Teaching Security Certifications in New Mexico

Glenn at work

I’ve been trying for some seven years to get the University of New Mexico to let me start offering hard-core cyber-security (i.e. hacking) certification courses, without even a whiff of success until recently. The Marketing Department and Custom Training division surveyed our captive audience, which is pretty sizable: Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and three other bases in the state; sizeable state, county and tribal entities; and mega-corps like Intel and HP.

We looked at their interest in ITIL, (ISC)2’s CISSP, ISACA’s CISA, Cisco’s CCNA-Security, GIAC’s GPEN, ISECOM’s OPST, EC-Council’s CEH, and Offensive Security’s OSCP.

One big factor that all clients considered was national and local demand for certified pros here in New Mexico. While many of the job sites aren’t completely forthcoming about how many jobs match a keyword, LinkedIn offers hard numbers for both global and state job openings that request or require particular certifications. LinkedIn reported:

8954 job listings that mention ITIL certification, 26 in New Mexico;

9,036 jobs mentioning the CISSP, 22 in New Mexico,

8,779 jobs mentioning the CISA, 4 in New Mexico,

11,416 job listings that mention the CCNA, 37 in New Mexico

395 jobs mentioning GPEN certification, 1 in New Mexico,

13 jobs mentioning the OPST certification, 0 in New Mexico,

3006 jobs mentioning the CEH, 2 in New Mexico, and

794 jobs mentioning the OSCP, 1 in New Mexico.

Of these, the last four could be called the “hackiest.” ISECOM’s OPST showed very weak numbers both global and locally, so despite some interesting aspects to its practice, none of our audience members showed the slightest interest. The GPEN showed more global-level strength, and attracted some attention from the national facilities, but needs to exist in the ecosystem of GIAC curricula. The OSCP is the truly hard-core hacker’s cert, with its 24-hour examination, but isn’t really “taught” at all; you have to hack and crack your way to a conclusion. It kind of cuts out the middle-man (teachers).

Mentioning the CEH started phones ringing immediately. UNM let me set up an InfoByte session to discuss all these certs and get a feel for what people would pay for. Which cert made ears perk up? The CEH.

I know quite a bit about the organizations and people that were in play in the creation of EC-Council. Despite the extremely tricky test, one individual’s “Run Away From the CEH” propaganda campaign (you can find the various renditions of the article in lots of places in the Internet) succeeded in spreading an early conception that EC-Council is a “diploma mill,” among other accusations. I’ve studied v8 and v9, and find the CEH has definitely matured as a certification, with an exam that is still quite tough, and more tightly focused on current issues and tools than ever.

So finally – finally! – I got the certification and UNM scheduled one section of a Certified Ethical Hacker class. Where I’ve had to struggle to find students to make some classes run, the CEH class made minimum enrollment (5 students) within hours of appearing in the online catalog. And certain entities are already asking about custom and on-site trainings, always a sign of a program with legs.

We’ll see how this first section goes. If interest persists or increases, my next campaign will be urging UNM to become an “official” EC-Council training center (and getting myself EC-Council instructor certified). While the word “official” carries some weight, when you self-study or get “unofficial” training you simply pay $100 extra above the $650 test registration fee.

I’ll have a lot to say about how I studied, what materials I used and my impressions (without details, of course) of the exam. For the moment I’m delighted to have found a pony that can run in this race. Updates will follow.

[ IT Jobs ]

My students know I keep an IT Jobs mailing list, but I don’t generally advertise the fact. Frankly, you’re only getting on it if I know you personally, though since I’ve been managing the Hacker Highschool version 2 update that circle’s getting large. This morning I sent the group some thoughts I share here.


Hello everyone – I hope you’ve had good holidays, and we’re all headed toward a better year –

L. passes along an opportunity in IT in county government. If Otero County is a good venue for you, take a look at this.

I haven’t gotten many postings to pass along recently because most of them fill almost immediately. Some students are getting hired before they even finish their cert courses. Demand is that strong, at least for the right type of geek.

That geek knows IT but doesn’t have her head in the clouds. That geek talks easily with people, especially clients or bosses, and makes himself really clear in the simplest way. That geek knows a line of business – ANY line of business – and can interact with accountants or morticians. In my experience, once you’re known, the jobs come looking for *you*.

That geek is YOU or you wouldn’t be on this list!


Hacker Highschool : Lesson 5, System Identification, is out

After some pretty serious downtime while I healed some broken bones, we’ve gotten Hacker Highschool v.2 rolling again with the release of Lesson 5 v.2, System Identification at

We’re releasing lessons out of order as we can squeeze them through the review process, so some of the higher-number lessons are already out. Fact checking, code checking, technical review, and a lot of very painful and painstaking review for anything pasted from somewhere else is tricky. But writing to teens is trickier.

Bob Monroe (Hawaii Bob) is providing Game On sections for all the lessons. Since we’re targeting the 12-18 age group (think about the eons those years spanned in your own life), we’re trying to spread the appeal across several audiences. Game On, the stories of Jace the teen hacker, show hacking in action: the practical application of theory through adolescent eyes.

Also: the VM group helped us formalize onto VirtualBox VMs for our labs, with Fedora Security Spin soon to replace Backtrack as our attack machine, and target machines from the Fedora and Debian branches replacing Metasploitable. The guys who do Puppet configuration tell me we can massage our “victimstations” specifically for our Exercises, which is going to be a very sweet feature going forward.

So the pots are heating up behind the scenes, and a whole lot of things are coming to a boil. There’s plenty more to come.


“Hello, I’m a VxWorks device. Would you like to own me?”

There’s a server lurking on your home network if you’ve got an Internet-connected box like, say, a Sony Bluray player:

A recent report describes a critical and widespread vulnerability in electronics running VxWorks, an embedded real-time operating system (RTOS). Examples of affected devices include DSL concentrators, SCADA industrial automation systems, D-Link video conferencing systems, fibre channel switches, and Apple Airport Extreme wifi routers. The problem: a back-door diagnostic communications port provided by VxWorks.

Now, the above is from 2010. It poses an interesting challenge: how many vulnerable devices are waiting in people’s homes now in 2013?


Video Discusses How Schools Don’t Teach Coding, Neglects To Mention Bad Industry Relations That Are The Reason Why

Yes, it’s true most American schools don’t teach coding.

That’s because the software industry has waged a war against American workers.

And our kids aren’t so stupid they haven’t noticed.

But check out the pleas from the likes of Bill Gates, and remember that Microsoft actively works to shut out American applicants (see http://www.gnorman.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=742:how-american-companies-lie-about-the-availability-of-tech-workers-so-they-can-bring-in-non-american-workers&catid=43&Itemid=389).

See the short article here:


Here’s the video from the article: