Certifying Safely

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Halloween has nearly arrived. So in the spirit (you should pardon the pun), let me tell you a scary story:

It was a dark and stormy night, and a young man was working alone on the help desk. The phone lines were graveyard silent, so he was paging through a colleague’s desktop library. Knowing his colleague had recently gotten security certified and gotten promoted, the young man decided to pursue his own certification.

But the young man was impatient, so he’d soon put the study guide aside, and was seeking test answers on various brain dumps and other cheater sites. A chill wind blew through the office, as he copied answer after answer, then scheduled a test he shouldn’t have been ready to pass.

Too short a time later, the newly certified young man was sending out resumes, bragging on his new skills, and backing it all up with a piece of paper his potential employer didn’t know was worthless. Blinded by the seal of certification, the employer offered the young man a key position in the IT department, standing watch over the company’s network.

Meanwhile, many miles away, an evil worm lurked, launching virus-laden e-mail and carefully probing the company’s walls for illicit access. And at their homes, the company’s employees, managers, executives, board members and stockholders slept soundly, knowing the certified sentinel was protecting their interests.

The ending is too horrible to relate completely. The worm got in, the “certified” security expert quickly realized he was in over his head, the attack worsened, the company lost time, money and the confidence of its clients and partners. Budgets were tightened, employees were let go and the company stopped supporting certified professionals, with a once-bitten, twice-shy attitude. No one lived happily ever after.

OK, I made that all up—but it doesn’t sound too far-fetched, does it? This cautionary tale focused on security, but the same could be written about network administration, wireless communications, database programming or any IT specialty. The work you do is critical to your career, your company’s survival, the janitor’s college-bound daughter and many people you’ll never see or know. IT is an integral link in the corporate chain, and if certification is the key to survival, it had better be a certification properly earned.

We’ve all seen the stats on the numbers of IT professionals who’ve used brain dumps or other ill-advised study methods. We’ve all heard the reports on virus attacks, security alerts and rising identity theft. Maybe we should ponder the connection between the two.

Now’s a great time to consider reinvesting in yourself through certification. Just be sure to do it right, OK?

Because the alternative is terrifying.

Tim Sosbe

Editorial Director



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