Flash sale! CompTIA A+ Exam Series Will Retire June 30, 2016

May 4, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment

Have you been studying for the A+ at a leisurely pace, figuring there’s plenty of time to knock it out? Did you pass the 220-801, only to wait for the right time to take the 220-802? If so, time is no longer on your side. The 800 version of CompTIA’s flagship certification exam will retire in just under two months. This is relevant because you cannot mix and match exam versions. If you passed the 220-801 or 220-802 exam, you must pass the other 800-series exam to obtain your A+, or else take both 900-series exams.

You will need to complete the English-language 800 series exams by June 30, 2016 to see the old test objectives. After that time, all test takers will have to sit for the 220-901 and 220-902 instead.

Our CompTIA specialist, Robin Abernathy, has covered the updates to the A+ exam in a series of blog posts. Part 1 explains how the exam topic breakdown differs in 901/902 compared with 801/802 and suggests that test-takers adopt a different study approach. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 drill down into the nitty-gritty differences between the two knowledge banks.

If you don’t feel like clicking over right now, suffice it to say that Robin (and most test-takers) felt that the 801/802 topics had enough overlap that the test taker could (and probably should) schedule both exams to fall as close as possible to each other – even within the same day – and knock out their A+ certification in one fell swoop. Both tests covered aspects of the same technologies, so studying for one meant studying for the other by default.

By contrast, there is almost NO overlap between the topics tested on 220-901 and 220-902, which means that you’ll want to study and sit for each exam separately.

The 901/902 drops some outdated topics (no more questions on CRTs or Windows XP) and modernizes device coverage – instead of laptops, “mobile device” questions also cover tablets and phones. It also moves the OS focus beyond Windows to acknowledge the presence of both Linux and Mac OS X in the workplace. The 901/902 is also more hands-on than in previous generations – some may say it’s harder; others may call it more realistic. For example, instead of being asked to define a given command’s function, you could be given a scenario and asked to choose the best command to troubleshoot this device. Instead of simply identifying what a setting does, you will likely be asked to choose the correct setting for a given set of conditions.

There is still plenty of time to buy your 800-series A+ practice exams, and to help you study, Transcender has put them on sale.

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on the 30-Day Online Access practice exams to test your knowledge for the 220-801 and 220-802 certifications.

Enter promo code: T2016EXP

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The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 2 of 5)

January 28, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA, Study hints, study tips | 1 Comment
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As I explained in my last post, CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015. The old 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States.

In this post, I will cover the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking. I’ll give you the entire overview of each objective, list each subobjective, tell you where each topic fell in the old A+ 800-series (if applicable), and put all changes or additions in RED ITALICS.

I will not call out any deleted topics, although CompTIA has removed some topics (for example, floppy drives and SCSI). This is because I am not really sure if those topics were actually removed from the exam, or if they are just so insignificant that they aren’t called out in the objective listing, but are still floating around in some test questions. Remember that CompTIA’s objective listing contains a disclaimer that says,

“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format below each objective are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document.”

For this reason, I didn’t want to focus on what was removed. My exam experience has shown that the bullet lists are not exhaustive. Spending time focusing on what was removed may give you a false sense of security by making you think you don’t need to study those topics. So I am just ignoring any topic removals.

First, a note about “Bloom’s Levels”

In this and subsequent posts, you’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is a model for describing the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, much like the OSI model describes the level at which a network component operates. Level 1 is basic memorization (what is a router?), where level 6 is complete mastery of a concept (designing a network from scratch).

If I mention here that a Bloom’s level has changed, it generally means that CompTIA is asking for something more complex than memorization. While these changes shouldn’t scare you, there is a bit more “rubber meeting the road” to the higher Bloom’s levels. For example, instead of recognizing various LCD technologies from a list, you may be asked to evaluate which LCD is the best choice for a given scenario. Instead of answering a question about how CIDR notation behaves in abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-901 Objective 1: Hardware

A+ 220-801 covered hardware in its own domain and included BIOS, motherboards, RAM, expansion cards, storage devices, CPUs and cooling, connectors and cables, power supplies, custom configurations, display devices, and peripherals. In A+ 220-901, hardware has been expanded to include UEFI and printers and multi-functional devices (which  was its own objective in 220-801). In some cases, minor wording changes occured at the subobjective level.

