The Four Tiers of Homelabs: My Approach to Learn Cybersecurity

Posted on Nov 15, 2023 · 463 words · 3 minute read

The Four Tiers of Homelabs

Elevator Pitch

The Four Tiers of Homelabs is a methodology for learning cybersecurity by setting up a home network and experimenting with different security tools and techniques. It is a practical approach that can help beginners build a holistic understanding of cybersecurity.


I struggle with answering the question, “How do I get a job in cybersecurity?” because there’s no secret formula for preparing for your first security job. Recommendations often include obtaining entry-level certifications, playing capture the flags, or going back to school. The journey into cybersecurity varies for everyone, and there’s no right or wrong answer. In my case, I prefer a practical approach: homelabs.

Reflecting on my career, I assembled the pieces that allowed me to build a holistic understanding of cybersecurity. The four tiers of homelabs for learning cybersecurity is a methodology I developed to introduce beginners to the concepts, skills, and tools needed for proficiency in cybersecurity, from basic awareness of different Linux distributions to advanced topics like cryptography and cloud security.

Divided into four steps, I provide practical examples of projects I implemented to gain experience and learn security tools and platforms used by companies in real-life scenarios, all within my homelab.

In this talk, I’ll share my unique approach to learning security engineering using homelabs and project-based learning, leading to landing my dream job as a Security Engineer.

Homelabs offer an excellent way to learn cybersecurity, providing a safe environment for practice. You can set up your network and experiment with various security tools and techniques, offering hands-on experience and a solid foundation in the basics of cybersecurity.

The four tiers of homelabs are:

  • Tier 1: Getting Started with Virtualization

    A foundational homelab system using basic virtualization on a single machine.

  • Tier 2: Expanding Horizons with Dedicated Hardware

    Building expertise with dedicated machines, exploring various operating systems, and automating tasks in a Tier 2 homelab.

  • Tier 3: Becoming the Household IT Department

    Transitioning into managing critical services for others, implementing high availability, and delving into advanced networking and security in a Tier 3 homelab.

  • Tier 4: Mastering the Art of Homelab Engineering

    Achieving a sophisticated homelab infrastructure with multi/hybrid cloud setups, advanced security practices, and a comprehensive understanding of IT and security engineering in a Tier 4 homelab.

Each tier builds on the previous one, so you can start at the beginning and work your way up. The projects I have included in this talk are from all four tiers, so you can choose the ones that are most relevant to your interests and experience level.

Who should attend

While there’s no minimum required experience to attend, this talk will best suited for:

  • Students
  • Software Engineers
  • Security Engineers
  • Cloud Engineers
  • DevOps people
  • Any person that wants to learn more about cybersecurity and security engineering