How to pass the CCSP exam

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I just passed the Certified Cloud Security Practitioner (CCSP) exam. It wasn’t easy, but nothing you can’t prepare for.

Apart from the official (ISC)2 guides, here are some of the resources I used in my studies:

If you would prefer to add video lectures to your study plan, there’s a free course on Cybrary. For a quick summary, check out these study notes and mindmaps. Also, multiple sets of free flashcards are available on Quizlet.

It is a good idea to do some practice questions: there are books and mobile apps out there to help you with this. Practical experience in cloud security is also essential.

The exam tests your knowledge of the following CCSP domains:

  • Architectural Concepts and Design Requirements
  • Cloud Data Security
  • Cloud Platform and Infrastructure Security
  • Cloud Application Security
  • Operations
  • Legal and Compliance

The structure and format might change as (ISC)2 continuously revise their exams, so please check the official website to make sure you are up-to-date with the latest developments.

On the day, read the questions carefully. It’s not a time pressured exam (I was done in two hours), so it’s worth re-reading the questions and answers again to make sure you are answering exactly what is being asked. Eliminate the wrong options first and then decide on the best out of the remaining ones.

Finally, my suggestion would be to approach the questions from the perspective of a consultant. What would you recommend in each situation? Don’t go too technical – keep the business needs in mind at all times.

Don’t stress too much about the final result. I’m sure you’ll pass, but even if not on your first attempt, you’ll learn either way! Remember, the knowledge you accumulate in the process of preparing for the test itself has the most value, not the credential.

Good luck!

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The Psychology of Information Security is now an audiobook too!

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Thanks to my publisher, my book is now available in the audio format. It’s been narrated by Peter Silverleaf, who’s done a great job as always.

If you would rather listen to an audio while driving, exercising or commuting, this version is for you. The book has intentionally been kept to the point which means you can finish the audio in slightly over two hours. The fact that it costs the equivalent of two cups of coffee is an added benefit.

You can get it for free on Audible as part of their introductory offer (you can listen to the sample there too), through Apple iTunes or download it in the MP3 format on my publisher’s website.

I know I’m slightly biased here, but I highly recommend it!


Human-computer interaction

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I’ve previously written about open online courses you can take to develop your skills in user experience design.  I’ve also talked about how this knowledge can be used and abused when it comes to cyber security.

If you want to build a solid foundation in interaction design, I recommend The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. This collection of open source textbooks cover the design of interactive products, services, software and many many more.

And while you’re on the website, check out another free and insightful book on gamification. Also on offer you’ll find free UX Courses.


Modelling SABSA architecture using ArchiMate

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ArchiMate modelling language is one of the The Open Group enterprise architecture standards. It is aligned with TOGAF and aims to help architects (and other interested parties) understand the impact of design choices and changes.

I provide a high-level overview of this standard and the free open-source modelling tool used to describe, analyse and visualise architecture in my previous blog.

Here I would like to build on the foundation we’ve laid while discussing SABSA architecture and design case study and share and example of using the Archi tool to model security architecture using SABSA framework.

Let’s say ACME Corp asked us to help them with their security architecture. Where do we start?

As described in my previous blog, let’s establish Contextual Architecture.

1 - Contextual

Using Archi, I select Principles (can be found in Motivation section) for attributes and define composition relationship between elements (e.g. ACME Corp is composed of Cost-effective, Reputable and many other attributes that hopefully define the business).

Here and below I’ll be using a simplified example just to illustrate a point – you will have many more attributes in practice.

From reading company annual reports and talking to business stakeholders we can start identifying business drivers of ACME Corp. We can them map these business drivers to attributes. Below is an illustration of mapping a business driver Generate revenue (Driver element) to the attribute Cost-effective using Influence relation, as business drivers influence attributes.

2 - business driver t oattribute mapping

On the Conceptual architecture level we need to start defining lower level attributes. For example, Cost-effective is composed (Composition relation) of Available and Business-driven

3 - Conceptual

Remember that you can provide definitions of your attributes in the element’s properties (Main section). In this example I’m defining Available as Service should be uninterrupted. You are also encouraged to establish a measurement approach for each attribute. You can see above that Uptime is the main KPI for availability. It’s a hard measure where we monitor the percentage of time system is available compared to what is specified in the SLA.

Logical level provides an insight into what capabilities enable the attributes. In the example below, Available is realised (Realsisation relation) by Backup capability which in turn is comprised of Synchronous and Asynchronous backup capabilities (Composition relation).