1.1 Given a scenario, configure settings and use BIOS/UEFI tools on a PC. – From Objective 1, subobjective 1 in the old version. The Bloom’s level for this objective increased, because the “Given a scenario” qualification is now part of this objective. Instead of simply identifying what a setting does, you will likely be asked to choose the correct setting for a given set of conditions. There is only one new topic:

  • Secure boot – added to BIOS security sub-section

1.2 Explain the importance of motherboard components, their purpose, and properties. – From Objective 1, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level (and therefore the difficulty) for this objective changed as well, because the “Explain the importance” phrase is used instead of “Differentiate between” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. One new topic was added:

  • Mini-ITX – added to Sizes section

1.3 Compare and contrast various RAM types and their features. – From Objective 1, subobjective 3 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Buffered versus unbuffered – added to Types section

1.4 Install and configure PC expansion cards. – From Objective 1, subobjective 4 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Storage cards – added

1.5 Install and configure storage devices and use appropriate media. – From Objective 1, subobjective 5 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Hybrid and eMMC – added to Solid state/flash drives section

1.6 Install various types of CPUs and apply the appropriate cooling methods. – From Objective 1, subobjective 6 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Install” phrase (using acquired knowledge) is used instead of “Differentiate among” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. New topics include:

  • Intel 1150, 2011 – added to Socket types section
  • AMD FM2, FM2+ – added to Socket types section
  • Disable execute bit – added to Characteristics section
  • Fanless/passive – added to Cooling section

1.7 Compare and contrast various PC connection interfaces, their characteristics and purpose. – From Objective 1, subobjective 7 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Analog and Digital (Optical connector) – added to Audio sub-section
  • NFC – added to Wireless connections section
  • Quality and DRM – added to Characteristics section

1.8 Install a power supply based on given specifications. – From Objective 1, subobjective 8 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Dual rail – added to Specifications section

1.9 Given a scenario, select the appropriate components for a custom PC configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs. – From Objective 1, subobjective 9 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective was raised to include “Given a scenario.” New topics are:

  • Multicore processor – changed from Powerful processor in Graphic / CAD / CAM design workstation section. This change simply updates the test’s language to current PC technology, as all “powerful” processors today will be multicore by default.
  • Multicore processor – changed from Powerful processor in Gaming PC section.  Again, this is not new knowledge, but rather an update of the test’s nomenclature.
  • Meets recommended requirements for selected OS – changed from Meets recommended requirements for Windows in Standard thick client section. This is an important change because it shows a shift back to including other operating systems besides Windows, which hasn’t been the case in the past few A+ releases.
  • Meets minimum requirements for selected OS – changed from Meets minimum requirements for running Windows in Thin client section.
  • Network connectivity – added to Thin client section.

1.10 Compare and contrast types of display devices and their features. – From Objective 1, subobjective 10 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Compare and contrast” phrase is used instead of “Given a scenario, evaluate” in the old version. New topics include:

  • TN vs. IPS and Flourescent vs. LED backlighting – added in the LCD sub-section
  • Refresh / frame rates – added frame rates
  • Aspect ratios (16:916:10, and 4:3) – added specific ratios

1.11 Identify common PC connector types and associated cables. – From Objective 1, subobjective 11 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Adapters and converters (DVI to HDMIUSB A to USB BUSB to EthernetDVI to VGAThunderbolt to DVIPS/2 to USB,  and HDMI to VGA) – all added, and all reflective of the cables commonly available in today’s computing environments.

1.12 Install and configure common peripheral devices. – From Objective 1 subobjective 12 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Biometric devices, Motion sensor, Touch padsSmart card readers, and Digital cameras – added to the Input devices section
  • Smart TV and Set-Top Box – added to the Input & Output devices section

1.13 Install SOHO multifunction device / printers and configure appropriate settings. – From Objective 4, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Given a scenario” phrase has been removed. In addition, multifunction devices have been added and configuration knowledge is required. The new topics include:

  • Configuration settings (DuplexCollateOrientation, and Quality) – added to the Use appropriate drivers for a given operating system section
  • Infrastructure vs. adhoc – added to the Wireless sub-section
  • Cloud printing/remote printing – added to the Device sharing section
  • TCP/Bonjour/AirPrint – added to the Sharing local/networked device via Operating System settings sub-section
  • Data privacy (User authentication on the device and Hard drive caching) – added to the Public/shared devices section

1.14 Compare and contrast differences between the various print technologies and the associated imaging process. – From Objective 4, subobjective 1 in 220-801. The wording changed to “Compare and contrast” from “Explain the differences between,” but in my opinion, this change did not affect the Bloom’s level. New topic is:

  • Virtual (Print to filePrint to PDFPrint to XPS, and Print to image) – added

1.15 Given a scenario, perform appropriate printer maintenance. – From Objective 4, subobjective 3 in 220-801.  New topics include:

  • Inkjet (Clean heads, replace cartridges, calibration, clear jams) – added
220-901 Objective 2: Networking

A+ 220-801 covered networking in its own domain and included network cables and connectors, TCP/IP, TCP and UDP ports and protocols, wireless networking standards and encryption, SOHO wireless/wired router installation and configuration, Internet connection types, network types, network devices, and networking tools. In A+ 220-901, minor wording changes occurred at the subobjective level. All changes are in RED ITALICS.

