Article 1 Fundamentals – Leaving the military and have heard of a new career…. Cyber security?

By Ollie S

So, you have heard cyber security is a booming career at the moment, there are lots of transferable skills from the military to cyber security and the salaries are very attractive…. Well, you are not wrong, however there are some serious hills/ mountains to climb to get there. This article will be the first in a series of articles aimed at helping veterans move into different areas of cyber security with little or no experience in cyber security and where you can learn cyber for as little cost as possible.

What is Cyber Security?

“Cyber security consists of technologies, processes and controls designed to protect systems, networks, programs, devices and data from cyber attacks. Effective cyber security reduces the risk of cyber attacks and protects against the unauthorised exploitation of systems, networks and technologies.”

What about Information Security?

“Information security, sometimes shortened to infosec, is the practice of protecting information by mitigating information risks. It is part of information risk management. It typically involves preventing or at least reducing the probability of unauthorized/inappropriate access, use, disclosure, disruption, deletion/destruction, corruption, modification, inspection, recording or devaluation, although it may also involve reducing the adverse impacts of incidents.”

What does that actually mean?

Well in order to protect systems we must do a variety of tasks; in cyber security there are steps that are taken, commonly known as:

  • Identify
  • Protect
  • Detect
  • Respond
  • Recover

Identify – Identifying gaps in your defences is highly important. Much as you would exercise and test your operating base defences you need to test your business against cyber-attacks. How do we do this? From a number of areas, such as penetration testing, this is what is known as ethical hacking, you will test a businesses IT defences and see if you can enter the network and stealthily move around. I would most compare this job to that of a reconnaissance operator. In addition to this you will need to look at what policies are in places and ensure that everyone is doing there job correctly, this role is known as an Information assurance consultant or Information Security Consultant and I would compare this to that of a base Sergeant Major who makes sure everything and everyone is working as they should be.

Protect – Much as you would look to protect your FOB or operating base, a business needs to protect their data and their systems. When designing an operating base or a good old-fashioned triangular harbour you need to think about where best place is the sentry’s, where is the enemy likely to attack from and how do we let people in and out of our base. Well a Firewall in cyber security does that job, it stops unwanted traffic entering your network and decided who it wants to let it and who it doesn’t. If you liked planning or building your troop/units’ defences in the military then perhaps working in a security design role might work well. Jobs in this area include Security Architect, Cyber Security Training Instructor, Network Security Engineer and IT Security Engineer.

Detect – Now we have a secure perimeter we want to look at how we can detect threats against our base or in cyber, our network. Most would have seen or spent some time in an ops room, this is where we can monitor our defences perhaps through cameras or through managing a sentry team. In cyber security there are Security Operations Centres that monitor the defences for businesses, they will look at what attacks are hitting the network and searching for any malicious software (malware) that has made its way inside. Usually for those with an analytical mind, cyber security roles include SOC Analyst, Information Security Analyst, threat hunter,

Respond – When in the military we come under attack we usually have a Quick Reaction Force ready to respond and deal with any threats to us. In cyber Security this is called an Incident Response Team. This is made up of a number of different people and responsibilities, you will need to be comfortable in dealing with situations under pressure. As an investigator the roles are very much hands on and technical, where as a team leader will need to have experience in managing a team and will be responsible for orchestrating the response and minimizing damage to the business. Roles include, Incident Responder, Incident Response Manager and Malware investigator.

Recover – Before an attack has happened in the military you would have identified an Emergency Rendezvous Point (ERV) and discussed in detail a plan to regroup after an attack. In cyber during the recovery phase you will be identifying and testing contingency mechanisms to ensure when an attack does happen the business can still deliver critical services. Cyber risk consultants will look the likelihood of attacks happening and will feed this information to the Information Security Manager, who will be creating contingency plans.

Key fundamental terminology to learn at this stage:

Cloud                                                                 Software                                                          IP address

Breach                                                              Vulnerability                                                   Exploit

Firewall                                                             Domain                                                             Malware

Phishing                                                            Threat                                                               Anti-Virus

GDPR                                                                 Encryption                                                        VPN

List of fundamental resources – All the resources below are for base level course to build knowledge in key fundamental terminology before moving into technical courses:


•             Futurelearn – Introduction to Cyber Security


•             Edx – Cybersecurity Fundamentals

•             Alison Network and Technology Courses



TechVets are an organisation that has been setup to help assist military veterans in transitioning into technical roles. They hold a wealth of knowledge and contacts within the cyber security industry and I cannot recommend enough that any service leaver gets in touch through the link below. TechVets have partnered with Immersive Labs to give services leavers free access to an online practical cyber security training platform. The platform is second to none and will aid candidates in training from a fundamental level through to advanced.

Next Article

The next article we will discuss in detail some of the job roles mentioned in this article and what resources you will need to begin a career in each of these roles. We will look what courses, qualifications and training paths there are available to ex-military.

This article was written by Oliver Spence our Co-Founder & Principle Consultant at North Star Cyber Security. After a 10-year career in the Royal Marines Oliver moved into cyber security, firstly working on open source investigation projects and then moving into penetration testing. Oliver holds numerous qualifications in different areas of cyber security such as; Network Security, ISO27001, Threat Intelligence and Penetration Testing. Throughout his career he has provided training to a wide range of clients and created training courses and programs for ex-military personnel in multiple countries. If you would like to more advice or you would like to speak with one of our consultants about any of our services, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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