Working at CovertSwarm: One Hive Member's Experience
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
Jack Smith is a Cyber Security Consultant and Red Team Hive Member and one of our newest additions to the Swarm. Over the past 8 months Jack has proved invaluable, with his cyber security skills matched only by his passion for the industry.
Here’s more about Jack, how his first few months have unfolded at CovertSwarm, and what he’s working on next.
For non-technical readers, can you briefly describe your role here at CovertSwarm?
I’m a Red Team Hive Member, which means I work with other ethical hackers in the CovertSwarm team to target our clients on a daily basis. We work relentlessly – every day – to attack our clients, find vulnerabilities, and compromise their security. We then focus on improving it, in line with common types of attack we see in the industry.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A large part of my role involves checking in with the Swarm and our clients, making sure they’re being looked after, and delivering our services – which are mainly focused on finding ways into our clients. There’s lots of digging needed to map out a client’s attack surface, understand how everything works together, and find that gap in the fence – whether that’s in a web application, their cloud infrastructure, or their office.
Tell us a bit about your team and how the hive works together.
CovertSwarm is made up of teams – or Hives – of cyber security specialists. Collectively, we’re the Swarm, but as Hives, we each have an expert leader. We work together, across our Hives, to attack our clients – so it’s not a case of ‘one Hive per client’, but more about collaborating, sharing our knowledge and expertise, and choosing the right person (or people) for the job. We all have our unique skills, and use them to our advantage to find a way in.
What attracted you to the role at CovertSwarm?
I really liked their approach to ethical hacking, which focuses on constant attack, as opposed to the traditional model of annual penetration testing. I’ve always wondered why cyber security companies run this way, as there are huge gaps between tests, and technology moves so fast that any reports are quickly outdated. The way CovertSwarm carries out continuous penetration testing and ethical hacking means companies can get much more value, keep up with bad actors and their methods, and have a greater cyber security posture across their estate. I was also attracted to the Hives, the way they’re run, and how teams collaborate. In this sector, it helps to be surrounded by people you can always learn from.
In your first few months, what’s impressed you the most about CovertSwarm?
Without a doubt, the team – being entirely remote and based around the world, it’s really impressive. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive. I’ve already picked up lots of new skills and I love the way people come together to solve a problem or improve a system. There’s a real ‘have a go’ mentality, where you’re encouraged to jump in and get involved. Also, there’s no ‘employee of the month’, because we celebrate everyone, all the time. In fact, we have a saying: ‘our approach is to stand out to clients, our culture is to stand out to employees’, and I think that sums it up well!
Culture is really important to us at CovertSwarm – we’re team players that work and grow together, not a room full of egos. What do you like best about working here?
We’re encouraged to find new ways to approach our work every day. It’s challenging, but exciting – like solving a puzzle, or building something without instructions. You have to really think on your feet and problem-solve. But that’s where the team comes in. You’re never alone, and can always find someone to bounce ideas off or brainstorm an approach.
I think the biggest thing is that people are always willing to help, collaborate and deliver that work. Everyone is an expert, with a skill or specialism that someone else doesn’t have. We’re always able to learn from each other and asking for help is something that’s openly encouraged.
Something we really value as cyber security experts is giving back to our sector. What’s one way you’d like to give back to our community?
CovertSwarm is definitely making waves in our sector – for instance, Luke and Anders have been involved in lots of guest lectures at colleges and universities. Part of their mission is to share the importance of cyber security, and raise awareness of it as a rewarding career. So many people don’t know enough about our sector, or that they can study it at university, or even that their skills could be used out there in the working world. So, raising awareness is important for me, too – the earlier we can get people interested, the better. Recently I arranged a presentation at Dundee & Angus College to talk about CovertSwarm and get students more involved in our industry. We had some great feedback from the college, and we’re now in an ongoing partnership with them to support the structure of their cyber security curriculum.
Can you share some advice for anyone looking to break the industry?
Honestly, just give it a go! Try it, and don’t be put off by technical boundaries. Technical skills can be learned through training and by accessing the right material. Lots of what I learned was in a lab setting, simply through taking things apart and seeing how they worked. For anyone interested in cyber security, you can learn about ethical hacking through websites like hackthebox.com and tryhackme.com, which are like ethical hacker’s playgrounds. I’d also recommend familiarising yourself with guidance and regulations like GDPR and the Computer Misuse Act, so you know you’re working by the book.
And finally — what’s next for Jack?
As part of CovertSwarm, I’m excited to see where the future takes us because we’re a small start-up that’s grown exponentially in just a few short years. Personally though, I’d like to focus more on outreach and helping people into the industry. I know Luke and Anders are planning on developing some schemes and internships at CovertSwarm, which I hope to have a role in. Watch this space!
Thanks to Jack Smith for his time.
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