2.1 Identify the various types of network cables and connectors. – From Objective 2, subobjective 1 in 220-801. This subobjective had no changes.

2.2 Compare and contrast the characteristics of connectors and cabling. – From Objective 2, subobjective 2 in 220-801. Slight wording change at subobjective level, but no change in the Bloom’s level. New topics include:

  • CAT6e, CAT7 – added to Twisted pair section
  • Splitters and effects on signal quality – added to Twisted pair and Coaxial sections

2.3 Explain the properties and characteristics of TCP/IP. – From Objective 2, subobjective 3 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Public vs. private vs. APIPA/link local – added link local
  • Subnet mask vs. CIDR – added CIDR

2.4 Explain common TCP and UDP ports, protocols, and their purpose. – From Objective 2, subobjective 4 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • 22 – SSH; 137-139, 445 – SMB; and 548 or 427 – AFP – added to Ports section
  • CIFS and AFP – added to Protocols section

2.5 Compare and contrast various WiFi networking standards and encryption types. – From Objective 2, subobjective 5 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • 802.11ac – added to Standards section

2.6 Given a scenario, install and configure SOHO wireless/wired router and apply appropriate settings. – From Objective 2, subobjective 6 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Given a scenario” qualification is now part of this objective. New topics include:

  • NAT / DNAT – added DNAT
  • Firmware – added
  • UPnP – added

2.7 Compare and contrast Internet connection types, network types, and their features. – From Objective 2, subobjective 7 and 8 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Tethering – added in the Cellular subsection

2.8 Compare and contrast network architecture devices, their functions, and features. – From Objective 2, subobjective 9 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Patch panel– added
  • Repeaters/extenders – added
  • Ethernet over Power – added
  • Power over Ethernet injector – added

2.9 Given a scenario, use appropriate networking tools. – From Objective 2, subobjective 10 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Cable stripper – added
  • Tone generator & probe – added generator
  • WiFi analyzer – added
Closing Thoughts

As you can see, I am just covering the high points and not delving too deeply into these topics. My point here is to help those who already know the A+ understand exactly what new topics they need to study. CompTIA has started a series of Webinars called Deep Dive: A Look Inside the A+ 900 Series Objectives that cover these topics much more deeply than I do. You can access these Webinars  by joining the CompTIA Instructor Network at http://bit.ly/1Sxj3h9.

Remember, this post is part of a series of posts I will be completing. Here are the details for those posts:

To help you get through the holiday doldrums and start your 2016 study schedule off right, we just launched our 220-901 practice test! It includes performance-based questions and covers all the 220-901 topics.


Thanks again for reading!

-Robin Abernathy

Calling all IT educators: CompTIA Academy Educator’s Conference 2014

July 22, 2014 at 7:27 am | Posted in CompTIA, Conferences, Kaplan IT Training news, Performance-Based Testing, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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It’s getting close to that time of year again, folks. The CompTIA Academy Educator Conference will be held on August 1-3 in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona. (Now, I’m just taking everyone else’s word on the beautiful part. This will be my first visit there! But the pictures I’ve seen are lovely.)

This three-day event is well worth your time if you are an educator at any level (high school, college, professional) and you instruct individuals who are seeking CompTIA certifications. As a peer-to-peer networking resource, it’s beyond compare. You also get to rub elbows with some great folks – ehem – ME! Also, you don’t have to be a CompTIA Academy educator to attend. However, the sessions are designed to benefit Academy Partners. If your organization is not an Academy Partner, visit this site to learn how (and why) to become one: http://partners.comptia.org/Academy-Partner.aspx.

