Cyber Soldier attains 'most prestigious credential in the IT Security industry'
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FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- A cyber operations non-commissioned officer (NCO) assigned to the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) here recently attained a level of cybersecurity certification few people in the world achieve.

Master Sgt. Amanda Draeger completed her GIAC Security Expert (GSE) certification from the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) organization, making the master sergeant one of only four women out of approximately 250 people worldwide who are GSE certified, and one of just 15 certified DoD military and civilian members.

GIAC calls the GSE certification "the most prestigious credential in the IT Security industry." The organization says the unique hands-on, performance-based certification exam was developed by subject-matter experts and top industry practitioners to determine if a candidate has truly mastered the wide variety of skills required of top security consultants and individual practitioners.

Draeger serves as the NCO-In-Charge of the brigade's Joint Mission Operations Center, a major hub for Army and joint global cyberspace operations. She has a bachelor's degree in Information Technology with Security Emphasis and expects to complete her Master of Science in Information Security Engineering (MSISE) at the SANS Technology Institute in 2019.

"When you have 11 certifications from a single vendor, and that vendor provides a means of maintaining all of them at once just by obtaining one 'super-cert,' the super-cert becomes really appealing," said Draeger. "So I primarily sought it to reduce my own administrative overhead. Additionally, the GSE is part of my MSISE which not only gave me extra incentive to pass, but gave me a community of support and extra resources to prepare."

"I spent about eight months preparing. The first few months were just reviewing and re-certifying the 'core' certifications … because they were about to expire. But this also provided excellent preparation for the written portion of the exam. My STI coursework also worked to prepare me by having me do hands-on challenges with NetWars (cyber operations exercise), as well as several written assignments. After the written exam, my STI faculty guided me towards some additional resources to improve analysis skills that were very useful for the lab portion of the exam."

Draeger said she can't really point to one person as her mentor, since so many people throughout her career have supported her along the way.

"The ones that I most try to model myself after are the ones that, when someone didn't know what was going on, saw an opportunity to teach," said Draeger. "Watching someone drop into teaching mode, without judging why the person doesn't know a thing, is one of the most amazing things to watch. It can be hard to, instead of doing everything yourself because it's faster, slow down and teach the next person what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how to do it, but that is how we grow and mature the force."

Along with those mentors Draeger said she has some role models in the cyber world that she admires.

"A couple of specific people I look up to are Katie Moussouris and Chris Sanders," said Draeger. "Katie is one of those people who leans on her technical expertise to try to fix policy. She's testified in front of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security about security research for defensive purposes, and has done work on getting exemptions for security researchers in the Wassenaar Arrangement. Chris, on top of the amazing books he's written and training he's produced, has done a ton of work with the Rural Technology Fund, which gets technology kits in the hands of schools in rural areas that otherwise wouldn't have access to that tech, which is a cause near and dear to my heart."

Draeger's immediate goal is to finish her master's degree. However, she sees "a critical gap in people that are both highly technical and able to talk policy and strategy. If we are going to have legal and policy support for what we do, we need to be able to communicate our needs with the people who create the way ahead."

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ABOUT US: United States Army Cyber Command directs and conducts integrated electronic warfare, information and cyberspace operations as authorized, or directed, to ensure freedom of action in and through cyberspace and the information environment, and to deny the same to our adversaries.

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