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Cisco's Information Security Specialist Certification

Amanda Mitchell, News Editor

Cisco is pushing entry-level engineers to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty with security.

This week, the company announced an addition to its career certifications program. The new Information Security Specialist Certification targets entry-level technologists, who, after completing the course, will demonstrate the foundational knowledge and skills required to install and support a Cisco Self-Defending Network.

Also, Information Security Specialist Certification holders will be certified as having met the 4011 training standards mandated by the U.S. National Security Association (NSA). Cisco also offers security certification at the professional level, the Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP).

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For more information on Cisco certification, read Cisco gives VoIP certification a boost
Comprehensive updates to the Securing Network Devices curriculum constitute the foundation of the new Information Security Specialist Certification. The SND exam is required for those pursuing the professional-level CCSP certification, as well as the current lineup of Cisco specialist certifications covering firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, VPNs and now security.

"We've been in the process of seeing what we can do to meet additional government standards for training security specialists, and we felt that there was a market here for an entry level of security certification," said Christine Yoshida, Cisco's Learning and Development Manager.

Certified Cisco Information Security Specialists will also meet the requirements for the NSA's CNSS 4011 Federal Security Certification and Training Standards.

Cisco Systems announced recently that it received formal certification from the NSA and the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS), recognizing that the Cisco CCSP certification meets the 4013A training standard for system administrators in federal departments and agencies. In addition, the CNSS recertified that Cisco's security training courseware meets the 4011 training standard for information security professionals in the federal government.

Topics in the CNSS 4011 curriculum include network security basics such as threats, vulnerabilities, countermeasures, operational procedures, auditing and monitoring.

"The government does require [that] its networking professionals meet this 4011 training standard," Yoshida said. "And because our security certification met the standard, we felt like there was a strong base of employers looking for that skill set."

Matthew Cody, a convergence engineer with Verizon Business and a holder of several Cisco certifications from professional level on down, says that getting as many certifications as possible is a good career move.

"Certifications can become the sole determinant in who gets the job and who doesn't," Cody said. "In an HR environment, there could be five resumes sitting there. Even if a candidate is phenomenal, but doesn't have a CCNP or CCIE, it's easy to throw it in the trash."

Cody cautions, however, that certifications are what engineers make of them. "If all you want to do is get the cards, there's no real value," he said. "If you're looking to expand your knowledge of a field, it's phenomenal."

Skills validated in the new specialist certification include:

  • Implementing basic authentication, authorization and accounting
  • Cisco Intrusion Detection System/Intrusion Protection System sensors
  • Cisco VPN 3000 Series Concentrators
  • Employing access control lists to avert router, network, and common Layer 2 attacks

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