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Security Certification Overview

Of the 20 vendor-neutral credentials covered in this article by Ed Tittel, the most popular include the CISSP, the SANS GIAC, and the CPP security certifications. With such high demand for qualified security professionals in today's workplace, these credentials are a good value and a great educational investment in your career.

Security Certification Overview

No matter what kind of systems or networks operate within an organization, security has to be an important concern. Internet access is ubiquitous, so protecting the system and network is no longer an exotic specialty. Today, managing security is absolutely necessary for organizations of aall sizes.

This helps explain why so many IT certifications are available. There are so many of them, in fact, that we cover only some of the most significant ones in depth here, after surveying the overall certification landscape. Such a survey, in fact, reveals that more than 20 vendor-neutral security certifications are available from numerous organizations, vendors, and associations. Not surprisingly, you can double that number to estimate the total number of vendor-specific security-related certifications currently available.

To me, this speaks of an emerging market, where pioneers and entrepreneurs feel free to strike out in whatever directions make sense to them. This market will no doubt consolidate and concentrate on a handful of "important" security certifications over the next two to three years, as the job of security professional becomes more well-recognized and the value of security certifications gets better established. In the meantime, the security certification is a bit of a free-for-all, which we will analyze here.

Surveying Security Certifications

To begin, let's review all the vendor-neutral, security-related certification programs—and the various acronyms used to name them—that we've been able to uncover. Although we can't claim that this survey is complete or exhaustive, it represents as many vendor-neutral security certifications as a detailed Internet search could uncover (if you know of others that we failed to mention, please email pointers to etittel@lanw.com).

For lack of a more structured organization, these credentials are presented in alphabetical order. For each one, we provide a brief overview, plus pointers to additional information online. Later in this series of articles on security certification, we provide more details on some of the more important (or potentially important) programs introduced here. Note also that if a listing starts with an acronym, that acronym is formally associated with the program already; if it ends with an acronym, we use it here as a convenience as a reference in Table 1. Otherwise, you will not likely encounter that string in common use.

  • Brainbench Internet Security (BIS) Certification.This credential identifies individuals with a good working knowledge of Internet security practices, principles, and technologies. (Source: Brainbench) For more information, see www.brainbench.com/xml/bb/common/testcenter/taketest.xml?testId=110.

  • Brainbench Network Security (BNS) Certification. This program identifies individuals with a good working knowledge of network security practices, principles, and technologies. (Source: Brainbench) For more information, see www.brainbench.com/xml/bb/common/testcenter/taketest.xml?testId=30.

  • CCO—Certified Confidentiality Officer. This credential identifies individuals who possess management-level expertise in information security, individuals who can direct security implementations and deployments, and security professionals who perform such tasks. (Source: Business Espionage Controls Countermeasures Association [BECCA]) For more information, see www.BECCA-online.org.

  • CCSA—Certification in Control Self-Assessment. This credential identifies individuals with knowledge of internal control and related security self-assessment procedures. (Source: Institute of Internal Auditors) For more information, see http://www.theiia.org/ecm/certification.cfm?doc_id=12.

  • Certified Network Security Associate (CNSA). This program is an entry-level credential designed as a "stepping-stones to GIAC and CISSP" training and cert programs. It aims to certify general IT security knowledge and ability. This certification also serves as the first rung on a well-defined ladder of CCTI certifications. (Source: Colorado Computer Training Institute [CCTI]) For more information, see www.ccti.com/certifications/security/securityoverview.asp.

  • Certified Network Security Expert (CNSE). This credential identifies competent, practicing security professionals with strong technical knowledge and specific industry experience. It's also the top rung in the CCTI security certification ladder. This path requires CNSP and CNSM, plus two elective exams, and written and hands-on lab exams. (Source: Colorado Computer Training Institute [CCTI]) For more information, see www.ccti.com/certifications/security/securityoverview.asp.

