Home > Articles

ISC-Squared Security Certifications

  • Print
  • + Share This
The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc., known as (ISC)2, offers two security certifications. The first is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) program, a senior-level credential aimed at full-time security professionals and consultants. The second is the Systems Security Certified Professional (SSCP), a junior-level credential aimed at those whose system or network administration duties also include routine security matters. CISSPs analyze, design, implement, and verify security policies and procedures; SSCPs carry them out and perform related maintenance tasks. The CISSP program has been around since 1992 and is widely recognized and well respected; the SSCP program has been around since 1998 and is gaining recognition as a useful entry-level security certification.
Editor's Note: This article was updated with new information on August 8, 2003.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

The full name for the organization responsible for two popular security certifications—the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)—is the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (IISSCC). Everybody takes the easy way out and calls this group (ISC)2 (pronounced "ISC-squared")—even the organization itself, although the preferred representation takes the form (ISC)2.

Certification Capsules

The (ISC)2 includes representatives from numerous security companies, academic institutions, government agencies, and professional associations. Working groups composed of members created and maintain the requirements for two vendor-neutral security certifications, as follows:

  •   Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). The (ISC)2's senior-level security certification, the CISSP, identifies individuals who can effectively design and develop information security policies, standards, and related practices and procedures. This certification also recognizes those who can additionally manage and maintain security policies and standards as well as operational security matters across an entire organization. (ISC)2 offers three CISSP concentrations: Information System Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP), Information System Security Management Professional(ISSMP), and Information System Security Engineering Professional(ISSEP). Because the CISSP certification has been around since 1992, it's the oldest such certification that we know about. It also boasts a certified population of about 15,000.
  •   Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP). The other (ISC)2 security certification is more entry-level. It identifies network and systems administrators who can implement and manage the policies, standards, practices, and procedures that CISSPs create and manage, on whatever hardware and software is involved. Thus, the SSCP complements the CISSP as an operations certification.

NOTE

(ISC)2 offers a program called the Associate of (ISC)2, which recognizes candidates who have passed the SSCP or CISSP exam and are in the process of gaining the required experience to become SSCP or CISSP certified. The Associate of (ISC)2 is not a certification but rather a stepping stone on the way to the SSCP or CISSP. According to the (ISC)2 Web site, Associate candidates benefit from obtaining "career-related support" through (ISC)2 early on in their professions.

The best source of information for these (ISC)2 certifications is in their respective study guides. To download study guides, visit http://www.isc2.org/cgi-bin/request_studyguide.cgi.

About the CISSP Program

Becoming a CISSP requires that you pass one exam, but it's a challenge: This exam consists of 250 multiple-choice questions pulled from 10 different security-related knowledge domains. That's why candidates are given up to six hours to complete this exam. In fact, the CISSP is a senior-level certification intended to identify individuals who are fully qualified to work as security professionals full-time. In practice, working full-time in security means filling one of two kinds of jobs:

  •   A full-time job as a security professional inside a corporation or organization big enough need its own in-house security staff full-time.
  •   A full- or part-time job as a security consultant, either freelance or within a consulting organization, in which a full-time security professional handles as many accounts as are necessary to generate the right level of billing. Thus, such a job could fall in any kind of organization, from a small, focused security professional practice to a large, multinational consulting firm that offers security consulting among its other professional services.

For serious, advanced security professionals, the knowledge domains associated with the CISSP cover a lot of ground, but the exam sticks closely to subjects and technologies intimately related to security matters. The 10 knowledge domains relevant to the CISSP include the following:

  • Access Control Systems and Methodology. This involves planning, design, use, maintenance, and auditing of user and group accounts; access controls; rights and permissions; and various authentication mechanisms.
  •   Application and Systems Development. This area involves understanding how security relates to application development and data management, including technologies and threats such as worms, viruses, Trojan horses, active content, and more. It also encompasses working with databases and data warehouses, managing and controlling data stores, working with systems development and security control systems and architectures, managing system integrity levels, recognizing and dealing with malicious code, and understanding common system and network attacks.
  •   Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning. This includes mastering common practices, data requirements, and arrangements necessary to maintain business continuity in the face of disruptions. It also involves planning, preparation, testing, and maintenance of specific actions to prevent critical business processes and activities from being adversely affected by failures and interruptions.
  •   Operations Security. In this area, topics include planning, design, implementation, and management of system and network security, including basics of administrative management. Also included are important concepts in security operations such as antivirus management, backups, and need-to-know regimes; kinds and methods for applying operational security controls; access control requirements; auditing needs, methods, and reports; monitoring types, tools, and techniques; and intrusion detection and penetration testing needs, methods, and tools.
  •   Cryptography. Candidates must understand basic cryptography and how it applies to confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and nonrepudiation. In addition, key areas include cryptographic concepts, methods, and practices, including digital signatures; encryption/decryption and related algorithms; key distribution, escrow, and recovery; error detection/correction; hashes, digests, and ciphers; public and private key algorithms; public key infrastructure (PKI); architectures for implementing cryptography; and well-known cryptographic attacks and countermeasures.
  •   Law, Investigation, and Ethics. This requires a basic understanding of laws and regulations on licensing, intellectual property, imports/exports, liability, and data flows across borders relevant to system or network security or business operations. This includes knowledge of computer crime laws and regulations, investigative procedures, evidence gathering, incident handling, and ethical and conduct issues.
  •   Physical Security. This involves understanding facilities requirements, controls, and environmental and safety issues as well as understanding physical security threats and elements of physical security such as threat prevention, detection, and suppression; fire, water, and toxic material threats; and alarms and responses.
  •   Security Architecture and Models. This includes basic principles of computer and network architecture; common security model architectures and evaluation criteria; and common security flaws and issues linked to specific architectures and designs.
  •   Security Management Practices. Basic concepts and principles include privacy, confidentiality, availability, authorization, identification and authentication, and accountability. Also included are change control and management, data classification schemes (government and private), employment policies and practices, and ways to work with procedural security for formulating policies, guidelines, and procedures.
  •   Telecommunications, Network, and Internet Security. This area includes the ISO/OSI Network Reference Model; communications and network security through topology, protocols, services, APIs, and remote access; Internet/intranet/extranet equipment and issues such as firewalls, routers, switches, proxies, and gateways; TCP/IP and related protocols and services; and connection services. Also included is a broad range of communications security techniques such as tunneling, VPNs, NAT, and error detection and correction methods; security practices for email, fax, and voice services; and common network attacks and associated countermeasures.

