CCNA Cyber Ops (Version 1.1) – Chapter 1: Cybersecurity and the Security Operations Center


Upon completion of this chapter, you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are some features of examples of cybersecurity incidents?
  • What are the motivations of the threat actors behind specific security incidents?
  • What is the potential impact of network security attacks?
  • What is the mission of the Security Operations Center (SOC)?
  • What are some resources available to prepare for a career in cybersecurity operations?

Key Terms

This chapter uses the following key terms. You can find the definitions in the Glossary.

threat actors

script kiddies
distributed denial of service (DDoS)
personally identifiable information (PII)
protected health information (PHI)
Security Operations Center (SOC)
Tier 1 Alert Analyst
Tier 2 Incident Responder
Tier 3 Subject Matter Expert (SME)/Hunter
SOC Manager
security information and event management system (SIEM)

Introduction (1.0)

In this chapter, you will learn about the who, what, and why of cyberattacks. Different people commit cybercrime for different reasons. Security Operations Centers (SOC) work to combat cybercrime. People prepare for work in a SOC by earning certifications, seeking formal education, and by using employment services to gain internship experience and jobs.

Class Activity Top Hacker Shows Us How It is Done

In this class activity, you will view a TED Talk video that discusses various security vulnerabilities. You will also research one of the vulnerabilities mentioned in the video.

The Danger (1.1)

In this section, you will learn some common war stories in the cybersecurity arena as well as some of the major threat actors and threat impacts.

War Stories (1.1.1)

In this topic, you will learn about three types of victims in cybercrime: individuals, organizations, and nations.

Hijacked People (

Sarah stopped by her favorite coffee shop to grab her afternoon drink. She placed her order, paid the clerk, and waited while the baristas worked furiously to fulfill the backup of orders. Sarah pulled out her phone, opened the wireless client, and connected to what she assumed was the coffee shop’s free wireless network.

However, sitting in a corner of the store, a hacker had just set up an open “rogue” wireless hotspot posing as the coffee shop’s wireless network. When Sarah logged onto her bank’s website, the hacker hijacked her session, and gained access to her bank accounts.

View the following video posted in 2008 to see a demonstration of how one wireless network was vulnerable to hacking:

In this course, you will learn about security technologies that easily prevent this type of attack.

Ransomed Companies (

Rashid, an employee in the finance department of a major, publicly held corporation, receives an email from his CEO with an attached PDF. The PDF is about the company’s third-quarter earnings. Rashid does not remember his department creating the PDF. His curiosity is peaked, so he opens the attachment.

The same scenario plays out across the organization as dozens of other employees are successfully enticed to click the attachment. When the PDF opens, ransomware is installed on the employees’ computers and begins the process of gathering and encrypting corporate data. The goal of the attackers is financial gain, because they hold the company’s data for ransom until they are paid.

View the following video to see a dramatization of how this ransomware attack could happen:

Nations (

Some of today’s malware is so sophisticated and expensive to create that security experts believe only a nation state or group of nations could possibly have the influence and funding to create it. Such malware can be targeted to attack a nation’s vulnerable infrastructure, such as the water system or power grid.

This was the purpose of the Stuxnet worm, which infected USB drives. These drives were carried by five Iranian component vendors, with the intention of infiltrating nuclear facilities supported by the vendors. Stuxnet was designed to infiltrate Windows operating systems and then target Step 7 software. Step 7 was developed by Siemens for their programmable logic controllers (PLC). Stuxnet was looking for a specific model of the Siemens PLCs that controls the centrifuges in nuclear facilities. The worm was transmitted from the infected USB drives into the PLCs and eventually damaged many of these centrifuges.

Zero Days, a film released in 2016, attempts to document the development and deployment of the Stuxnet targeted malware attack. Search the Internet for a web location where you can view the film.

Lab Installing the CyberOps Workstation Virtual Machine

In this lab, you will install VirtualBox on your personal computer. You will then download and install the CyberOps Workstation Virtual Machine (VM).

Lab Cybersecurity Case Studies

In this lab, you will analyze the given cases and answer questions about them.

Threat Actors (1.1.2)

In this topic, you will learn about the motivations of the threat actors behindspecific security incidents.

