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  1. Security Certification Overview
  2. Reviewing the Security Certification Landscape
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Reviewing the Security Certification Landscape

Even having limited our search to only vendor-neutral security certifications, this list contains 20 entries, indicating no shortage of options for those interested in this topic area. But today, the CPP, the CISSP, and the SANS GIAC are the best-recognized and most widely adopted computer security certifications. Numbers of certified individuals vary from a low of 2,000 (SANS) to a high of 8,000 (for CPP; current numbers for CISSP total around 3,000).

Table 1 provides a breakdown of the various certifications mentioned, according to a number of categories, to help you decide which of them you might be interested in. For those interested in general security certifications, we recommend that you stick to certifications labeled General in the Focus column rather than those aimed at more specialized interests. Likewise, if you're interested in security certification but have no previous experience, we urge you to attempt an entry-level certification or exam before pursuing intermediate or advanced credentials (as indicated in the Level column).

The current market balance might change when the various International Computer Security Association (ICSA) certifications hit the market later in 2001 because the ICSA enjoys global recognition and high regard in the business and computing worlds. Many other certifications mentioned are more focused and more likely to appeal to auditors, members of the intelligence community, or law-enforcement professionals. Because of its burgeoning popularity, the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) Security Professional exam also deserves extended coverage as well. These selected programs—CPP, SANS GIAC, CISSP, and the CIW Security Professional—are covered in more detail in other articles in this series.

Table 1 Security Certifications Categorized

Program

Level

Focus

Cost

Pgm/Exam

Trng

Popularity

BIS

Entry

General

$25

Exam (1)

No

Low

BNS

Entry

General

$25

Exam (1)

No

Low

CCO

Intermediate

General

$1450

Pgm (5)

Yes

High

CCSA

Advanced

Auditing

$295

Pgm (1)

No*

High

CNSA

Entry

General

$6990

Pgm (1)

Yes

Low

CNSE

Advanced

General

$6990

Pgm (1)

Yes

Low

CNSM

Intermediate

General

$4195

Pgm (1)

Yes

Low

CNSP

Intermediate

General

$6990

Pgm (1)

Yes

Low

CFE

Advanced

Finance

$200

Pgm (1)

No*

High

CIA

Advanced

Auditing

$300

Pgm (4)

No*

High

CISA

Advanced

Auditing

$295–$445

Pgm (1)

No*

High

CISSP

Advanced

General

$450

Pgm (1)

No*

Medium

CIW-SP

Intermediate

General

$125

Exam (1)

No*

Medium

CPP

Intermediate

Admin

$275–$325

Pgm (1)

No*

High

GIAC

Advanced

General

$4450–$6000

Pgm (3)

Yes

Medium

ICSA

Entry

General

TBD

Pgm (1)

No*

N/A

ICSE

Advanced

General

TBD

Pgm (1)

No*

N/A

ICSP

Advanced

General

TBD

Pgm (1)

No*

N/A

SCCP

Entry

General

TBD

Pgm (1)

No*

N/A

SNSCP

Intermediate

General

$5000

Pgm (4)

Yes

Low

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

When a range is given, costs vary for members/nonmembers or by curriculum

Pgm/Exam

Pgm = Certification program; Exam = Single exam, no formal certification

 

Number in parentheses indicates number of exams required

 

Trng

No = No training required; No* = Not required, but available; Yes = Required

 

Where Trng = Yes, Cost column includes cost of required training

 

Popularity

Low = 0–1999 certified; Medium = 2000–7999 certified; High = 8000-plus certified

 

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