With the recent release of a new Security+ exam and the new CASP and Network+ exams due to be released in the coming months, it’s a great idea to attend this conference just to stay on top of things. My presentation on Friday will cover the new Security+ exam, the CASP exam, some techniques for covering the new performance-based items in your classroom. I will also share some information about braindumps/piracy and why you should never use this type of content in your classroom. You can see the full schedule here: http://www2.comptia.org/events/events/academy-educator-conference/agenda.aspx

For all conference related information, including the agenda, registration information, exhibitor information, and hotel information, visit the CompTIA Academy Educator Conference page. If you register before July 31st, you pay $199 instead of $399 at the event. Believe me when I say that this will be the best $199 you will spend.

I would LOVE to see you there!


We Knew It Was Coming: Security+ SY0-401 (Part 3 of 3)

May 7, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints | 1 Comment
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In my first post, I covered the overall changes from SY0-301 to SY0-401. I described how the exam is moving from “tell” to “show and tell,” with more emphasis on applying your knowledge to scenarios than simply answering fact-based questions.

In my second post, I went into detailed changes in the first three domains. This post will wrap up the topic-level changes that will affect those who previously studied for the SY0-301, as well as those who are approaching the Security+ exam for the first time. I’ll also cover the alphabet soup of new acronyms added to the list of “terms you should be familiar with.” Hang on to your hats!

Domain 4: Application, Data and Host Security Changes

Domain 4.1 is “Explain the importance of application security controls and techniques.” There are two new topics for this domain: NoSQL databases vs. SQL databases, and Server-side vs. Client-side validation.

In SY0-301, mobile devices were covered as a subdomain of Domain 4.2, “Carry out appropriate procedures to establish host security.” The 2014 test makes mobile devices the sole topic of Domain 4.2, which is now called “Summarize mobile security concepts and technologies.” This domain covers these topics, all of which are new to the Security+ exam (with the exception of GPS):

  • Device security
    • Full device encryption
    • Remote wiping
    • Lockout
    • Screen-locks
    • GPS (included in 4.2 in SY0-301)
    • Application control
    • Storage segmentation
    • Asset tracking
    • Inventory control
    • Mobile device management
    • Device access control
    • Removable storage
    • Disabling unused features
  • Application security
    • Key management
    • Credential management
    • Authentication
    • Geo-tagging
    • Encryption
    • Application whitelisting
    • Transitive trust/authentication
  • BYOD concerns
    • Data ownership
    • Support ownership
    • Patch management
    • Antivirus management
    • Forensics
    • Privacy
    • On-boarding/off-boarding
    • Adherence to corporate policies
    • User acceptance
    • Architecture/infrastructure considerations
    • Legal concerns
    • Acceptable use policy
    • On-board camera/video

The non-mobile device topics from the old Domain 4.2 are now in the new Domain 4.3, which states “Given a scenario, select the appropriate solution to establish host security.” There are a few new topics in this domain: OS hardening, white listing vs. black listing applications, trusted OS, host-based intrusion detection, and virtualization subtopics (including snapshots, patch compatibility, host availability/elasticity, security control testing, and sandboxing).

Domain 4.4 now states “Implement the appropriate controls to ensure data security” where this SY0-301 domain (which was 4.3) merely asked you to explain concepts in data security importance. The new topics in this domain are cloud storage, SAN, Handling Big Data, data in-transit/data at-rest/data in-use, permissions/ACL, and data policies (including wiping, disposing, retention, and storage).

Domain 4.5 is another new domain, called “Compare and contrast alternative methods to mitigate security risks in static environments” (aka “Did someone hack your refrigerator?”). The topics are divided into Environments and Methods, with the following subtopics:

  • Environments
    • SCADA
    • Embedded (Printer, Smart TV, HVAC control)
    • Android and iOS
    • Mainframe
    • Game consoles
    • In-vehicle computing systems
  • Methods
    • Network segmentation
    • Security layers
    • Application firewalls
    • Manual updates
    • Firmware version control
    • Wrappers
    • Control redundancy and diversity
 Domain 5: Access Control and Identity Management Changes

Domain 5.1 now states “Compare and contrast the function and purpose of authentication services” where the SY0-301 domain was about explaining this information. There are only two new topics here: SAML and Secure LDAP.

Domain 5.2 now states “Given a scenario, select the appropriate authentication, authorization or access control,” where the SY0-301 domain asked you to simply explain these concepts. Many of the topics have changed their wording, but are essentially the same concept. The only new topics in this category are authentication (TOTP, HOTP, CHAP, PAP), federation, and transitive trust/authentication.