CISSP candidates must agree to abide by the CISSP code of ethics, submit an Endorsement Form signed by a CISSP, and, if selected, pass a background and experience audit. Candidates must have four or more years of experience in at least one of the 10 knowledge domains (or three years’ direct experience along with a college degree or the equivalent life experience).

By virtue of its length and its broad coverage, the CISSP exam is regarded as something of an ordeal. That's why we urge you to obtain and review the CISSP Study Guide mentioned earlier in this article, especially the reference materials cited therein. You might be interested to learn that the (ISC)2 calls the objectives based on its 10 CISSP information domains the Common Body of Knowledge (CBK). That's why you might want to take an authorized CBK Review Seminar to help prepare for this exam.

CISSPs can choose a concentration much like a college student chooses a "major" in a college degree program. Currently, (ISC)2 offers three concentrations: ISSAP (Architecture), ISSMP (Management), and ISSEP (Engineering). The ISSAP and ISSMP exams consist of 125 items; the ISSEP exam consists of 150 items. Candidates have up to 3 hours to complete each concentration exam. Visit https://www.isc2.org/cgi-bin/content.cgi?category=84#cat06 for details about the ISSAP, ISSMP, and ISSEP concentrations.

A CISSP certification lasts 3 years; to recertify, you must either take 120 hours of continuing education during the interim or retake the exam; see isc2.org/cgi-bin/content.cgi?page=43 or isc2.org/cgi-bin/content.cgi?category=24 for more information.

About the SSCP Program

Obtaining an SSCP also means passing one exam. The number of questions is half that for the CISSP: 125 questions, with up to 3 hours to complete it. The SSCP is an entry-level security certification that identifies individuals who can integrate day-to-day security activities into full-time jobs as system or network administrators. Although the descriptions for all seven of the knowledge domains for the SSCP match those for the CISSP, an SSCP candidate's knowledge need not be as deep or intimate as a CISSP candidate's.

The seven information domains for the SSCP are as follows:

  • Access Control. This involves using, applying, monitoring, and maintaining access controls to determine what users can do, which resources they may use, and the operations that they can perform on a system. This includes familiarity with access controls such as biometrics, hardware tokens/smart cards, and passwords, with an understanding of the levels of confidentiality, integrity, and availability that each type allows.
  •   Administration. This means identifying information assets and documenting security policies, standards, practices, and procedures necessary to protect them. This includes privacy issues; data integrity; security audits; organizational roles and responsibilities; security policies, practices, procedures, and guidelines; and security education, awareness, and ongoing security maintenance.
  •   Audit and Monitoring. Included here are the topics of monitoring system activities and events, plus auditing use and assignment of access controls and related system objects or resources. This area also covers data collection, including logging, sampling, and reporting; audit review and compliance checking; and legal issues related to monitoring and auditing.
  •   Cryptography. Cryptography provides mechanisms to alter data to maintain its integrity, confidentiality, and authenticity. Topics included are basic cryptography terms and concepts; definitions, applications, and uses for public and private key technologies; and the use of digital signatures.
  •   Data Communications. This area covers network structures, transmission methods, transport formats, and protocol- and service-level measures used to maintain data integrity, availability, authentication, and confidentiality. This includes issues related to communications and network security for local and wide area networks; remote access; roles that networking devices—such as routers, switches, firewalls, proxies, and so on—play on the Internet, extranets, and intranets; security aspects of TCP/IP protocols and services; and techniques for detecting and preventing network attacks.
  •   Malicious Code/Malware. Malicious code means any software-based security threat that can compromise access to, operation of, or contents of systems or networks, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, active content, and other threats. Candidates should understand mobile and malicious code, be able to identify related threats, explain how such code enter networks, and describe and apply appropriate protection, repairs, and recovery methods.
  •   Risk, Response, and Recovery. Risk management means identifying, measuring, and controlling losses associated with business interruptions and disruptions, or system and network compromises or failures. This includes security reviews, risk analyses, evaluation and choice of safeguards, cost benefit analyses, management decisions, plus implementing safeguards and efficacy reviews.

The SSCP exam is relatively easy, when compared to the CISSP exam, but it's no pushover. That why we urge you to obtain and review the online SSCP Study Guide—especially the reference materials—cited earlier in this article. Although the course covers all 10 CBK domains (and the SSCP covers only 7 of those 10), you might want to investigate an authorized CBK Review Seminar to help you prepare for this exam.

Like the CISSP, the SSCP certification lasts for three years. You can recertify by taking 60 hours of continuing education during the interim or by retaking the CISSP exam; see http://www.isc2.org/cgi-bin/content.cgi?page=46 for more information.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020