Friday, 19 May 2017

Firebrand Launch the Azure Academy

We’re living in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. According to Forbes, the cloud computing market is set to reach 127.5 billion by 2018 and 42% of UK and US companies are actively looking to hire professionals with cloud computing skills.

Microsoft’s public cloud offering Azure is leading the way with 120,000 new customer subscriptions per month. Demonstrating the strength of Azure, 90% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using the platform.

For those unfamiliar with Azure, it’s “a growing collection of integrated cloud services – analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage and web – for moving faster, achieving more and saving money”.

In this post we’ll take a look at Azure’s growth and how rapidly expanding demand for Azure cloud professionals is creating a skills gap. 

The growth of Microsoft Azure



In July, Microsoft announced that Azure revenue and usage again grew by more than 100% in the past quarter. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella attributed the growth to a mixture of high demand for cloud platforms combined with Azure’s ability to offer solutions that reflect the realities of today’s world. 

Testimony to this high demand and growth, is Microsoft’s recent announcement of the first complete cloud offering delivered from a global provider within the UK. These datacentres, which adhere to Microsoft’s stringent Trusted Cloud principles, means Azure can now offer customers 28 regions – with six more coming soon. More than any other major cloud provider.  

As mass adoption continues to accelerate, so too does the demand for cloud professionals with well-developed skills in Azure solutions. In a recent study by the managed cloud provider Rackspace, jobs specifying Microsoft Azure experience increased demand in the UK by 75%.

Lagging significantly behind this demand however, is the number of qualified individuals capable of supporting a business’s Azure needs. Rightscale found that the number one challenge for companies looking to bolster their cloud capabilities is the shortage of appropriate skilled job candidates.

Furthermore, while Microsoft’s Azure certifications provide excellent insight into the cloud platform, professionals and businesses alike are increasingly looking to further their Azure knowledge and subsequent application.

Microsoft offer a series of highly-demanded Specialist Azure certifications; Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions and the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect – aimed at demonstrating how to competently implement and administer Azure in a business environment. However, the demand for more in-depth, technical know-how surrounding Azure has seen Firebrand training in partnership with Microsoft develop the Azure Academy.

The birth of Firebrand’s Azure Academy 


Azure Academy is a new, accelerated product created by Firebrand Training in partnership with Microsoft and partners. The Azure Academy introduces the cloud platform in a greater and never-before seen depth.



The accelerated nature of Firebrand Training means each deep dive is just 4 days. Moreover, the content provided includes more than 80% in-depth technical content not found in the Microsoft Official Curriculum.  

Our UK Commercial Manager, James Lapwood said: "We’ve worked with Microsoft and partners in creating the accelerated Azure Academy. The content of the programmes - from Apprenticeships through to expert-level Deep Dives - has been developed based on what the market has asked us for. All delivered at twice the speed of traditional training".  

This Academy, which should be seen as an extension of the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect, is made up of three deep-dive programmes:
  • Infrastructure and Networking
  • Data Platform
  • Application Development

Let’s take a look at them in a little more depth:


The first of the three brand-new Microsoft programmes is Infrastructure and Networking. The course will focus on topics such as:
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Azure storage, backup and recovery
  • Automation, PowerShell and the Azure CLI
  • Microsoft Cloud Estate

You can see the full curriculum here.

The second deep-dive program is Data Platform. This programme will develop understanding of Azure data services, analytics and IoT – plus a detailed look at security. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Implementing Azure SQL Database
  • Azure Redis Cache
  • Azure HDInsight
  • Azure BizTalk Service

Check out the full curriculum.

The third and final Azure Academy programme is Application Development. Aimed at developing your knowledge of designing cloud application in Azure, some of the topics you’ll focus on include:

  • Availability
  • Data-management
  • Messaging
  • Resiliency

Integrated into each deep dive program is a focus on Azure security. With security in the Cloud seen as the second largest cloud challenge to businesses, the need for a holistic understanding of security is imperative.

Check out the full curriculum


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Discover 7 new Microsoft MCSA and MCSE certifications

Microsoft have announced the launch of 6 new MCSA certifications and 1 new MCSE certification. This demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to a growing Azure, Big Data, Business Intelligence (BI) and Dynamics community.

These new certifications and courses will support Microsoft partners looking to upskill and validate knowledge in these technologies.  

Following the huge changes announced in September, these new launches will simplify your path to certification. They'll minimise the number of steps required to earn a certification, while allowing you to align your skills to industry-recognised areas of competence.

This blog will outline the new certifications Microsoft have announced, focusing on the technologies, skills and job roles they align to. 

So what's new?


MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365

This MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 certification is one of three Dynamics 365 certifications launched. It demonstrates your expertise in upgrading, configuring and customising the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform.

