The CASP Exam: What it is, Where it fits, and How to prepare for it

August 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints | 1 Comment
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At the CompTIA Academy Educator Conference in Las Vegas, I made a presentation to help educators better understand the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) exam. I received such awesome feedback that I decided to write a blog post based on the presentation. I will explain the CASP exam to you, where the exam fits in the certification world, and how you should prepare to take it or prepare your students to take it.

What the CASP Certification is

First, here are some key numbers for you. In CompTIA’s 8th Annual Information Security Trends study, 76% of those responding indicated that their IT staff probably or definitely need more vendor-neutral security training. 81% of those responding indicated that they would give more recognition and financial rewards to the IT staff members who complete a security certification.  Based on the findings in the 8th Annual Information Security Trends and other studies, CompTIA decided that:

  • An advanced-level security exam would be good to pursue.
  • The exam should be performance-based.
  • The exam should fit into other vendors’ certification(s) as an elective.
  • The exam should concentrate on new technologies that demand a concentration in security aspects, such as IPv6, VoIP, and SaaS.
  • Acceptance of the exam would depend on the U. S. government’s acceptance of the new certification and its applicability to Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 8570. According to CompTIA’s IT and CyberSecurity white paper, “Those seeking compliance with IA Technical Level III and IA Management Level II of U.S. DoD Directive 8570.01-M. (CASP is proposed to the 8570 Directive for these workforce categories.)”

The result was the CASP, the first certification in the Master Series of certifications released by CompTIA. The CASP exam will certify that the successful candidate has the technical knowledge and skills required to conceptualize, design, and engineer secure solutions across complex enterprise environments.

The CAS-001 exam is available at Pearson Vue testing centers, and is currently available in English only.

How the CASP exam is structured

The CASP exam is a single exam that consists of multiple-choice, scenario-based, and performance-based questions. For the performance-based items, the CASP candidate is given a scenario/problem and prompted to push a button to launch a simulated environment that is created via software.

The candidate has 150 minutes to complete 80 questions. Upon completion, the candidate is given a Pass/Fail score. No numerical score is given. The domain distribution for the CASP exam is as follows:

Enterprise Security – 40%
Risk Management, Policy/Procedure, and Legal – 24%
Research and Analysis – 14%
Integration of Computing, Communications, and Business Disciplines – 22%

Where the CASP fits among security certifications

CompTIA has created a great graphic (shown below) that shows the CASP certification sitting between CompTIA’s Security+ certification and (ISC)2’s CISSP certification.

CompTIA’s CASP mapping

The way that CASP requires you to put real-world applications into abstract concepts elevates it above the Security+. The CASP exam expects candidates to take the core security concepts introduced in the Security+ exam and apply them to work situations. For example:

  • In Security+, you should know the ports used by the HTTP and HTTPS protocols.
  • In CASP, you should know the same ports, but you will have to apply them in a router or firewall configuration. This will include opening and closing the appropriate ports via rules or ACLs and ensuring that the rules are in the correct order.
  • In Security+, you should know when you would need to deploy a firewall.
  • In CASP, you should know when to deploy a firewall, but you would also need to deploy it in the appropriate location and know where to deploy any other devices/servers located in the DMZ/perimeter network.

After taking the CASP exam, I will agree that it’s harder than the Security+, but I feel it is equally as difficult as the CISSP exam. The CISSP exam is difficult in the breadth of knowledge that a test candidate must possess, but in the end, it is still just a standard multiple-choice, knowledge-based exam. Including performance-based items in the CASP takes this exam to the next level, even surpassing the CISSP exam when it comes to difficulty (in my opinion).

So while I accept CompTIA’s graphic and its placement of the CASP in the security certification world, I also feel that time will be kind to the CASP exam as it becomes more widely understood and accepted in the industry.

How to Prepare for the CASP Certification

Practical experience is needed for this exam, including:

  • Experience configuring ACLs/rule lists for router, firewalls, and so on.
  • Experience deploying hardware in a network. Specifically, you’ll need to understand WHERE hardware is deployed in a given network diagram based on requirements.
  • The ability to recognize when devices are under attack by viewing logs, including understanding what type of attack is occurring, the identity of the attacker, how to protect against the attack, and where to deploy the protection.
  • The ability to verify file security from a given hash value.

You can view a few multiple-choice practice questions on the CompTIA web site here: http://certification.comptia.org/Training/testingcenters/samplequestions/CASP-Practice-Questions.aspx

We at Transcender have created a wonderful product in our Cert-CAS-001 practice test. Our practice test includes simulation items that will better prepare you for the performance-based items on the live exam. At the time of this post, no other practice test provider includes these types of items in their CASP product.

Also, Sybex has released a great study resource: the CASP CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner Study Guide by Michael Gregg and Billy Haines, which I reviewed in a previous blog post. It is a great place to get started, even if you’re still accumulating those five years of hands-on technical security experience recommended as a prerequisite by CompTIA.

I hope this helps you to take the next step in your career and pursue the CASP certification. If you have any CASP-related questions, feel free to drop me a line!

-Robin

1 Comment »

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  1. […] For the last two years, I have been attending the CompTIA Academy Educator Conference (which used to be part of CompTIA Breakaway, which is now renamed ChannelCon…but I digress!). The first year I was an attendee and just took in all the IT certification information that was handed out. Last year in Las Vegas, I gave a small presentation on CompTIA’s CASP certification (you can read about that here). […]


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