“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” — Theodore Roosevelt
I won’t be the one telling you how different the year of 2020 has been. I will remind you, though, that in February Cisco implemented changes to their certification paths. Here’s a quick look at the main changes:
- Introduced a new title: “Specialist” that sits between “Associate” (CCNA) and “Professional” (CCNP). Specialist titles are achieved by passing “CORE” exams, there’s one for each architecture.
- Introduced DevNet architecture path.
- Changed the requisites to achieve their “Professional” title, including:
- Retiring all previous CCNP exams and introducing new, “Concentration” exams, focused on specific products.
- The requirements to become a CCNP have changed. Instead of having to pass 4 exams covering many products, now you have to pass 2 exams: a Core exam and a Concentration exam of your choice.
- Changed the requisites to achieve their “Expert” title, including:
- For the first time in a good while, CCIE now has a pre-requisite: the Core exam of its architecture, and its famous (updated) hands-on lab.
Check out this chart from CBTnuggets for more details:
Being a Network Security engineer, I took on the security track, and decided to get started with the Core content.
Let’s look at how I tackled this exam and how you can too.
There are 3 fronts you have to cover in order to pass this exam — each follows my recommendation to amount of time you should dedicate to them.
Important to note that there are NO LABS in the SCOR exam.
- Cisco Security Portfolio Knowledge (30%)
- Generic InfoSec Knowledge (40%)
- Prepare for the questions (30%)
My Study resources to cover these was:
- Official Certification Book, from Omar Santos: CCNP and CCIE Security Core SCOR 350–701 Official Cert Guide | Cisco Press
- This is a great book, to get a general understanding of all topics.
- Covers the Generic InfoSec Knowledge
- and most importantly, covers the product set.
- Questions preparation
2. Official E-leaning course from Cisco Learning Network: Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies (SCOR) v1.0 — The Cisco Learning Network Store
- This is expensive (like the exam itself) but worth your money, the amount of time they dedicate to each product here is somewhat equivalent to how much focus they will end up having in the exam. This is a good insight into what you should absolutely nail for the exam.
- Covers the product set
- Covers the Generic InfoSec Knowledge
3. Countless hours deploying and configuring these products in a Virtual Lab.
- Covers the product set
4. Day-to-day work knowledge
- Pearson Test Prep
- Key to prepare for the questions
As for what topics I would recommend you absolutely nail for the exam, let’s take a look at the official exam topics from Cisco — I will highlight the topics in 3 ways to indicate how much special attention I reckon they deserve.
BOLD — Very important topic
Italic — Not hard but watch for tricky questions on the subject.
Normal — Read about it
As of December 2020, SCOR’s exam topics include (from https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/s/scor-exam-topics):
- Security Concepts
1.1 Explain common threats against on-premises and cloud environments
- 1.1.a On-premises: viruses, trojans, DoS/DDoS attacks, phishing, rootkits, man-in-the-middle attacks, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, malware
- 1.1.b Cloud: data breaches, insecure APIs, DoS/DDoS, compromised credentials
1.2 Compare common security vulnerabilities such as software bugs, weak and/or hardcoded passwords, SQL injection, missing encryption, buffer overflow, path traversal, cross-site scripting/forgery
1.3 Describe functions of the cryptography components such as hashing, encryption, PKI, SSL, IPsec, NAT-T IPv4 for IPsec, pre-shared key and certificate based authorization
1.4 Compare site-to-site VPN and remote access VPN deployment types such as sVTI, IPsec, Cryptomap, DMVPN, FLEXVPN including high availability considerations, and AnyConnect
1.5 Describe security intelligence authoring, sharing, and consumption
1.6 Explain the role of the endpoint in protecting humans from phishing and social engineering attacks
1.7 Explain North Bound and South Bound APIs in the SDN architecture
1.8 Explain DNAC APIs for network provisioning, optimization, monitoring, and troubleshooting
1.9 Interpret basic Python scripts used to call Cisco Security appliances APIs
2. Network Security
2.1 Compare network security solutions that provide intrusion prevention and firewall capabilities
2.2 Describe deployment models of network security solutions and architectures that provide intrusion prevention and firewall capabilities
2.3 Describe the components, capabilities, and benefits of NetFlow and Flexible NetFlow records
2.4 Configure and verify network infrastructure security methods (router, switch, wireless)