Amateurs (

Threat actors include, but are not limited to, amateurs, hacktivists, organized crime groups, state-sponsored and terrorist groups. Threat actors are individuals or a group of individuals who perform cyberattacks against another individual or organization. Cyberattacks are intentional, malicious acts meant to negatively impact another individual or organization.

Amateurs, also known as script kiddies, have little or no skill. They often use existing tools or instructions found on the Internet to launch attacks. Some are just curious, while others try to demonstrate their skills by causing harm. Even though they are using basic tools, the results can still be devastating.

Hacktivists (

Hacktivists are hackers who protest against a variety of political and social ideas. Hacktivists publicly protest against organizations or governments by posting articles and videos, leaking sensitive information, and disrupting web services with illegitimate traffic in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Financial Gain (

Much of the hacking activity that consistently threatens our security is motivated by financial gain. These cybercriminals want to gain access to our bank accounts, personal data, and anything else they can leverage to generate cash flow.

Trade Secrets and Global Politics (

The past several years have seen many stories about nation states hacking other countries, or otherwise interfering with internal politics. Nation states are also interested in using cyberspace for industrial espionage. The theft of intellectual property can give a country a significant advantage in international trade.

Defending against the fallout from state-sponsored cyberespionage and cyberwarfare will continue to be a priority for cybersecurity professionals.

How Secure Is the Internet of Things? (

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all around us and quickly expanding. We are just beginning to reap the benefits of the IoT. New ways to use connected things are being developed daily. The IoT helps individuals connect things to improve their quality of life. For example, many people are now using connected wearable devices to track their fitness activities. How many devices do you currently own that connect to your home network or the Internet?

How secure are these devices? For example, who wrote the firmware? Did the programmer pay attention to security flaws? Is your connected home thermostat vulnerable to attacks? What about your DVR? If security vulnerabilities are found, can firmware in the device be patched to eliminate the vulnerability? Many devices on the Internet are not updated with the latest firmware. Some older devices were not even developed to be updated with patches. These two situations create opportunity for threat actors and security risks for the owners of these devices.

In October 2016, a DDoS attack against the domain name provider Dyn took down many popular websites. The attack came from a large number of webcams, DVRs, routers, and other IoT devices that had been compromised by malicious software. These devices formed a “botnet” that was controlled by hackers. This botnet was used to create an enormous DDoS attack that disabled essential Internet services. Dyn has posted a blog here to explain the attack and their reaction to it.

Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of the JHU Information Security Institute, highlights the dangers of not securing all our connected devices. Search the Internet to view his TED talk.

Lab Learning the Details of Attacks

In this lab, you will research and analyze IoT application vulnerabilities.

Threat Impact (1.1.3)

In this topic, you will learn about the potential impact of network security attacks.

PII and PHI (

The economic impact of cyberattacks is difficult to ascertain with precision; however, according to an article in Forbes, it is estimated that businesses lose $400 billion annually to cyberattacks.

Personally identifiable information (PII) is any information that can be used to positively identify an individual. Examples of PII include:

  • Name
  • Social security number
  • Birthdate
  • Credit card numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • Government issued ID
  • Address information (street, email, phone numbers)

One of the more lucrative goals of cybercriminals is obtaining lists of PII that can then be sold on the dark web. The dark web can only be accessed with special software and is used by cybercriminals to shield their activities. Stolen PII can be used to create fake accounts, such as credit cards and short-term loans.

A subset of PII is protected health information (PHI). The medical community creates and maintains electronic medical records (EMR) that contain PHI. In the United States, handling of PHI is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The equivalent regulation in the European Union is called Data Protection.

Most hacks on companies and organizations reported in the news involved stolen PII or PHI. In only three months in 2016, the following attacks occurred:

  • In March 2016, a data breach at a health care provider exposed the personal information of 2.2 million patients.
  • In April 2016, a laptop and portable drives were stolen from a government agency that included personal information for as many as 5 million people.
  • In May 2016, a data breach at a payroll company exposed the payroll, tax, and benefits information of over 600,000 companies.