  • Certified Network Security Manager (CNSM). This credential identifies individuals who manage security professionals, with an understanding of technical security fundamentals and related topics in security forensics, law, or incident response handling. This is the middle (management) rung in the CCTI security certification ladder. (Source: Colorado Computer Training Institute [CCTI]). For more information, see www.ccti.com/certifications/security/securityoverview.asp.

  • Certified Network Security Professional (CNSP). This credential identifies individuals who have moved from security fundamentals to coverage of advanced, complex security topics and technologies. It is the middle (technical) rung in the CCTI security certification ladder. (Source: Colorado Computer Training Institute [CCTI]) For more information, see www.ccti.com/certifications/security/securityoverview.asp.

  • CFE—Certified Fraud Examiner. This credential identifies individuals who are able to detect financial fraud and other security-related white-collar crimes. (Source: Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) For more information, see www.cfenet.com/.

  • CIA—Certified Internal Auditor. This credential identifies individuals with working knowledge of professional financial auditing practices, including related security practices, procedures, and auditing techniques. (Source: Institute of Internal Auditors) For more information, see http://www.theiia.org/ecm/certification.cfm?doc_id=12.

  • CISA—Certified Information Systems Auditor. This credential identifies individuals who can perform IS audits for control and security purposes. (Source: Information Systems Audit and Control Association) For more information, see www.isaca.org/cert1.htm.

  • CISSP—Certified Information Systems Security Professional. This senior-level security certification identifies individuals with knowledge of network and system security principles, safeguards and practices. (Source: International Information Systems Security Certifications Consortium [a.k.a. (ICS)2, pronounced "ICS-squared"]) For more information, see www.isc2.org/.

  • Certified Internet Webmaster–Security Professional Exam (CIW-SP). Passing this exam demonstrates a working knowledge of Web- and e-commerce–related security principles and practices. (Source: Prosoft Training, Inc.) For more information, see www.ciwcertified.com/exams/1d0470.asp.

  • CPP—Certified Protection Professional. This credential identifies individuals with a thorough understanding of physical, human, and information security principles and practices. (Source: American Society for Industrial Security [ASIS]) For more information, see www.asisonline.org/cpp.html.

  • GIAC—Global Information Assurance Certification. This credential identifies individuals who possess a thorough knowledge of and the ability to manage and protect important information systems and networks. (Source: The System Administration, Networking, and Security [SANS] Institute) For more information, see www.sans.org/giactc.htm.

  • ICSA—ICSA Certified Security Associate. This credential, to be released in Q3, 2001, identifies individuals who possess basic familiarity with vendor-neutral system and network security principles, practices, and technologies. (Source: TruSecure Corporation) For more information, see www.trusecure.com/html/secsol/peoplecert01.shtml.

  • ICSE—ICSA Certified Security Engineer. This credential, expected to be released in Q4, 2001, identifies individuals who possess a deep and serious knowledge of vendor-neutral system and network security principles, practices, and technologies. ICSA is a prerequisite. (Source: TruSecure Corporation) For more information, see www.trusecure.com/html/secsol/practitioner.shtml.

  • ICSP—ICSA Certified Security Professional Trainer. Obtaining this senior-level certification enables qualified individuals to teach ICSA and ICSE classes. (Source: TruSecure Corporation) For more information, see www.trusecure.com/html/secsol/practitioner.shtml.

  • SSCP—Systems Security Certified Professional Administrator. This is an entry-level certification that identifies individuals who can implement and maintain system and network security, but not necessarily someone who can be made responsible for designing and deploying security policies and procedures. (Source: [ICS]2]) For more information, see https://www.isc2.org/cgi-bin/request_studyguide.cgi.

  • System and Network Security Certified Professional (SNSCP). This credential identifies individuals who can design and implement organizational security strategies and secure the network perimeter and component systems. (Source: Learning Tree International) For more information, see www.learningtree.com.

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