There are currently no MOCs aligned to this certification. We have developed our own Firebrand material that will prepare you for the following two exams needed to achieve this certification:
  • MB2-715: Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement Online Deployment
  • MB2-716: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customization and Configuration 
This certification will validate you have the skills for a position as a Dynamics 365 developer, implementation consultant, technical support engineer or system administrator.

This certification is a prerequisite for the MCSE: Business Applications. 

MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations

The second of these three Dynamics 365 certs is the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. Here, you’ll get the skills to manage a Microsoft SQL Server database and customise Microsoft Dynamics 365.

On this course, you’ll cover the following MOC:
  • 20764: Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure 
The second part of this course, of which there is currently no MOC, will cover Firebrand's own material. 

To achieve this certification you’ll need to pass the following exams:
  • 70-764: Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure
  • MB6-890: Microsoft Development AX Development Introduction 
Earning this cert proves you have the technical competence for positions such as Dynamics 365 developer, solutions architect or implementer.  

Just like the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365, this certification is also a prerequisite to the new MCSE: Business Applications certification. 

MCSE: Business Applications

Earning an MCSE certification validates a more advanced level of knowledge. The MCSE: Business Applications certification proves an expert-level competence in installing, operating and managing Microsoft Dynamics 365 technologies in an enterprise environment.

In order to achieve this certification you’ll be required to pass either the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 or the MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. You’ll also be required to choose one of the following electives to demonstrate expertise on a business-specific area:
  • MB2-717: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales
  • MB2-718: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
  • MB6-892: Microsoft Dynamics AX - Distribution and Trade
  • MB6-893: Microsoft Dynamics AX - Financials  
Earning your MCSE: Business Applications certification will qualify you for the roles such as Dynamics 365 developer, implementation consultant, technical support engineer, or system administrator.

MCSA: Big Data Engineering

This MCSA: Big Data Engineering certification demonstrates you have the skills to design and implement big data engineering workflows with the Microsoft cloud ecosystem and Microsoft HD Insight to extract strategic value from your data.

On this course you’ll cover the following MOCs:
  • 20775A: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HDInsight – expected 28/6/2017
  • 20776A: Engineering Data with Microsoft Cloud Services – expected 08/2017
And take the following exams:
  • 70-775: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HD Insight – available now in beta
  • 70-776: Engineering Data with Microsoft Cloud Services – expected Q1 2018
This course is aimed at data engineers, data architects, data scientists and data developers.

Earning this MCSA acts as a prerequisite, and your first step, to achieving the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential.

MCSA: BI Reporting

This MCSA: BI Reporting certification proves your understanding of data analysis using Power BI. You’ll learn the skills to create and manage enterprise business intelligence solutions.

The MOCs you’ll cover on this course include:
  • 20778A: Analyzing Data with Power BI
  • 20768B: Developing SQL Data Models 
In order to achieve the certification, you’ll take the following exams:
  • 70-778: Analyzing Data with Power BI - expected Q1 2018
  • 70-768: Developing SQL Data Models 
This certification is aimed at database professionals needing to create enterprise BI solutions and present data using alternative methods.

This certification is a prerequisite for the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential. 

MCSA: Cloud Database Development 

This MCSA: Cloud Database Development certification will prove you have the skills to build and implement NoSQL solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search for the Azure data platform

This certification covers the following MOCs:
  • 40441: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  • 20777: Implementing NoSQL Solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search – expected in August 2017 
In order to achieve the certification, you'll have to pass the following exams: 
  • 70-473: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions
  • 70-777: Implementing NoSQL Solutions with DocumentDB and Azure Search – expected in Q1 2018
This course is aimed at specialist professionals looking to validate their skills and knowledge of developing NoSQL solutions for the Azure data platform. 

This certification is also a prerequisite certification to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential. 

MCSA: Data Science

This course will teach you the skills in operationalising Microsoft Azure machine learning and Big Data with R Server and SQL R Services. You'll learn to process and analyse large data sets using R and use Azure cloud services to build and deploy intelligent solutions.

This certification covers the following MOCs:
  • 20773A: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R – in development, expected May 2017
  • 20774A: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning – in development, expected June 2017
To achieve this certification you’ll be required to pass the following exams:
  • 70-773: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R – available now in beta
  • 70-774: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning – available now in beta 
This certification, which is your first step to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics cert is best suited to data science or data analyst job roles. 


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Free cyber security training for the NHS

Yesterday's ransomware attack that infected so many trusts within the NHS was avoidable. There are complexities within that environment relating to updating software which I understand. Having said that though users are the first line of defence, as well as better filtering of emails before they arrive at users devices. I'm confident the patient data in the back end systems is safe. More can and should be done to prevent future attacks. Firebrand of course wants to help, training people quickly is the only reason we get out of bed in the morning.