Lost Competitive Advantage (

Companies are increasingly worried about corporate espionage in cyberspace. An additional major concern is the loss of trust that comes when a company is unable to protect its customers’ personal data. The loss of competitive advantage may come from this loss of trust rather than another company or country stealing trade secrets.

Politics and National Security (

It is not just businesses that get hacked. In February 2016, a hacker published the personal information of 20,000 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees and 9,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. The hacker was apparently politically motivated.

The Stuxnet worm was specifically designed to impede Iran’s progress in enriching uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon. Stuxnet is a prime example of a network attack motivated by national security concerns. Cyberwarfare is a serious possibility. State-supported hacker warriors can cause disruption and destruction of vital services and resources within an enemy nation. The Internet has become essential as a medium for commercial and financial activities. Disruption of these activities can devastate a nation’s economy. Controllers, similar to those attacked by Stuxnet, also are used to control the flow of water at dams and the switching of electricity on the power grid. Attacks on such controllers can have dire consequences.

Lab Visualizing the Black Hats

In this lab, you will research and analyze cybersecurity incidents to create scenarios of how organizations can prevent or mitigate an attack.

Fighters in the War Against Cybercrime (1.2)

In this section, you will learn about the Security Operations Center (SOC) and how to become a defender in the cybersecurity arena.

The Modern Security Operations Center (1.2.1)

In this topic, you will learn about the people, processes, and technologies in an SOC.

Elements of an SOC (

Defending against today’s threats requires a formalized, structured, and disciplined approach, which is executed by professionals at SOCs. SOCs provide a broad range of services, from monitoring and management, to comprehensive threat solutions and hosted security that can be customized to meet customer needs. SOCs can be wholly in-house, owned and operated by a business, or elements of an SOC can be contracted out to security vendors, such as Cisco’s Managed Security Services.

The major elements of an SOC, shown in Figure 1-1, are people, processes, and technology.

Figure 1-1 Elements of a Security Operations Center

People in the SOC (

The SANS Institute ( classifies the roles people play in a SOC into four job titles:

  • Tier 1 Alert Analyst: These professionals monitor incoming alerts, verify that a true incident has occurred, and forward tickets to Tier 2, if necessary.
  • Tier 2 Incident Responder: These professionals are responsible for deep investigation of incidents and advise remediation or action to be taken.
  • Tier 3 Subject Matter Expert (SME)/Hunter: These professionals have expert-level skill in network, endpoint, threat intelligence, and malware reverse engineering. They are experts at tracing the processes of the malware to determine its impact and how it can be removed. They are also deeply involved in hunting for potential threats and implementing threat detection tools.
  • SOC Manager: This professional manages all the resources of the SOC and serves as the point of contact for the larger organization or customer.

This course offers preparation for a certification suitable for the position of Tier 1 Alert Analyst, also known as Cybersecurity Analyst.

Figure 1-2 graphically represents how these roles interact with each other.

Figure 1-2 Roles of the People in a Security Operations Center

Process in the SOC (

The day of a Tier 1 Analyst begins with monitoring security alert queues. A ticketing system is frequently used to allow analysts to select alerts from a queue to investigate. Because the software that generates alerts can trigger false alarms, one job of the Tier 1 Analyst might be to verify that an alert represents a true security incident. When verification is established, the incident can be forwarded to investigators or other security personnel to be acted upon, or resolved as a false alarm.

If a ticket cannot be resolved, the Tier 1 Analyst will forward the ticket to a Tier 2 Analyst for deeper investigation and remediation. If the Tier 2 Analyst cannot resolve the ticket, she will forward it to a Tier 3 Analyst with in-depth knowledge and threat hunting skills.

Figure 1-3 summarizes the roles of Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 analysts.

Figure 1-3 Threat Incident Escalation Process

Technologies in the SOC (

As shown in Figure 1-4, a SOC needs a security information and event management system (SIEM), or its equivalent. This system combines data from multiple technologies. SIEM systems are used for collecting and filtering data, detecting and classifying threats, analyzing and investigating threats, andmanaging resources to implement preventive measures and address future threats. SOC technologies include one or more of the following:

  • Event collection, correlation, and analysis
  • Security monitoring
  • Security control
  • Log management
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Vulnerability tracking
  • Threat intelligence

Figure 1-4 SOC Monitoring System

Figure 1-4 is a simplified representation of an SOC monitoring system. Information about network traffic, network flows, system logs, endpoint data, intelligence threat feeds, security events, and identifying asset context are all fed into the SIEM system.

