CCNA – Cybersecurity Scholarship

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In this post I am going to review CCNA – Cybersecurity certification & Scholarship program Cisco is offering. I was one of 10,000 people who received Cisco Global Cybersecuirty Scholarship in 2017. You can be one of them in 2018, so please register yourself via above link to get more details about 2018 program.

CCNA-Cyber-00

This scholarship program will give you access ( 4 month subscription)  to below e-learning study materials.  These include hands on lab access as well. Addition to that you will be assigned a mentor who will review blue print topics ( 2 x 1hr sessions a week) for first 3 months. Also Cisco will give you exam vouchers once you complete challenges,lab tasks & review study materials.

 

  1. Understanding Cisco Cybersecurity Fundamentals (SECFND) v1.0
  2. Implementing Cisco Cybersecurity Operations (SECOPS) v1.0

Below shown very high level topics of the blueprint with % weight on the exam ( click on given URL to view detailed blueprint topics of those 2 certifications)

Understanding Cisco Cybersecurity Fundamentals (210-250)
This exam tests a candidate’s understanding of cybersecurity basic principles,
foundational knowledge, and core skills needed to grasp the more associate-level materials in the second required exam, Implementing Cisco Cybersecurity Operations (SECOPS).

1.0 Network Concepts [12%]
2.0 Security Concepts [17%]
3.0 Cryptography [12%]
4.0 Host-Based Analysis [19%]
5.0 Security Monitoring [19%]
6.0 Attack Methods [21%]

Implementing Cisco Cybersecurity Operations (SECOPS 210-255)
This exam is the second of the two required exams to achieve the associate-level CCNA Cyber Ops certification and prepares candidates to begin a career within a   Security Operations Center (SOC), working with Cybersecurity Analysts at the associate level. The SECOPS exam tests a candidate’s knowledge and skills needed to successfully handle the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of an associate-level Security Analyst working in a SOC.

1.0 Endpoint Threat Analysis and Computer Forensics [15%]
2.0 Network Intrusion Analysis [22%]
3.0 Incident Response [18%]
4.0 Data and Event Analysis [23%]
5.0 Incident Handling [22%]

So far there was no instructor led 5 days training for it. Cisco is going to do that since early November 2017. So if your company is investing for your training, please go ahead & get this valuable training. I am sure you will get opportunities through this scholarship program as well. So give it a try. Here is some of my thoughts about this program.

My view of this certification

When I apply this program, I did not have clear idea about the content of this program & thought it is another associate level of certification that we have to know about Cisco products. Once I access those Cisco materials (specially labs), I realized most of the labs based on open source tools like below. If you already familiar with these tools, you know how powerful they are & skills you got with them will be really valuable.

Kali Linux
Security Onion
Metasploit
Wireshark
ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana)

Yes, they talked about Cisco products too, but you do not expect to have hands on experience with them for this certification.

Based on that I can tell you this CCNA program got most value among any other associate level certs & skills you learn through CCNA Cyber Ops will not get invalidated soon.

My preparation

As you were already aware, I haven’t actively study for any certification for long time (since my CWNP exams in 2014). So it was very hard for me to get back into study mode even I had access to training materials from late June. So I could not go through relevant chapter material prior to those weekly sessions. So I felt I was behind and could not attend all those live mentoring sessions (fortunately those were recorded and given us access to go through our own pace) . Whet it was September, I felt the pressure as my subscription will be finish on 20th October. Unless I study and become a CCNA Cyber Ops, I would waste an opportunity given to me. That helped me to get it going in the last month.

As a way of  fast track my studies, I purchased (there was 70% discount promotion at that time) “CCNA Cyber Ops SECFND (210-250) and SECOPS (210-255) Complete Video Course and Practice Tests” done by Omar Santos who developed CCNA Cyber Ops program. Once I watch those videos, that helped a lot to focus on blue print topics & skim through Cisco video & text materials. At the end of each modules Cisco gave lab tasks & challenges (review questions). Those labs were really great and I learn a lot of new things. I really wanted to do those labs many times & setting up my home lab while doing them, but time was too short for me to do that all (hence I could not blog about certain stuff that I found useful, hopefully I will write about them in future). Also I reviewed those recorded mentoring sessions and close the skill gaps in certain areas.

In order to get Exam vouchers, you have to complete all those challenges & lab tasks. I finished reviewing SECFND materials in first week of October and attempted SECFND Exam on 6th October. I came close with 788 marks, but did not make it as pass mark was 825. Got to know my weak area and that helped me to better prepare for the 2nd attempt.

CCNA-Cyber-01

While focusing on the weak area for SECFND topics , primary attention given to  study of SECOPS topics and completed reviewing those materials by mid October and booked my SECOPS exam on 20th (last day of my subscriptions).

Here is the result I got today. Yes I was lucky enough (if you look at my score, you will see why I said lucky 🙂 )  to pass it on the first attempt

CCNA-Cyber-02

My Suggestions 

Here are my advice for anyone studying for it using Cisco materials

  • Don’t keep “achieving the certification” is the only motive.
  • Try to use those materials to develop your skills.
  • Take your own notes while listening to those video materials ( I used Evernote sofware for my notes)
  • Don’t wait for the last moment, be self motivated & use those 4 months effectively (if you get scholarship)
  • Participate those mentoring sessions and keep up with the schedule.
  • Do those lab tasks many times
  • Build your own lab & play with those open source tools ( I got Kali Linux, Security Onion in my home lab)
  • There are lot of references come from those materials, keep them on your notes, so you can easily access them.
  • You have to familiar with certain standard documents & frameworks (NIST-800-61r2, VERIS, C2M2 ,PCI, HIPPA, SOX, Cyberkill chain, Diamond model). Go through these documents few times.
  • You have to take exams before things get forgotten (yes, lot of things to memorize as well)
  • Don’t expect to pass these exams on your 1st attempts (if you pass that’s great), in that way you can accept failures as well. That will make you more realistic.
  • Go by the blueprint topics when preparing for the exam. Pay attention for those percentage weight  & allocate time accordingly.
  • Be honest with youself.

I am really thankful to Cisco who gave this wonderful opportunity for me to grow. Also they were kind enough to give 2nd voucher for my SECFND exam when I failed it first time. Also grateful to those mentors from TEC2000 who spend number of hours for our benefit.

References
This is not a comprehensive list of references, but useful to you when studying for it