyst: A Complete Career Guide

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cryptography

The Greek terms krypto, which means secret, and graphene, which means writing, are said to have inspired the term cryptography. The earliest known uses of encryption are thought to date back at least 2,500 years, and some say they can be found in 4,000-year-old hieroglyphs.

Cryptography as it is used today is clearly several orders of magnitude different from what was used even a century ago. Using much more involved and sophisticated methods, the research is now being used to secure much more complicated data.

Many who find cryptography interesting, if not inspiring, should learn more about its fascinating past. The Codebreakers, a 1996 book by David Kahn, offers a reasonably detailed history from ancient times to the internet age. The Codes and Ciphers Heritage Trust is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the history of cryptography.

In the twenty-first century, cryptography integrates mathematics, computer science, and engineering to design, create, and analyse methods for concealing sensitive digital information and ensuring security.

To decode the codes, cryptoanalysts must have a deep understanding in all three disciplines, as well as a comprehensive and advanced understanding of current encryption techniques. They are today’s codebreakers.

Table of Contents

Cryptanalyst vs. Cryptographer

While the terms cryptanalyst and cryptographer are often interchanged, there is a distinction in the cryptography community.

Cryptographers are code builders, while cryptanalysts are code breakers. In several organisations, positions with the title cryptographer are charged with both creating and breaking codes. The distinction between the two occupations is often blurred, if not entirely erased. However, the distinction is important due to the two types of employers that typically use their services.

Cryptographers can be hired by almost any company that wants to go above and beyond in terms of data security. Cryptographers don’t only stop hackers from breaking into the company’s databases and networks; they also keep hackers from being able to use or understand the data once they’ve gotten into them. They “make” or “build” encryption codes to protect confidential information.

Cryptanalysts, on the other hand, are often used by law enforcement and intelligence services to decrypt encryption codes used by criminals and nefarious government actors. Cryptoanalysts are used by the FBI, NSA, DHS, and CIA to sift through data sent around the world by proven or suspected criminal organisations. Cryptanalysts must be up to date with the most recent cryptographer methods and codes. To “break” these codes, cryptanalysts sift through bits of data and programming code, revealing the cypher keys and restoring the data to its original format.

Four Steps to becoming a Cryptoanalyst

1. Educate yourself It’s always a good idea to begin taking advantage of whatever educational opportunities are available as soon as possible. Outside of college, there are a few options for introductory and intermediate cryptography education and training. For example, the InfoSec Institute’s website includes an introduction to cryptography. Mathematics, computer science, computer engineering, and computer programming are among the best college degrees for careers in cryptography. Where appropriate, coursework should concentrate on different aspects of cybersecurity. Employers who need graduate degrees from cryptographer job applicants are not uncommon, so after a few years of work experience, consider pursuing a master’s degree. A Ph.D. would also be needed by a large number of employers.

2. Training/certifications Despite the fact that cryptography is the oldest method of information security in human history, technical certifications are few and far between. These are the only ones available right now.

3. Career path Cryptography is an extremely specialised field. While it is often mistakenly classified as part of mathematics or computer science rather than cybersecurity, the end aim is to keep data secure. Because of the technological difficulties of becoming a cryptographer or cryptanalyst, it usually takes a few years of work experience to break into the positions, although there are some openings for exceptional college graduates. Additionally, because of the expertise needed to master cryptography, there are several career opportunities outside of cybersecurity. However, cryptanalysts are already more technically advanced than most other disciplines inside the cybersecurity umbrella, so lateral choices may be restricted. Cryptanalysts who invest in a master’s degree, or even a doctorate, can see a significant improvement in their career value. Advanced degrees would require other career changes such as security consultant, college professor, research cryptology scientist, and information security systems engineer, in addition to achieving more senior levels in cryptography.

4. Staying current In almost every area of cybersecurity, staying current on technologies, skills, and expertise is critical to success. The nature of information security is evolving at such a rapid pace that practitioners who do not keep up will quickly become dinosaurs. Trade unions are a perfect way to stay on top of things. These organisations usually have some of the most up-to-date analysis as well as many opportunities to network with other professionals. There are many trade groups open to cryptoanalysts, which is fortunate.

  • International Association of Cryptologic Research (IACR)
  • International Financial Cryptography Association (IFCA)
  • American Crypto Association (ACA)

What is a Cryptanalyst?

Cryptoanalysts must be familiar with and understand the systems and networks they are working with in order to decrypt encrypted data. They must also have a thorough understanding of the programming languages and encryption methods used to encrypt the data, as well as the ability to scan code and data bit by bit in order to break the cypher key and reveal the true underlying data. Law enforcement, hacking, and military cybersecurity operations are all clear uses for cryptanalysis. As technology and the skills of those attempting to protect sensitive data, namely cryptographers, evolve at a rapid pace, the cryptanalyst must evolve as well.

Cryptanalyst Skills and Experience

Candidates for cryptoanalysts are often expected to have many years of experience in a related area, such as computer programming or advanced mathematics. Some outstanding college graduates may be able to enter the sector right away after graduation. There are self-contained training programmes for cryptanalysts inside government agencies like the FBI and NSA that take them from total novices to experts in around three years. These FBI and NSA recruitment videos give you a good idea of what the job entails and how these skills are put to use in law enforcement. Given the three-year time frame for intensive training, cryptanalysis is clearly a time-consuming, challenging, and technical ability.

Cryptanalysts deal with confidential information by nature. As a result, many employers will need either a current security clearance or a security investigation, probably including a polygraph test, before hiring anyone.

Other possible conditions for new cryptanalyst hires are listed below.