Enterprise and Managed Security (

For medium and large networks, the organization will benefit from implementing an enterprise-level SOC. The SOC can be a complete in-house solution. However, many larger organizations will outsource at least part of the SOC operations to a security solutions provider.

Cisco has a team of experts who help ensure timely and accurate incident resolution. Cisco offers a wide range of incident response, preparedness, and management capabilities:

  • Cisco Smart Net Total Care Service
  • Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT)
  • Cisco Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)
  • Cisco Managed Services
  • Cisco Tactical Operations (TacOps)
  • Cisco’s Safety and Physical Security Program

Security vs. Availability (

Most enterprise networks must be up and running at all times. Security personnel understand that for the organization to accomplish its priorities, network availability must be preserved.

Each business or industry has a limited tolerance for network downtime. That tolerance is usually based upon a comparison of the cost of the downtime in relation to the cost of ensuring against downtime. For example, in a small retail business with only one location, it may be tolerable to have a router as a single point of failure. However, if a large portion of that business’s sales are from online shoppers, then the owner may decide to provide a level of redundancy to ensure that a connection is always available.

Preferred uptime is often measured in the number of down minutes in a year, as shown in Table 1-1. For example, a “five nines” uptime means that the network is up 99.999% of the time or down for no more than 5 minutes a year. “Four nines” would be a downtime of 53 minutes a year.

Table 1-1 Availability and Downtime

Availability % Downtime
99.8% 17.52 hours
99.9% (“three nines”) 8.76 hours
99.99% (“four nines”) 52.56 minutes
99.999% (“five nines”) 5.256 minutes
99.9999% (“six nines”) 31.5 seconds
99.99999% (“seven nines”) 3.15 seconds

However, security cannot be so strong that it interferes with the needs of employees or business functions. It is always a tradeoff between strong security and permitting efficient business functioning.

Activity Identify the SOC Terminology

Refer to the online course to complete this Activity.

Becoming a Defender (1.2.2)

In this topic, you will learn about the available certifications, degrees, and opportunities for gaining experience in cybersecurity operations.

Certifications (

A variety of cybersecurity certifications that are relevant to careers in SOCs are available from several different organizations.

Cisco CCNA Cyber Ops

The CCNA Cyber Ops certification provides a valuable first step in acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to work with a SOC team. It can be a valuable part of a career in the exciting and growing field of cybersecurity operations.

CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst Certification

The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+) certification is a vendor-neutral IT professional certification. It validates knowledge and skills required to configure and use threat detection tools, perform data analysis, and interpret the results to identify vulnerabilities, threats, and risks to an organization. The end goal is the ability to secure and protect applications and systems within an organization.

(ISC)2 Information Security Certifications

(ISC)2 is an international non-profit organization that offers the highly acclaimed CISSP certification. (ISC)2 offers a range of other certifications for various specialties in cybersecurity.

Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)

GIAC, which was founded in 1999, is one of the oldest security certification organizations. It offers a wide range of certifications in seven categories.

Search for “cybersecurity certifications” to find information about other vendor and vendor-neutral certifications.

Further Education (


Anyone considering a career in the cybersecurity field, should seriously consider pursuing a technical degree or bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical engineering, information technology, or information security. Many educational institutions offer security-related specialized tracks and certifications.

Python Programming

Computer programming is an essential skill for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in cybersecurity. If you have never learned how to program, then Python might be the first language to learn. Python is an open-source, object-oriented language that is routinely used by cybersecurity analysts. It is also a popularprogramming language for Linux-based systems and software-defined networking (SDN).

Sources of Career Information (

A variety of websites and mobile applications advertise information technology jobs. Each site targets a variety of job applicants and provides different tools for candidates to research their ideal job position. Many sites are job site aggregators. Job site aggregators gather listings from other job boards and company career sites and display them in a single location.

