Since our CISSP discussion has been thought-provoking, I imagine this might be interesting too. Last night I taught a lesson on network security monitoring to a graduate level forensics class at George Washington University. Earlier this week my friend Kevin Mandia asked me to step in when he was unavailable to teach. I spent 2 1/2 hours describing NSM theory, techniques, and tools, and concluded with a Sguil demo.
I do not have any formal degree involving computer security. I have considered pursuing an advanced degree. It would be incredible to work with Vern Paxson, for example. I am not sure how useful another degree would be for me, at this point.
Computer security practitioners are often self-taught. This morning while perusing The Economist I came across the ultimate story of a successful self-taught technician. Those in the medical community may know the story that "Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant." I learned in The Economist that Hamilton Naki, a self-trained and non-degree holder, performed half of the operation.
According to The Guardian, Mr. Naki led a team that spent 48 hours removing the donor's heart, and then placed it in Dr. Barnard's hands. Mr Naki learned to transplant organs by watching, then doing. He surpassed the technical skill of the trained physicians at his hospital, and Dr. Barnyard enlisted his help for the ground-breaking 1967 transplant operation.
A search for "Naki" at the South African hospital Web site that speaks glowingly of Dr. Barnard yields zero hits. It seems the same secrecy that kept Mr. Naki from receiving any credit inside his native country still persists, at least at the hospital where he worked for nearly 40 years on minimal pay and with no formal recognition.
What do you think about security degrees? Can you recommend any programs?
Update: It turns out that Hamilton Naki did not work with Dr. Barnard on the first human transplant. The 16 July 2005 issue of the Economist states:
"A source close to Mr Naki once asked him where he was when he first heard about the transplant. He replied that he had heard of it on the radio. Later, he apparently changed his story...
[H]is role was gradually embellished in post-apartheid, black-ruled South Africa. By the end, he himself came to believe it."
That's a shame.