Advancing Cybersecurity Skillsets Helps Organizations Against Threats

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Worldwide, 80% of organizations suffered one or more breaches that they could attribute to a lack of cybersecurity skills and/or awareness according to Fortinet’s recently published 2022 Cybersecurity Skills Gap research report. The lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals is a massive global problem affecting all types of organizations. Because the cybersecurity workforce is not growing fast enough to keep up with new threats, Fortinet has pledged to do something about it. By 2026, Fortinet is committed to training at least one million people in cybersecurity via our Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and Training Institute programs.

There is also a necessity to upskill current security professionals to gain more expertise about the ever-evolving threat landscape to keep up with bad actors. Fortinet offers the Network Security Expert (NSE) Certification program to technical professionals to advance their skills and help organizations keep up with threats. NSE is an eight-level training and certification program that is designed to provide individuals with an independent validation of their network security skills and experience. Recently, Fortinet spoke with Austin Lawrence, Senior Tech Consultant, Modern Application Platforms at CDI (Computer Design Integration) for a virtual Q&A to discuss his view of the current state of cybersecurity, as well as his experience with earning his NSE 7 certificate, and how it has impacted his career.

A Conversation with a NSE Level 7

Q: What is the state of the cybersecurity industry?

A: I started in security in 2016 and notice a significant difference in the industry and the approach to cyber. One of the biggest changes is that the industry is a lot more tense now. There is a much bigger focus on cybersecurity for organizations. You really don’t go a day or two without seeing attacks or data breaches in the news. The folks that defend their networks—the defenders—are really looking for cybersecurity vendors and OEMS to provide holistic solutions that cover their users and their devices no matter where they are—whether they are in the cloud, in the data center, or on-premise.

With these increased data breaches and security incidents happening, I think companies like Fortinet have really stepped up their game in providing holistic solutions to ease the burden. The attack surface has widened since 2016, and that’s forced security vendors and OEMs to rethink the solutions they provide.

Q: What is your professional observation about the cyber skills gap?

A: The biggest change that I’ve seen in the technology since 2016 is that there is a wider area to protect. It’s multi-cloud. It’s on-premise. It’s wherever your endpoints are located and that makes it much more difficult for someone who is defending networks or in a cybersecurity role to keep up. So, I would say breadth of knowledge is something that’s missing as part of the skills gap.

It’s not anyone’s fault. Things are changing really fast and if you’re in a specific role or a specific area, it can be hard to keep up with all the other systems that you have to understand to defend.

Q: What value do you place on certifications?

A: Certifications play a big role in a security professional’s ability to keep up with the changing technology landscape. You need to understand modern threats and the systems that defend against them. NSE certifications is a great place to start to offset the cybersecurity skills gap. Certifications have played a big role in helping to cast a wider net of knowledge and area of study. If you want to learn something new or if you have a specific area of technology that you want to dig into, certification is a great place to start. You get to learn things that you wouldn’t necessarily learn on the job. I think it definitely helps offset that skill gap.Q: What Fortinet NSE certifications do you have, and when did you receive them? What was the process like?

A: I have NSE 1-3. I got them when I started working at a value-added reseller (VAR) in 2020.

In January of 2021, I went for the NSE 7 enterprise firewall certificate. That experience was good. I spent a couple of months training in a lab, spinning up virtual appliances and such—and just picking apart the firewall. I used the Fortinet Training Institute and had a positive experience there. The LMS was pretty well laid out. The lessons were well-structured. I pretty much got all the information I needed there along with on-the-job experience to pass the certification test.

Q: What does it mean to you to have a Fortinet NSE certification? Has it helped in your career?

A: I think it’s helped in two ways. From a day-to-day perspective, it’s helped me have a little more breadth in the technologies that I commonly work with. If I don’t know a topic very deep, I might have touched on it in the certification training. I’ll know what it does and how to interact with it. From a security perspective, I’ll know how to secure it. Then I also think the certifications have helped me in career mobility—upward mobility. From that standpoint, it helped me get into a new role or helped me work on different types of projects. If I wanted to work on more Fortinet projects and go a level deeper, I could take the NSE 8 course. I think it definitely helps open up your options. From a career perspective as well.

Q: What motivate you to pursue NSE certifications?

A: It was primarily to get more familiar with Fortinet’s line of products. I had worked with other vendors’ security products in the cloud and on-premise for quite a long time before getting my NSE 7. And I was really impressed with Fortinet Security Fabric and how it is an ecosystem of products and services to solve a security problem. A lot of the clients I work with have Fortinet gear set up, so it naturally made sense to learn more about Fortinet through NSE 7, so I can learn more about the firewall in the cloud and on-premise, and help integrate those customer environments.

Q: What’s your background? What did you get your degree in? Where did you go to school?

A: I don’t have a degree. I went to a technical school when I was in high school. It covered a couple of things, including cybersecurity. Half of the day was high school classes and the other half was technical classes. We got to dig into networking and security topics, which was cool. That’s where I started.

Q: What advice would you give someone debating getting certified with Fortinet?

A: I would say if you see any of the topics in the NSE that interest you, get logged into the Fortinet Training Institute and take some courses. Try to configure a lab and train with virtual appliances. Make sure to understand the presented topics well and you’ll be likely to form some new skills throughout the process.

Learn more about the Fortinet free cybersecurity training initiative and Fortinet’s Training Institute, including the NSE Certification programAcademic Partner program, and Education Outreach program which includes a focus on Veterans.

 

 

 

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