Cisco to Change Specialist Security Certs

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Cisco Systems is revamping its specialist certifications in security to reflect the changing environment in this discipline and the company’s own self-defending networks outlook. Although the structure of the program will not be modified, a number of new courses and exams around information security techniques and technologies are slated for release today.


“The basic layout doesn’t change with this announcement,” said Don Field, Cisco’s director of certifications. “What does change is many of the technologies that are part of what we offer in security. The security world is not standing still for lots of reasons, not least of which is that the threats to integrity of their networks that organizations encounter don’t stand still. In addition, Cisco has added a number of technologies that have added layers of security that our customers are looking for as part of the self-defending network initiative that Cisco has been working towards and promoting for the past 12 to 18 months or so.”


Cisco’s certification program has three ascending levels: associate, professional and expert. The specialist-level certifications, which are more niche-specific, fall between the associate and professional stages, Field said. “We have several specialist certifications that we offer, most of which are designed as stepping-stones toward the CCSP (Cisco Certified Security Professional) certification. They cover areas such as our firewall, virtual private network and intrusion detection products. They require the same types of proctored exams as our other certifications at (Thomson) Prometric or (Pearson) VUE centers, but are in a more focused area.”


The new specialist level enhancements include IPS (#642-532) Implementing Cisco Intrusion Prevention Systems, SNPA (#642-522) Securing Networks with PIX and ASA, SND (#642-551) Securing Cisco Network Devices, SNRS (#642-502) Securing Networks with Cisco Routers and Switches, CSVPN (#642-511) Cisco Secure Virtual Private Networks and HIPS (#642-513) Securing Hosts using Cisco Security Agent.


The new SND (#642-551) Securing Cisco Network Devices course and exam is required for VPN Specialist, IPS Specialist and Firewall Specialist certifications. “We’ve created a new foundations course that really focuses in on not only foundational concepts, but also is adding new content on Cisco’s self-defending network strategy, because we really want to emphasize the importance of a network that’s intelligent and automated in terms of preventing, detecting and responding to attacks,” said Christine Yoshida, Cisco’s learning and development manager. “It’s an adaptive network strategy that Cisco is building on and we felt that security professionals should be aware of it. We think it’s the future direction for security in general.”


Another unique addition is the HIPS (#642-513) Securing Hosts using Cisco Security Agent course and exam, which is an alternative path for those pursuing the VPN Specialist certification, Yoshida said. “We’ve added in an option for people to learn about end-point security, which we haven’t had in our curriculum before. We also felt this goes along with the whole concept of the self-defending network. We’re going to extend that capability to our end-point devices with our Cisco Security Agent. What we decided to do this year is add the HIPS course as an option. You can either take the HIPS exam or the CSVPN (#642-511: Cisco Secure Virtual Private Networks) exam.


She added that this option would help keep the program demanding but flexible for participants. “We do want to keep the Professional program challenging, but we don’t want to add too many days of training or too many exams. We want to keep it the way it has been, which is about five exams and 25 days of classroom training. That’s our continued challenge for this program. We have all these new solutions coming out, yet we need to keep the program manageable for candidates.”


The older courses and exams will be retired towards the end of the year. Registration for those courses will remain available until Nov. 19, and exam registration will expire on Dec. 19. Candidates who have already signed up for those will still be able to take them for a few weeks after those dates, Field said.


For more information, see

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