Tag Archives: CISSP

CISM vs CISSP

A reader recently asked me about the CISM versus the CISSP. Specifically, he asked, “How hard is the CISM for someone who passed the CISSP?”

Having earned both certs (and a few more besides), and having written study guides for both, I felt qualified to help this individual. My answer follows.

CISM is much heavier on security management and risk management than CISSP. You’ll have to study these topics, and the business side of information security.  To paint with a broad brush, you could say that CISM is for CISO’s while CISSP is for security engineers. That, in essence, is the distinction.

Oh and there’s a great study guide out for the CISM: https://www.amazon.com/Certified-Information-Security-Manager-Guide-ebook/dp/B079Z1J87M

I passed my CISSP almost 20 years ago while I was still a hands-on technologist.  I studied for my CISA two years later. I learned through my ISACA CISA study materials (provided by my employer) that ISACA has a vastly different vocabulary for infosec than does (ISC)2.  Think of it as a business perspective versus an engineering perspective.  Both are right, both are valid, both are highly valued in the employment market.  But they are different.  Master both, and you’ll be a rare treasure.


Study guides for CISSP:

CISSP For Dummies

CISSP Guide to Security Essentials

Study guides for CISM:

CISM All-In-One Exam Guide

 

 

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Certification and Experience: Putting the Cart Before the Horse

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When I earned my CISSP in 2000, and my CISA in 2002, I desired to earn these certifications as a way of demonstrating the knowledge and experience that I had already accumulated. To me, these certifications are a visible symbol of my professional qualifications in the professional community.

In recent years, I have seen many people who do not have the knowledge or the experience, and they desire to earn these certifications so that they may be better qualified for positions where they can earn the knowledge and experience that these certifications require.

These people have it backwards. They are showing impatience: they want the positions that require experience, but they do not yet have it. They ask, now that I have my CISSP (or CISA or CISM), how can I now get security specialist, security manager, security auditor, or other positions? And they wonder why they have difficulty finding these jobs that require CISSP, CISA, or CISM certification.

What I believe they fail to understand is that they do not have the required experience.

The correct path for professional certification and experience is this: acquire the knowledge and the experience, and then earn the certification. This is the method expected by employers, professionals, and the organizations that develop and manage these certifications.

Would you go to a doctor who had his license to practice but did not yet have the required experience? Of course not, and likewise employers do not hire candidates based only on their certifications. Instead, employers hire based upon knowledge, experience, and particular skills.

I believe that many of these aspiring certification candidates are being led astray by training organizations who are implicitly (if not explicitly) fostering the expectation that one can earn a certification based on a short training course alone, as though it is a “shortcut” to positions with greater responsibility, expectations, and compensation.

To IT professionals who want to get ahead and earn certifications: good for you! I wish you well! However, do know that you need to accumulate years of work experience first – then earning those certifications will be relatively easy, and you will have greater satisfaction through knowing that you have rightfully earned your certification, not only because you were able to pass a certification exam, but also because you have the experience that goes with it.

CISA study group

CISM study group

CISSP study group

CRISC study group

CISSP Study Group Formed

Seattle (WA USA) Sept 8, 2009. Noted security expert Peter H. Gregory, CISA,
CISSP, DRCE who started CISA and CISM certification study groups in 2002, has
launched a CISSP certification study group. Like the CISA and CISM groups, the
new CISSP study group is hosted by Yahoo Groups.

This group is for technology and security professionals who are interested in
learning more about the CISSP certification, as well as for instructors who
teach courses on information security. People who are already certified are also
invited to join as “mentors” who can help those who are just starting out.

People who are interested in joining the group may go to the following URL:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CISSP-study/join

People who are already members may go to the group at this URL:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CISSP-study

The CISSP Study group will have the following features:

* Message archive
* Moderated messages (no spam)
* Files upload
* Links pages
* Surveys

Only active members of the group may access these features.

Information that will be discussed in the forum include:

* CISSP qualifications
* CISSP study tips
* CISSP study books and courses
* CISSP study questions
* Registering for the certification exam
* Test tips
* Questions on any topic of information and business security

How to study for the CISSP examination

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Whitepaper by Ernie Hayden, a noted security expert, on studying for the CISSP exam.

Download here (PDF)

Is the CISSP certification still relevant?

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Some argue that, because more people have earned it, the CISSP certification is becoming less relevant.

The CISSP certification is not less relevant because more people are passing it – more people are passing it because there is a much higher demand for CISSP-certified professionals than at any time in the past. Information and business security are far more relevant than in the past, because more organizations are using information systems in increasingly-complex ways to support critical business processes.

In my opinion the growth of CISSPs is still not keeping up with the demand for such professionals. If anything, the certification is MORE relevant now than at any time before.

I disagree with the statement that it will become less relevant. On the contrary, as the number of people who earn the CISSP certification grows, the MORE relevant it will become! Say, for instance, 20 years from now, that 1/3 of all IT professionals have the certification. That would make CISSP *HIGHLY* relevant!

I think that maybe you are asking a completely different question. Today, having a CISSP gives relevance to the individual person who holds it. When CISSP is rare, having it makes the person more relevant. But if CISSP were to become plentiful, that would make the certification far more relevant.

