Haystack Solutions CATA identifies cognitive abilities of individuals entering or improving their cybersecurity skills



Haystack Solutions introduced Cyber ​​Aptitude and Talent Assessment (CATA). It is the first commercially available solution of its kind, scientifically designed to identify the natural cognitive abilities of individuals entering or developing in the field of cybersecurity. Until now, such assessments (including Haystack’s main product) have only been available in intelligence-led military and federal organizations.

“As Commander of the 10th Fleet, I was compelled by the need to identify and retain our best talent,” said Vice Admiral Jan Tighe. “I wanted an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Standard Assessment for Cyber. I thought that if we could create a determinant of skills to best align our IT network operations staff with their optimal work roles, we would increase retention by placing team members in the most challenging and fulfilling roles. tailored to their interests and abilities. The University of Maryland was looking at a similar approach and we capitalized on some work. “

“A tool like CATA would have saved our team countless hours by increasing retention, reducing recycling costs and increasing mission efficiency,” Tighe added.

University of Maryland test results for the US Department of Defense

In research conducted by the University of Maryland, pressure performance testing of hundreds of DoD participants from SOCOM, US Navy, West Point and USAF identified aptitudes in key areas associated with excellence in cybersecurity, such as critical thinking, comprehensiveness of approach and practices, initiation behaviors, real-time efficiency and response behaviors. All testing minimized language bias and allowed participants to be competitive regardless of their native language, English proficiency, or previous experience with IT and cybersecurity principles. Among the DoD partners, CATA accurately tests:

  • Ranked 97% of all Elite Interpreters (course average 90% or better) on a USAF ITF course
  • Distinguished with 84% accuracy between highly trained and untrained USAF cyber personnel
  • Developed a composite score – a number that was representative of a candidate’s total aptitude
  • Identified six main groups of test participants that correlated with a variety of course performance metrics among DoD participants (eg, SOCOM, US Navy, West Point, and USAF).
    • High performance in four key disciplines – which became the top performers in online courses
    • Critical thinkers who have performed well on CATA tests such as “Need for Cognition”, “Matrix Reasoning” and “Dynamic Systems Control”. These candidates were also the best performers.
    • Many test subjects were determined to be creative thinkers who performed poorly in many tasks, but who performed well in crucial areas such as ‘need for cognition’, ‘need for cognitive closure’ and ‘Model vigilance’, and were therefore well suited for and chosen for cybersecurity roles for which they had not yet applied.

Security Mindsets Director Charles J. Kolodgy said: “Finding the right candidates and determining which employees to invest in additional training are tough decisions that have a huge impact. The right decision can lead to an overall improvement in your organization’s security posture, while the wrong decision can erode preparedness.

Haystack’s solution opens the ‘black box’ of cognitive skills that can help identify optimal candidates who not only have the right certifications, but who also have the skills required to be successful. In this way, it is possible to eliminate those who have superb qualifications but whose innate skills are not suited to a specific task. Getting it right is imperative, and the costs – from delayed hires and poor retention to serious consequences such as missed warning signs – are just too high to play with.

CATA focuses on five key brain dimensions: critical thinking, deliberate action, real-time action, proactive thinking, and reactive thinking. It includes a series of tests designed to measure cognitive abilities and map natural aptitudes in four areas of cybersecurity careers in the commercial sector:

  • Offensive operations: sense of initiative and creative problem solving using partial data in real time;
  • Defensive operations: detection of anomalies with scans and real time, partial data, filtering of distractions;
  • Analytical and forensic science: interpreting and reconciling exhaustive amounts of often contradictory data; and,
  • Design / Development: Ability to program creative problem solving and create model programs for execution.

Much of the CATA core was co-developed by the University of Maryland, and cognitive assessment was originally used by the National Security Agency and US Cyber ​​Command’s predecessor, 10th Fleet.

Michael Bunting, Ph.D., director of cognitive security and information operations at the ARLIS Center at the University of Maryland, technical director of Haystack and co-inventor of the technology, said: DoD) to create some of the the most efficient cyber-teams. It was encouraging to see it adapted to the commercial sector and, in early trials, to help identify previously unexplored but inherently genius cyber talent in schools and universities, who now win some of the most prestigious FCT awards. , and who had not previously been considered a career in cybersecurity.

In addition to correspondence to areas of cybersecurity, the assessment report supports the framework of NIST / NICE work roles showing a path to work roles where there is a natural fit for a more rewarding cybersecurity career. On personal plans.

“Cyber ​​security is an increasingly complex field with a long and steep learning curve,” said Doug Britton, CEO and founder of Haystack Solutions, and co-developer of CATA. “The business sector has long needed insight into the problem-solving, visualization and pattern recognition capabilities of cybersecurity candidates – qualities that certifications and degrees don’t necessarily reflect. Let’s face it, the challenges of cybersecurity in the commercial sector are growing and becoming more complex every day. The ability to identify those with innate talent and ensure that they are trained for the roles for which they are best suited can help the business sector bridge the talent gap faster and more effectively. CATA takes up this urgent challenge.

Dr Bunting agreed, “We need to identify all those who have the cognitive imprint of a cyber warrior and engage them in combat.



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