  • Exceptional mathematical skills
  • Computer science knowledge, especially network and systems analysis
  • Knowledge of a variety of programming languages, including C++, C, Java, and Python, as well as homomorphic encryption and other well-known encryption techniques
  • Study of algorithm resource requirements

The following are examples of soft skills that are frequently sought:

  • Communication skills that are both written and spoken are important.
  • Motivated by oneself
  • Ingenious
  • Dedicated and enthusiastic

What do Cryptanalysts do?

Cybersecurity as a whole is a multi-pronged strategy for preventing outside powers from accessing, obtaining, and exploiting confidential digital data. One part of the security mechanism is cryptography. Even if network or device attacks are successful, confidential or proprietary data that is safely encrypted is useless to whoever obtains it. It’s basically a jumbled, incomprehensible mess.

However, since technology and hackers are continually evolving, a cryptographer’s role requires them to stay on top of all technological capabilities. A cryptographer’s skill set must include computer programming, advanced mathematics, network device software and hardware, and communication protocols.

It’s a never-ending challenge to come up with new methods for data encryption and to keep track of how well those methods are working. Cryptographic solutions must take into account the current architecture and operating environment, as well as potential features and improvements.

Cryptanalyst Job Description

The goals for cryptanalysts in law enforcement, the military, espionage agencies, and other government agencies vary, but the objective is essentially the same. To convert encrypted data back to plain data, crack the encryption codes. Some of the more popular job functions associated with a cryptography specialist are mentioned below.

Outlook for Cryptanalysts

Staffing shortages in the cybersecurity industry are well-known, and cryptoanalysis is no exception. Being a cryptanalyst has a certain spy world appeal that attracts new mathematicians and computer scientists on a regular basis. However, the rapid proliferation of digital methods used in law enforcement and espionage, as well as the relentless evolution and development of computer sciences, is generating new demand for cryptanalysts. And this is unlikely to change in the near future.

There are no job openings for cryptanalysts if you do a basic job scan. This is due to the fact that cryptanalysts in the private sector are often working under different work titles. Cryptanalyst roles are often performed by cryptographers as part of their responsibilities. Job vacancies for cryptanalysts in the public sector, that is, those hired by different government agencies, are seldom advertised on traditional job boards. Since almost all government cryptanalyst positions need high-level security clearances, this is the case. Clearancejobs.com is one website that lists work openings that need a security clearance. To even log into the website, you must have a security clearance. Applying directly to government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DHS, NSA, and others is probably your best bet for breaking into cryptanalysis.

How Much do Cryptanalysts Make?

For the reasons mentioned above, researching earning data on cryptanalysts is difficult. Federalpay.org, on the other hand, publishes unclassified government job info. In 2018, the FBI hired 18 cryptanalysts, with an average annual salary of over $125,000, according to that site. According to SalaryExpert.com, the average annual salary of cryptanalysts is about $75,000.

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://cybersguards.com/how-to-become-a-cryptanalyst-a-complete-career-guide/

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Cyber Security

Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Hack Says it is Shutting Down Operations

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Ransomware

The criminal gang behind the destabilising Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack has announced its closure, but threat analysts suspect the group will resurface under a new name and with new ransomware variants.

Despite massive backlash from the US government and international law enforcement agencies, the DarkSide cybercrime gang appears to be shutting down operations.

The DarkSide ransomware-as-a-service infrastructure, as well as a naming-and-shaming website used by the criminal group to pressure victims during extortion talks, has gone offline, according to several threat hunters monitoring darkweb communications.

Intel471, a security firm that monitors malicious activity on the dark web, claims to have checked a “announcement” from DarkSide that the company will “immediately cease operations” and provide data decryptors to all victims. The group says that an unnamed law enforcement agency disrupted part of its infrastructure in a statement posted in Russian.

According to Intel471, the group’s name-and-shame blog, ransom collection website, and breach data content distribution network (CDN) were all allegedly confiscated, and funds from their cryptocurrency wallets were allegedly exfiltrated.

The DarkSide announcement, which claims the offenders “lost access to their resources, including their blog, payment, and CDN servers and will be closing their operation,” was also seen by FireEye researchers.

FireEye, on the other hand, states that it has not independently checked the claims and warns that it may be part of a “escape scam.”

In the past, cybercriminal groups have shut down activities in reaction to law enforcement action, only to reopen under a new name and with new online infrastructure.

The status of live, continuing talks on ransomware payments and data decryption tools is another possible complication with a DarkSide shutdown. “A large number of tainted businesses are in contact with these [Darkside affiliates].” According to a source monitoring the ransomware outbreak, “if they go dark, it might really hinder recovery attempts all over the world.”

Intel471 claims to have seen rival ransomware-as-a-service gangs go silent, but warns that, like FireEye, ransomware extortion attacks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“It’s more likely that these ransomware creators are attempting to flee the spotlight than they are unexpectedly realising their mistakes. According to the firm, “a number of the operators will most likely operate in their own closed-knit communities, resurfacing under new names and revamped ransomware variants.”

Intel471 claims that the operators will devise new methods for “washing” the cryptocurrency they receive from ransom payments.

Colonial Pipeline paid a $5 million ransom to the DarkSide cybergang, according to news of the alleged shutdown.

The ransomware used in the Colonial Pipeline attack, according to threat intelligence firm Flashpoint, is a version of the infamous REvil ransomware, with moderate trust based on code analysis.

Separately, a Chainalysis analysis of ransomware transactions discovered that 15% of all extortion payments posed a danger of sanctions breaches in the United States.

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://cybersguards.com/colonial-pipeline-ransomware-hack-says-it-is-shutting-down-operations/

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