Firebrand's cyber security portfolio of courses spans protection and detection as well as end user training. We are also unique in offering accelerated cyber security apprenticeships. As you probably know public organisations including the NHS need to have 2.3% of their staff on apprenticeship programs by 2020. A great way to spend their Apprenticeship Levy.

Firebrand would of course relish the opportunity of talking to any NHS trusts about cyber security training and apprenticeships. I appreciate this might seem like we're trying to profit from this situation. However I'm extremely proud of what Firebrand does. We've trained 65,000 people over 16 years. We've given them skills that make them better at their jobs or further their careers. I know what we teach on our courses makes businesses or government departments more secure, better prepared.

So I'm not going to apologise for this offer! We will give up to 10 NHS trusts one free cyber security course each in exchange for a meeting with a senior member of staff to discuss training and apprenticeships. We can bring a security expert with us if needed and we can explain the range of courses we offer and help you plan where you need skills. During the meeting we will figure out which free course you'll benefit most from. No strings other than agreeing to the meeting.

If you work for an NHS trust feel free to contact me via LinkedIn. The first 10 NHS trusts to contact me get the courses.

For background here's the video of my interview with BBC London News yesterday talking about what has happened at the NHS.




Friday, 12 May 2017

5 things you need to do after the NHS hack

NHS hospitals across England have been hit by a large scale cyber attack. A pop-up message demanding ransom in exchange for access to the infected machines.

NHS Digital said: “A number of NHS organisations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack which is affecting a number of different organisations".



Whilst it’s too late to stop the current hack, this is a wake-up call for all. In this post, we will identify the steps needed to secure your own information now and in the future.

This is what you need to do
Be wary of emails from the NHS:
 Now is the perfect time for cyber criminals to strike through a phishing attack. Avoid downloading or clicking links in any emails coming from NHS. Almost all malware is installed unknowingly by the victims themselves.

Change your passwords and security questions: Even if you haven't been hacked, change your password and security questions immediately. This is especially important if your email is connected in any way to your bank or a PayPal account.

Additionally, you should look to change the passwords in any other account that uses the same or similar security information. This ensures hackers cannot access other accounts through NHS information. It is also sensible to check your password recovery settings and ensure they have not been changed to a third party.

Avoid contacting your GP practice: Avoid contacting your GP practice unless absolutely necessary, your local pharmacy can provide free and fast advice for non-urgent conditions.

Update your security settings and run a security scan: This the time to make sure your computer is secure. Make sure you run a virus scan and have the most recent security updates on your operating system. If you don't have an anti-virus application, invest in a high-quality one like McAfee or Norton Antivirus. This is something you should be doing as best practice regardless of the issue.


Report it to the police: If you believe you have been hacked and are now the victim of identity theft or fraud, file a report with Action Fraud.

BBC report on Firebrand's police force cyber crime training

This morning, Firebrand Training’s unique Cyber Crime Pathways Programme featured on BBC Breakfast News.

The BBC covered an exclusive insight into how non-technical police officers are trained and skilled in the cyber security investigation and forensic techniques required to catch criminals.

The Cyber Crime Pathways Programme, delivered using our unique accelerated training approach, shows frontline police officers how to effectively respond to the rise in cyber crime across the UK.
Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s leading technology reporter, watched as a team of police officers infiltrated a simulated hacker’s lair.

The high pressure scenario required the police to utilise their training to efficiently find hidden devices and collect the forensics evidence needed to identify the cyber criminal.

Interviewed on BBC, DC Steve Mersh said: “It’s a case of learning the practical skills that we can utilise, no different to a finding a gun at a crime scene that we can make safe from the public and attribute to the criminal”.



Missed it this morning?


Since the Cyber Crime Pathways Programme launched in 2014, Firebrand has trained 659 police officers across 80% of all police forces in the UK. Part of the 960 accelerated courses taken by police are hands-on, practical crime scene simulations like those featuring in the BBC programme.
At a time when you’re more likely to be a victim of a cyber crime than any other offence, the UK is dedicated to upskilling their force to combat this growing threat.

“Back in the day, the officers would simply turn up and literally just pull the electricity supply out of the back of the computer, bag it, tag it and send it away for a forensic investigation which could take months before they got back with anything meaningful” says Phil Chapman, Lead Cyber Security Instructor at Firebrand Training.

Phil continued: “We’re proud to provide accelerated cyber security training to local police forces across the UK. Cyber crime is one of the largest threats to businesses and consumers today - our police need the know-how to respond to this unique form of criminality.

“Firebrand has developed an amazing partnership with local police forces across the UK and we’re excited to share our ongoing work with the BBC.”

Get the skills you need, fast


It's not just the police force that need to prepare for the growing threats of cyber attacks. With two-thirds of large UK businesses the victim of a cyber attack in the past year, it's time you secured your business.

Get the cyber security skills you need to defend your organisation, fast. Choose from 50+ accelerated cyber security courses covering the full requirements of your business across technologies and disciplines.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

6 things you need to know about GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to come into effect from 25 May 2018. UK businesses need to be ready or face severe consequences.