Take MCSE. Lots of IT pros have it. The certification is *highly* relevant – so much so that it is practically a standard. A person who does *not* have the MCSE is not relevant. In many companies you can’t play in the game if you don’t have it. That sounds like high relevance to me.

Career advice: how to begin a security career

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Today a colleague from Melbourne wrote me and said,

Hi Peter,

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia.

It was refreshing to read your site esp your Christian perspective on the profession.

I’m after some career guidance if you don’t mind –
I have a Business Analyst background and am currently working in IT consulting for a company that specialises in custom app development and systems integration. I have taken a keen interest in Info Security and will sit the CISSP exam at the end of this year with the intention to certify as an ISC2 associate (until such time as I possess the relevant experience to be a CISSP)…

In terms of specialising in the Information Security field are there any particular areas where demand will be highest? (application, network,governance etc.) Also, what blend of technical/personal abilities will the profession require of its practitioners going forward… any insight you can provide will be much appreciated. Thank you.

Cheers,

(name)

* * * * * * *

Hi (name),

Thank you for your message and your kind comments.

If you were in the U.S., I could give you more precise perspective on what’s in demand.  But I have an idea.

I suggest you find a local chapter of ISSA and/or ISACA (the ‘owner’ of the CISA and CISM certifications) and sign up.  This will give you many networking opportunities to meet and know others in the information security profession.  Through your contacts and communications with local members, you should soon get a good idea of what’s in demand.

But I stress this: the best people in information security are those who already have technology experience, and begin to build expertise on the risks in that technology.  So I see you are in an app dev and integration firm.  I’ll presume that this is a field where you have good expertise.  So what I would suggest is that you begin to build your security experience by beginning to understand the risks around “safe coding” principles and the processes to ensure that the entire SDLC (systems development life cycle) includes procedures to ensure that the proper measures are taken to ensure that changes to software do not introduce vulnerabilities at any level.  So if s/w dev is your thing, you might pick up a copy of Michael Howard’s book, Writing Secure Code (or something close to that – a huge best seller).

For me, my career was in computer operations, systems administration, software engineering, and network engineering.  Then, it became my job to secure systems and networks, so I began to read all I could and made systems and networks secure.  Then, I branched out from there to better understand other sources of risk, like unauthorized intruders and secure coding.

So my advice is, begin to build security expertise in the area of technology where you are most familiar, and branch out from there.  Networking with others will help to broaden your knowledge about risk overall.

Hope this helps,

Peter

What security professionals can learn from Eliot Spitzer

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Eliot Spitzer, the [soon-to-be-former] governor of New York State has resigned due to his being involved in a highly publicized sex scandal.

Corporate security professionals, time to sit up and take notice. I’m talking to CISSPs, CISAs, CISMs, and those in positions of ISO, ISSO, CISO, as well as Manager / Director / VP of IT Security.

As I have opined before, we are obliged to lead our organizations by example, in terms of prescribing and demonstrating desired behavior of employees on the protection of all corporate assets, including information. Leading by example means working transparently, of working every hour as though others are watching.

Eliot Spitzer gave in to his carnal desires and indulged in prostitution because he thought that he could keep it hidden. But behavior is like pouring water onto a sponge: for a time the sponge will soak up the water, keeping its presence hidden; eventually, however, the water – like the illicit behavior – will overflow and be impossible to hide. But like a frog in boiling water, Gov. Spitzer probably indulged in small ways at first, but proceeded slowly until he was no longer in control of his behavior / addiction.

Security professionals, there are steps that you can take to avoid falling into a trap of undesired behavior:

1. Be accountable. Pick two or more peers with whom you can meet every week to discuss your activities. These individuals must be trustworthy and themselves above reproach.

2. When you feel the tug of undesired behavior, confide in these accountability partners. Then, listen to their advice; if it is sound, heed it.

3. When you partake in undesired behavior, confess it to your accountability partners. Listen to their counsel; if they are loyal and have personal integrity, they will not chastise you for your behavior but instead help you to get back onto the right track.

4. Keep no secrets. Tell your accountability partners everything that you do. Keep nothing back. Share even the deep recesses of your “thought life” – which is the kernel of future behavior.

While it will be convenient to select accountability partners from the workplace, you should not choose your superiors or your staff. Instead I recommend that you choose individuals in your organization who you do not work with routinely or, better yet, choose individuals who do not work in your organization.

You can only be accountable to others when you allow yourself to be accountable to you.

Some principles of behavior:

A. If you were an outsider and would judge or criticize your own behavior, spend more time seriously considering what you are doing, and get yourself onto a path of change.

B. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

C. Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.

D. Do not give up.

There is an old saying: “There is no such thing as a complete failure; they can always be used as a bad example.” Gov. Spitzer may be a bad example today, but his example should help others to be introspective and re-examine their own behavior.

Remember the security professional codes of ethics:

(ISC)²
ISACA
ASIS
CTIN
ISSA
GIAC
InfraGard
SANS
NCISS

Other postings:

CIA Triad also the basis for our ethical behavior

A call for character and integrity

Principles that guide the Christian security professional

Personal integrity the keystone in an information security career

Integrity begins within: security pros lead by example (Computerworld)