Certifiably Secure With the Certified Ethical Hacker

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Certainly one of the most interesting, if not the most successful, security certifications is a little gem from the International Council of E-commerce Consultants (EC-Council) called the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential. The idea behind the certification is to stress and test for the same skills that unethical hackers use to attack and occasionally penetrate networks, except in a way that stresses not just attack techniques and vulnerability prospecting methods, but that also stresses countermeasures, detection and preventive tools and techniques to head potential hackers off in advance.

The online program description for the credential is fairly representative of its focus and potential benefits:

“The CEH Program certifies individuals in the specific network security discipline of Ethical Hacking from a vendor-neutral perspective. The Certified Ethical Hacker certification will significantly benefit security officers, auditors, security professionals, site administrators, and anyone who is concerned about the integrity of the network infrastructure. A Certified Ethical Hacker is a skilled professional who understands and knows how to look for the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in your systems and uses the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker.”

Obviously, this is a good certification to look for inside groups that perform penetration testing or whose job is otherwise to seek out and identify potential sources of weakness or vulnerability in security policies and practices.

Obtaining this certification requires passing exam #312-50, Ethical Hacking and Countermeasure (details available online at www.eccouncil.org/312-50.htm). This exam covers 21 information domains that range from ethics and legal issues through all kinds of profiling, scanning and enumeration techniques hackers tend to use, through a detailed litany of attack types and signatures, through tools and technologies (including intrusion detection systems, firewalls, honeypots and honeynets, as well as effective uses of cryptography for authentication, privacy and so forth) that may be used to help detect, foil, fend off or avoid attacks. The exam costs $150 and is available online through Prometric Prime (eccouncil.prime.prometric.com/) or at Prometric testing centers (www.2test.com) worldwide.

Given a solid set of objectives and pretty good concept behind the certification, why did I question the success of the CEH in my first paragraph? The EC-Council released this credential in March 2003, and it’s not yet clear how strong its uptake has been in the marketplace. Only time will tell whether this good idea also results in a well-received, strongly adopted certification program. Right now, it’s still impossible to tell if this is a broad, general IT or infosec certification or a smart piece of advertising to lure students into officially sanctioned training classes at Accredited Training Centers.

For more information on the CEH, including exam objectives see the detailed brochure at www.eccouncil.org/CEH.htm.

Ed Tittel is president of LANwrights Inc. and is contributing editor for Certification Magazine. E-mail Ed with your questions and comments at etittel@certmag.com.


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