In November 2016, Tesco Bank fell victim to a cyber attack in which £2.5 million was stolen from the current accounts of 20,000 customers. If the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) finds Tesco failed to comply with measures to keep people’s personal data secure, they could face a fine up to £500,000. Under the new regulations set out in the EU GDPR, the same fine could be set at £1.9 billion.

After May 2018, businesses failing this new strict data protection compliance regime will face severe penalties of up to 4% of worldwide turnover. The GDPR means significant changes for all businesses that use or store the personal data of EU citizens.  
“When it comes to data security, the silent spectre of EU General Data Protection Regulation is slowly kicking organisations into action, and incidents such as this will only accelerate this trend” - Nigel Hawthorn, the Chief European spokesperson at Skyhigh Networks.

In this blog we’ll look at 6 things you need to know about GDPR in order to prepare for its implementation in 2018. 

1.  Understand who GDPR applies to


Regardless of your business’s location, if you’re handling the data of European citizens then GDPR applies to you. Companies across the globe will be held to the exact same security standards.

This gives the European data protection authority the power to take action against any organisation breaching these regulations, regardless of geographic location.

Driven by the huge fines businesses face - if they fail to meet the protection requirements - 70% of businesses are now expected to increase spending to address data protection and sovereignty, according to Ovum

2.  Understand what counts as personal data


GDPR will widen the definition of what constitutes personal data. The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) failed to recognise genetic and biometric information as personal data, while the GDPR does.

Under the EU GDPR, personal data will be defined as:
“Data consisting of racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person's sex life or sexual orientation”.

This broad definition means almost all customer information now falls under the category of ‘personal data’. Your business must comprehend the significant changes in the incoming regulation, securing any and all data to avoid severe punishment. 


3.  Review your business’s Terms & Conditions


The GDPR regulation introduces new guidelines stressing the need for explicit individual consent before using a citizen’s data. Businesses will need to use simpler language when asking for consent, be clear on how the data will be used and understand that inactivity does not constitute consent. Lengthy and complicated terms and conditions which lack clarity will no longer be tolerated.

EU citizens will also have greater influence over what happens to their data. Including data erasure (commonly known as ‘the right to be forgotten’) and data portability (transmitting data to another controller).

GDPR also introduces the data minimisation principle, requiring organisations not to hold data for any longer than absolutely necessary. This law also prevents businesses from changing the use of data from what it was originally collected for – unless they request permission. 

4.  You’ll need to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments


The GDPR introduces the need for Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) for any project where privacy breach risks are high.

Your business can no longer begin projects involving personal information, unless a privacy risk assessment has been conducted first. Your business must also work closely with a Data Protection Officer to ensure compliance throughout all projects.

Your organisation must integrate security into the core of all projects, rather than it being a simple consideration.

5. You may need a Data Protection Officer


The EU GDPR removes the notion that regulations should relate to an organisation’s size or the number of employees. 

If your organisation fits any of the three scenarios below – outlined in article 37 -  it’s mandatory that you appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). The core activities of the organisation involve:

  • the processing of personal data by a public authority
  • “regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale”
  • large-scale processing of special data—for example, biometric, genetic, geo-location,

The role of the DPO is to monitor organisational compliance to the regulations and report all and any findings to the highest management level. A study by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) suggests that 75,000 DPOs will have to be appointed globally in the next two years.

This same study shows that staffing requirements are likely to present a big challenge to organisations that don’t hire or develop the skills quickly.

Firebrand offer the Certified Data Protection Officer certification designed for those with at least two years of experience in data protection. Sitting this 3-day course will build the skills and knowledge required to fulfill the role of DPO to maintain compliance against the EU GDPR.    

6.  Reporting a breach – constant monitoring required


In addition to outlining how your businesses should secure their data, the GDPR also has strict regulations on how your business must respond in the event of a data breach.

This includes the common breach notification requirement, combining all breach notification laws across Europe under one definition, providing clarity on how your business reports a data breach. This notification law “requires organisations to notify the local data protection authority of a data breach within 72 hours of discovering it”.

Considering Yahoo stumbled across one of the largest security breaches in history two years after it occurred, this law forces even the largest organisations to be more proactive in identifying and reporting incidents.  If GDPR applies to your organisation, you’ll need to put in place tools and processes to monitor and create alerts in the event of an incident 24/7/365. 


Time is running out...

You have just 12 months to prepare for the incoming GDPR. As outlined above, there must be significant changes to the way your business collects, handles, secures and shares data in May 2018 and beyond. 

Once these regulations are introduced, your organisation won't get away with a minor fine for mishandling sensitive information. Failure to prepare will lead to severe - inf not business ending - financial consequences. Don't get caught out, start your GDPR readiness journey today.