When a complex cyber attack put a private equity investment of more than $700 million on hold, the stakes couldn't have been higher. But that's exactly the kind of challenge that motivates Jake Williams, a computer science and information security expert, U.S. Army veteran, certified SANS instructor and co-author of FOR526: Memory Forensics In-Depth and FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence. To help mitigate the attack, Jake plied his information security expertise, discovered that not one but three different attackers had compromised the firm's network, and went about countering their moves.
Jake relishes the idea of meeting adversaries on the cyber battlefield. "I went into this field because I wanted a challenge," he says. "Infosec is like a game of chess to me. The attacker plays their moves and you play yours."
Jake started his information security career doing classified work with the U.S. government and was awarded the National Security Agency (NSA) Exceptional Civilian Service Award, which is given to fewer than 20 people annually. "I am immensely proud of the things I've accomplished," Jake says. "I'm positive the world is a safer place because of my work."
Today, Jake runs a successful Infosec consultancy. He's been involved in high-profile public sector cases including the malware analysis for the 2015 cyber attack on the Ukraine power grid. He's also tackled a variety of cases in the private sector. In one, Jake discovered attackers compromising a custom service the client had distributed to all its endpoints. Leveraging experience and insight with advanced persistent threats helped Jake "think like the attacker" and determine the attacker's likely hiding spots.
Jake's work has led to his invention of DropSmack, a proof-of-concept tool for highlighting the danger that cloud-based file sharing services pose to corporate networks, and the creation of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), a publicly-available memory anti-forensics toolkit.
Jake's work also led him to teaching. "I chose to be a SANS instructor because they are the very best in the business. Others talk about being the best, but SANS actually is the best," he says. "I love teaching people, but it goes beyond teaching for me. With many students, I'm making lasting professional relationships. Students come back again and again and have a lifelong learning relationship with SANS."
Jake teaches a variety of classes (SEC503, SEC504, SEC660, SEC760, FOR508, FOR526, FOR578, FOR610) and prefers an active learning approach, using demos rather than slides to teach lessons. "It takes me back to my first exploits and I get the chance to relive that magical feeling all over again," he explains.
More importantly, Jake wants students to walk out of class being able to critically analyze a problem, discover a solution, and do something they couldn't do before. "I don't teach button-clicking steps, my goal is to ensure students understand how to take concepts from the class and apply them to their own cases and engagements."
Given his accomplishments, it should come as no surprise that Jake lives, sleeps, and breathes Infosec. When he's not teaching, he's consulting. He's a regular speaker at industry conferences including DC3, BSides (including BSides Las Vegas), DEFCON, Blackhat, Shmoocon, EnFuse, ISSA Summits, ISACA Summits, SANS Summits, and Distributech. He has also presented security topics to a number of Fortune 100 executives.
Jake is also a two-time victor at the annual DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge. He drew on his passion for hands-on capture-the-flag events to design the critically acclaimed NetWars challenges for the SANS malware reversing and memory forensics courses.
- GIAC Security Expert (GSE), March 2016
- GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC), June 2015
- GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN), March 2015
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA), October 2013
- GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), January 2013
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), January 2013
- GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA), December 2012
- GIAC Certified Windows Security Administrator (GCWN), November 2012
- GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware (GREM), October 2012
- GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE), September 2012
- GIAC Systems and Network Auditor (GSNA), February 2012
Get to Know Jake Williams:
Jake teaches the following courses for SANS:
Here's What Students Are Saying about SANS Certified Instructor Jake Williams:
- "Jake's teaching style and practical experience totally make the course." - Andrew Nelson, Chevron
- "Jake is awesome! The experience is massive!" - Late Adodo Placca, iProcess International
- "Provides great balance between structured analytical approaches and technical analysis." - Ladell Marshall, Goldman Sachs
- "Jake goes off-book in a good way, sharing useful tools & information in addition to the already-included useful tools & info." - Robin Stuart, Salesforce