Cultivating Forward Thinking in Cyber

The Madness Called Lab

This is a cross post from my Linked In account Published on July 10, 2019.

I know the headline is one of many that appear in your various feeds from social media to the latest news snippets. My position is one from the trenches, while on paper I am a manager, in reality, my job is so much more.

Cyber is described by many as the various endpoints that support critical infrastructures, such as power plants and water reclamation facilities, professionals will tout its importance to our financial sectors and national assets. With the ground ever-changing and new capabilities evolving, how does an organization, better yet how does your team handle, its approach to addressing Incident Response?

I came from the private sector into military spaces because, I believed that the private sector does a few things exceptionally well, and could improve the military approach to cyber. The most important in my opinion is “Thought Leader “ creation. To be fair the military is an organization built on regimented actions and standard operational procedures, and within the military, we get very intelligent, creative and capable, infantrymen. However due to the constraints be they perceived or actual, the cyber realm seems to have a journey ahead in order to get to where their warfighting brothers and civilian cousins are in this respect.

I am a Cyber Network Defense Manager or CND Manager for the U.S. Army National Guard. I or anyone in my position would be viewed as a senior-level manager working directly beneath the Chief Information Security Officer(CISO) in industry, with specific focuses such as mine which is Threat Hunting and Incident Response. This unique opportunity has granted me the ability to take my subordinates from where their various life experiences and military schooling developed them and motivate, mold and mentor for operational readiness.

With minimal information and training the servicemember is capable of sustaining long engagements with opposing forces within a conventional war. In cyber we must-have information, and capability in order to have operational dominance within cyber, I would say a tenant of our culture must also be forward-thinking, and variant thinking. There are other teams in the U.S. Military that are successful because the team/unit culture is proper, the hierarchy within the unit is relaxed in the fact that everyone knows the boss, but the ability to meet mission objectives are not hampered by rank. This is the first point in developing forward thinkers, ensuring there is an identified leader, but also providing the interpersonal substrate to gain contribution from the different members, the ability to recognize, rank does not equal capability or experience.

I have also found success in meeting with my subordinates and identifying what cyber is for them and trying to find projects that will help them develop related to the mission, this is not always possible, but 96 percent of the time it is, and when you are looking to address retention, this is a great tool to leverage. In order to develop forward-thinking, you and your team need to be committed to the success of the craft of cyber. In order to do this, I have committed to at least 1 professional speaking engagement in the cybersecurity realm and 1 white paper addressing an issue within cybersecurity. At the writing of this article, I have spoken at 3 cybersecurity conferences and 1 pending in august with Brakesec Security Podcast and 1 Whitepaper in review. We must be recognized as thought participants before we can be thought leaders, is my belief. This in turn hopefully inspires other members of your team to participate and provide lessons learned, thusly inculcating forward-thinking or at a minimum, critical thinking. Start a book club or if you can’t or won’t, support the members who do and can. I am sure that there are several ways that we can cultivate forward-thinking in cyber, I just wanted to share my observations and successes. I am proud to say the soldiers that I manage are the inspiration of this article, the successes that we have are due to the skills that they bring to the table and the nation is better off for it.

Enthusiast for all things technical , specifically the exploration therein. follow me on twitter: @nicolaismith1 or email