- 2.4.a Layer 2 methods (Network segmentation using VLANs and VRF-lite; Layer 2 and port security; DHCP snooping; Dynamic ARP inspection; storm control; PVLANs to segregate network traffic; and defenses against MAC, ARP, VLAN hopping, STP, and DHCP rogue attacks
- 2.4.b Device hardening of network infrastructure security devices (control plane, data plane, management plane, and routing protocol security)
2.5 Implement segmentation, access control policies, AVC, URL filtering, and malware protection
2.6 Implement management options for network security solutions such as intrusion prevention and perimeter security (Single vs. multidevice manager, in-band vs. out-of-band, CDP, DNS, SCP, SFTP, and DHCP security and risks)
2.7 Configure AAA for device and network access (authentication and authorization, TACACS+, RADIUS and RADIUS flows, accounting, and dACL)
2.8 Configure secure network management of perimeter security and infrastructure devices (secure device management, SNMPv3, views, groups, users, authentication, and encryption, secure logging, and NTP with authentication)
2.9 Configure and verify site-to-site VPN and remote access VPN
- 2.9.a Site-to-site VPN utilizing Cisco routers and IOS
- 2.9.b Remote access VPN using Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility client
- 2.9.c Debug commands to view IPsec tunnel establishment and troubleshooting
3. Securing the cloud
3.1 Identify security solutions for cloud environments
- 3.1.a Public, private, hybrid, and community clouds
- 3.1.b Cloud service models: SaaS, PaaS, IaaS (NIST 800–145)
3.2 Compare the customer vs. provider security responsibility for the different cloud service models
- 3.2.a Patch management in the cloud
- 3.2.b Security assessment in the cloud
- 3.2.c Cloud-delivered security solutions such as firewall, management, proxy, security intelligence, and CASB
3.3 Describe the concept of DevSecOps (CI/CD pipeline, container orchestration, and security
3.4 Implement application and data security in cloud environments
3.5 Identify security capabilities, deployment models, and policy management to secure the cloud
3.6 Configure cloud logging and monitoring methodologies
3.7 Describe application and workload security concepts
4. Content Security
4.1 Implement traffic redirection and capture methods
4.2 Describe web proxy identity and authentication including transparent user identification
4.3 Compare the components, capabilities, and benefits of local and cloud-based email and web solutions (ESA, CES, WSA)
4.4 Configure and verify web and email security deployment methods to protect on-premises and remote users (inbound and outbound controls and policy management)
4.5 Configure and verify email security features such as SPAM filtering, antimalware filtering, DLP, blacklisting, and email encryption
4.6 Configure and verify secure internet gateway and web security features such as blacklisting, URL filtering, malware scanning, URL categorization, web application filtering, and TLS decryption
4.7 Describe the components, capabilities, and benefits of Cisco Umbrella
4.8 Configure and verify web security controls on Cisco Umbrella (identities, URL content settings, destination lists, and reporting)
5. Endpoint Protection and Detection
5.1 Compare Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP) and Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) solutions
5.2 Explain antimalware, retrospective security, Indication of Compromise (IOC), antivirus, dynamic file analysis, and endpoint-sourced telemetry
5.3 Configure and verify outbreak control and quarantines to limit infection
5.4 Describe justifications for endpoint-based security
5.5 Describe the value of endpoint device management and asset inventory such as MDM
5.6 Describe the uses and importance of a multifactor authentication (MFA) strategy
5.7 Describe endpoint posture assessment solutions to ensure endpoint security
5.8 Explain the importance of an endpoint patching strategy
6. Secure Network Access, Visibility, and Enforcement
6.1 Describe identity management and secure network access concepts such as guest services, profiling, posture assessment and BYOD
6.2 Configure and verify network access device functionality such as 802.1X, MAB, WebAuth
6.3 Describe network access with CoA
6.4 Describe the benefits of device compliance and application control
6.5 Explain exfiltration techniques (DNS tunneling, HTTPS, email, FTP/SSH/SCP/SFTP, ICMP, Messenger, IRC, NTP)
6.6 Describe the benefits of network telemetry
6.7 Describe the components, capabilities, and benefits of these security products and solutions
- 6.7.a Cisco Stealthwatch
- 6.7.b Cisco Stealthwatch Cloud
- 6.7.c Cisco pxGrid
- 6.7.d Cisco Umbrella Investigate
- 6.7.e Cisco Cognitive Threat Analytics
- 6.7.f Cisco Encrypted Traffic Analytics
- 6.7.g Cisco AnyConnect Network Visibility Module (NVM)
Hope this helps you become a Cisco Security Specialist as well.
Now we only have to take one of the specialization exams to become CCNP security.
From my initial research SAUTO (focused on Security products’ automation) is a nice one to take on.
See you in 2021.