4 - Logical Model

Archi tool allows us to model SABSA Physical Architecture view by describing services, events, processes, interfaces, functions and other elements of the TOGAF Technology layer.

Below is a simplified example of describing the Asynchronous backup capability.

6 - Physical model

Asynchronous backup is being realised by Backup manager application service (reaalisation relation). Backup store is a data object that is being accessed by the Backup manager (access relation).

You can be quite detailed here and that’s where Archi tool can add a lot of value. But to keep things simple, I’m going to leave it at that. You can decompose elements into services and function, group them together and even go lower describing actual technology solutions on SABSA Component architecture level.

The real question is: what do you do with all of this?

My answer is simple: visualise.

Visualiser

Archi let’s you switch into the Visualiser mode and create graphs bringing all your hard work together. Playing with depth (6 in the example above) you can analyse the architecture and ensure traceability: you can see and, more importantly, demonstrate to your business stakeholders how a particular technology solution contributes to the overall business objective.

In addition, the Validator allows you to see the elements that are orphaned, i.e. not related to any other element. You then have the ability to rectify this and introduce a relationship or discontinue the capability (otherwise, why are you paying for something that is not in use?).

If you followed the steps above, the tool, despite being free, actually does a lot of the heavy lifting for you and automatically adjusts the models and graphs if changes to the architecture are introduced.

Now it’s your turn to try out Archi for SABSA architecture. Good luck!


Cyber Security: Law and Guidance

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I’m proud to be one of the contributors to the newly published  Cyber Security: Law and Guidance book.

Although the primary focus of this book is on the cyber security laws and data protection, no discussion is complete without mentioning who all these measures aim to protect: the people.

I draw on my research and practical experience to present a case for the new approach to cyber security and data protection placing people in its core.

Check it out!


Internet of Toys Security

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To support my firm’s corporate and social responsibility efforts, I volunteered to help NSPCC, a charity working in child protection, understand the Internet of Toys and its security and privacy implications.

I hope the efforts in this area will result in better policymaking and raise awareness among children and parents about the risks and threats posed by connected devices.

Toys are different from other connected devices not only because how they are normally used, but also who uses them.

For example, children may tell secrets to their toys, sharing particularly sensitive information with them. This, combined with often insufficient security considerations by the manufacturers, may be a cause for concern.

Apart from helping NSPCC in creating campaign materials and educating the staff on the threat landscape, we were able to suggest a high-level framework to assess the security of a connected toy, consisting of parental control, privacy and technology security considerations.

Read the rest of this entry »


An open source modelling toolkit for enterprise architects

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Telling stories is one of the best ways to get your ideas across, especially when your audience is not technical. Therefore, as an architect, you might want to communicate in a way that can be easily understood by others.

TOGAF, for example, encourages enterprise architects to develop Business Scenarios. But what if you want to represent your concepts visually? The solution might lie in using a modelling language that meets this requirement.

ArchiMate is an open standard for such a language that supports enterprise architects in the documenting and analysing of architecture. Full alignment with aforementioned TOGAF is an added bonus.

The ArchiMate mimics constructs of the English language i.e. it has a subject, an object and a verb that refer to active, passive and behavior (action) aspects respectively. It employs these constructs to model business architecture.

To illustrate this, let’s model a specific business process using ArchiMate. Similarly to the example described in one of the whitepapers, let’s consider a stock trader registering an order on the exchange as part of the overall Place Order process.

Thinking back to the English language parallel, what does this sentence tell us? In other words, who is doing what to what?

In this scenario, a Trader (subject) places (verb) the order (object).

The diagram below illustrates how this might look like when modelled in ArchiMate.

ArchiMate

‘Trader’, being an active element is modelled as Business Role, ‘Place Order’ as a behavior (action) element is represented as Business Process and the passive ‘Order’ itself is modelled as Business Object.

The relationship between elements carry meaning in ArchiMate too. In our example, Assign relation is used to model the ‘Trader’ performing the ‘Place Order’ action. Contrary, the interaction between ‘Place Order’ and ‘Order’ is modelled using Access relation to illustrate that the the Business Process creates the Business Object.

To put all of this into practice, you can use the Archi modelling toolkit. It’s free, open-source and support multiple platforms.

In fact, I used it to illustrate the scenario above, but it can do much more. For example, I talk about modelling SABSA architecture using ArchiMate in my other blog.