Advertised as the world’s #1 job site, attracts over 180 million unique visitors every month from over 50 different countries. is truly a worldwide job site. It helps companies of all sizes hire the best talent and offers the best opportunity for job seekers.

CareerBuilder serves many large and prestigious companies. As a result, this site attracts specific candidates that typically have more education and higher credentials. The employers posting on CareerBuilder commonly get more candidates with college degrees, advanced credentials, and industry certifications.

The United States federal government posts any openings on USAJobs:

Salary Information

The website provides salary information for different job types, companies, and locations. Search for “cyber security analyst” to see salaries and requirements for current job openings.

Getting Experience (

There are variety of ways to get experience. The following are a few ideas.


Internships are an excellent method for gaining entry into the cybersecurity field. Sometimes, internships turn into an offer of full-time employment. However, even a temporary internship allows you the opportunity to gain experience in the inner workings of a cybersecurity organization. The contacts you make during an internship can also prove to be a valuable resource as you continue your career.

Search the Internet for a Forbes article titled “The 10 Best Websites For Finding An Internship.”

Cisco Cybersecurity Scholarship

To help close the security skills gap, Cisco introduced the Global Cybersecurity Scholarship program in 2016. Cisco is motivated to increase the pool of talent with critical cybersecurity proficiency. Registration opens in spring and awards are announced in late fall. Visit the following website to learn more about the scholarship:

Temporary Agencies

If you are having difficulty finding your first job, a temporary agency can be a great place to start. Most temporary agencies will help you polish your resume and make recommendations on additional skills you may need to obtain to make yourself more attractive to potential employers.

Many organizations use temporary agencies to fill job openings for the first 90 days. Then, if the employee is a good match, the organization may offer to buy the contract from the temporary agency, converting the employee to a full-time, permanent position.

Your First Job

If you have no experience in the cybersecurity field, then you will most likely look for a company that is willing to train you for a position similar to a Tier 1Analyst. Working for a call center or support desk may be your first step into gaining the experience you need to move ahead in your career.

How long should you stay in your first job? Generally, you want to make it through a full review cycle before leaving a company. That is, you typically want to make it past 18 months. Potential employers will normally want to know if you met or exceeded expectations in your current or past jobs.

Lab Becoming a Defender

In this lab, you will research and analyze what it takes to become a network defender.

Summary (1.3)

In the beginning of the chapter you learned that people, companies, and even nations can all fall victim to cyberattacks. There are various types of attackers, including amateurs who attack for fun and prestige, hacktivists who hack to further a political cause, and professional hackers who attack for profit. In addition, nations may attack other nations to gain economic advantage through the theft of intellectual property, or to damage or destroy the assets of another country. The networks that are vulnerable to attack are not just business networks of PCs and servers, but also the thousands of devices on the Internet of Things.

SOCs are responsible for preventing, detecting, and responding to cybercrime. SOCs consist of people following processes to use technologies to respond to threats. There are four main roles in the SOC. Tier 1 Analysts verify security alerts using network data. Tier 2 Incident Responders investigate verified incidents and decide on how to act. Tier 3 SMEs/Hunters are experts and are able to investigate threats at the highest level. The fourth role is the SOC Managers. They manage the resources of the center and communicate with customers. Customers can be internal or external. A SOC may be operated by a single company or may provide services to many companies. Finally, although network security is extremely important, it cannot interfere with the ability of the company and its employees to fulfill the mission of an organization.

In order to work in an SOC, you learned that you can study to earn certifications that are offered by a number of different organizations. In addition, you canpursue degrees in higher education that are relevant to cyberoperations, and learn other skills such as programming in Python. Job leads can be found at a number of employment websites, and agencies can help you to find temporary jobs, internships, or permanent employment.


The following activities provide practice with the topics introduced in this
chapter. The Labs and Class Activities are available in the companion CCNA
Cybersecurity Operations Lab Manual (ISBN 9781587134388).

Class Activities

Class Activity Top Hacker Shows Us How It is Done


Lab Installing the CyberOps Workstation Virtual Machine
Lab Cybersecurity Case Studies
Lab Learning the Details of Attacks
Lab Visualizing the Black Hats
Lab Becoming a Defender

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