Liberal Arts to Cybersecurity

I wake up at 7, turn off the alarm, roll out of bed and sit down at my desk. I look up at my bookshelf and grab one of the Great Books, Aristotle’s Metaphysics. For those that have a copy lying around and would like to follow along, we are discussing Book 4, Chapter 3. My copy sits on the shelf next to The Web Application Hackers Handbook.

I jump up remembering the cheese sticks I put in the fridge from yesterday’s dinner. Score!
Today’s reading assignment is only one page but it’s Aristotle. After carefully reading through it a couple times, I think I have a handle on what he is saying. I hit the shower, a quick change and it’s off to breakfast – they have cinnamon rolls today!

I only eat 3.

At 8:30 it’s off to Philosophy where we take a deeper dive into Aristotle’s ideas. He is laying out the surest of all principles: something cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. I think to myself port 3389 cannot both be open and closed at the same time, yup, that is pretty obvious. Class over.
Now it’s off to the library where our computer room resides. It is the only spot on campus with internet access – ethernet only, Wi-Fi doesn’t exist here. I VPN into HacktheBox and get to work prepping for the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) test.

Hacking and Aristotle? Who am I? I am a senior at Thomas Aquinas College, a liberal arts school in sunny Southern California with ~ 400 students. I love giving the liberal arts naysayers my canned response: I’ve got a job lined up in cybersecurity. It’s surreal that I might join the cybersecurity workforce before many of my high school classmates majoring in computer science.

We study Aristotle for 4 years and as I wrap up this degree it occurs to me that maybe our premise is wrong. Maybe knowing all the current technical intricacies isn’t the most important ingredient in a cyber professional, or in any career. Maybe the old guy was right; not about the elements: he thought the only four were fire, earth, air, and water; but rather about the need for the educated man to be “critical in all or nearly all branches of knowledge.” This is what TAC attempts to do and it is, in fact, the mission of the school to “produce the man of universal education.” Because knowing yesterday’s technologies and methodologies won’t necessarily help solve today’s problems. The cybersecurity industry is constantly changing – which is why I’ll need to finish some continuing education credits soon to keep my Security+ et al.

But, maybe Aristotle and my now long-term relationship with him will help build the foundation for a solid cybersecurity career and, in time, a technical skillset. The desire to learn more, to think outside the box, to analyze problems and fabricate solutions, and to think critically.  Not a bad start to my cybersecurity toolbox.

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