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Which network security certification is best to pursue?

With a number of new network security certifications available, knowing which one will best help your career can be confusing. Expert Kevin Beaver discusses the options.

I've been hearing about a number of new network security certifications. Which would be best to achieve to boost...

a career in network security?

There's a lot of discussion around what it takes to succeed in IT and security roles involving emerging technologies such as software-defined networking, the Internet of Things and, of course, the cloud. We're also seeing more and more about how IT and security professionals need to fine-tune both their business and soft skills in order to move ahead.

Cisco has recently jumped on board with its new Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist and Cisco Enterprise IT Business Specialist certification programs, and I have no doubt that other vendors will follow. The thing is, I'm not convinced that there's really anything new in IT and security -- at least to the point where we need to change direction with education and certifications. Many -- or arguably most -- of the very security principles people either struggle with or are not aware of today have been around for at least four decades.

As for networking certifications, core knowledge of the TCP/IP suite of protocols, software development and the OSI model is not only essential but effectively all that's required to implement, secure and manage the new technologies of today; examples of vendor-neutral certifications for basic networking skills include CompTIA's Network+ and Brainbench's Network Administrator. Furthermore, the core business, communication, goal-setting and time-management skills necessary to succeed in IT and security have been around for centuries. There are always exceptions, but by and large these old boring concepts are the very things necessary for success in IT and security today.

So, what's best for your IT and security career? Only you will know. However, a great piece of wisdom from a man named Earl Schoff is this: "Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you'll make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune."

Personally, I'm not convinced that pursuing anything other than the fundamentals -- such as the CISSP, Certified Ethical Hacker and SANS certifications -- will buy you the necessary ingredients to succeed.

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This was last published in January 2015

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Which security certifications have you pursued and why?
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With so many different network security certifications to pursue, it can be challenging to know which one is the best use of your time. One of the most innovative and fun certifications for me to pursue was the Certified Ethical Hacker. While hackers get a bad rap for initiating all sorts of mischief, this security certification allows you to have your cake and eat it too by testing networks for vulnerability without causing newsworthy mayhem.
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The CEH certification is certainly a worthy one to pursue! Thanks JAL2014.
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I have my CISA and just passed my CISM. I will be pursuing my CISSP and plan to sit for the exam by the end of the year. For me, this is a perfect combination.
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The software security professionals in my team have gone for the typically popular certifications - Certified Ethical Hacker / CISA / CISSP / CISM. Some of them also did certifications offered by product companies - like - McAfee or VMware.
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Network security for SDN should be no different than what is currently available even securing an AWS network of virtuals is basic NAT tunneling.
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