Domain 5.3 now states “Install and configure security controls when performing account management, based on best practices.” The new topics included in this domain are as follows:

  • Account policy enforcement (credential management; Group policy; password history, reuse, and length; and generic account prohibition)
  • User access reviews
  • Continuous monitoring
Domain 6: Cryptography Changes

Domain 6.1 now states “Given a scenario, utilize general cryptography concepts” where the SY0-301 domain asked you to summarize these concepts, so this is another domain that will now involved scenario-based questions. This domain has four new topics: session keys, in-band vs. out-of-band key exchange, ephemeral key, and perfect forward secrecy.

Domain 6.2 now states “Given a scenario, use appropriate cryptographic methods,” where this SY0-301 domain did NOT mention scenarios. The new topics for this domain are Diffie-Hellman, DHE, ECDHE, cipher suites (specifically strong vs. weak ciphers), and key stretching (PBKDF2, Bcrypt).

Domain 6.3 now states “Given a scenario, use appropriate PKI, certificate management and associated components” and is the result of combining Domains 6.3 and 6.4 from SY0-301 and adding the scenario stipulation. This domain has added topic coverage for certificate authorities and digital certificates, including OCSP and CSR.

Alphabet Soup: Acronyms to Know and Love

The Security+ exam objectives also include a list of acronyms. While I don’t advocate trying to memorize the entire list, it’s good to skim it and read up on terms you’re not familiar with. You may know that concept in practice, but not by the specific name it’s called on the Security+ exam. Or it may be a concept so familiar that it never occurred to you to make an acronym of it (such as TOTP – Top of the Page ).

There are seventy new acronyms on the list (and only one removed – they no longer ask you to remember BOTS as Network Robots). I repeat, don’t panic: many of the new additions to the acronym list were already included as subtopics or topics on SY0-301. Also, the majority of these terms are familiar to anyone who does any kind of work in computers.

The completely new concepts are:

API – Application Programming Interface
ASP – Application Service Provider
BAC – Business Availability Center
BIA- Business Impact Analysis
BPA – Business Partners Agreement
BYOD – Bring Your Own Device
CAPTCHA- Completely Automated Public Turning Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart
CIO– Chief Information Officer
COOP – Continuity of Operation Planning
CP – Contingency Planning (included as “IT contingency planning” in Domain 2.5 in SY0-301)
CSR – Control Status Register
CSU – Channel Service Unit
CTO- Chief Technology Officer
DHE – Data-Handling Electronics
DNAT – Destination Network Address Transaction
DSL – Digital Subscriber line
DSU – Data Service Unit
ECDHE – Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange
ESN- Electronic Serial Number
GPO – Group Policy Object
HOTP – HMAC based One Time Password
HTML – HyperText Markup Language
IRP – Incident Response Procedure
ISA – Interconnection Security Agreement
ISSO- Information Systems Security Officer
ITCP – IT Contingency Plan (included as “IT contingency planning” in Domain 2.5 in SY0-301)
LAN – Local Area Network (was LANMAN, Local Area Network Manager, in SY0-301)
MaaS- Monitoring as a Service
MOU – Memorandum of Understanding
MPLS – Multi-Protocol Layer Switch
MTBF – Mean Time Between Failures (a topic in 2.7 in SY0-301)
MTTR – Mean Time to Recover (a topic in 2.7 in SY0-301)
MTTF – Mean Time to Failure (a topic in 2.7 in SY0-301)
NDA – Non-Disclosure Agreement
OCSP – Online Certificate Status Protocol
OLA – Open License Agreement
P2P – Peer to Peer
PAM – Pluggable Authentication Modules
PBKDF2 – Password Based Key Derivation Function 2
PCAP – Packet Capture
PIV – Personal Identity Verification
ROI – Return of Investment
RPO – Recovery Point Objective
SAML – Security Assertions Markup Language
SAN – Storage Area Network
SCADA – System Control and Data Acquisition
SCEP- Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol
SEH – Structured Exception Handler
SIEM – Security Information and Event Management
SOAP – Simple Object Access Point
SQL – Structured Query Language
SSD – Solid State Drive
TOTP – Top of the Page
TSIG – Transaction Signature
UEFI – Unified Extensible Firmware Interface
UDP- User Datagram Protocol
URI- Uniform Resource Identifier
UTM- Unified Threat Management
VDI – Virtualization Desktop Infrastructure
WPS – WiFi Protected Setup
WTLS – Wireless TLS
XML – Extensible Markup Language

That’s all, folks!

We have released our SY0-401 practice test, a feat we are especially proud of because we are the first product to market. Please visit the product page for more information!

Well, that’s all I have to say for now. I am sure that you will be hearing from me soon! -Robin

We Knew It Was Coming: Security+ SY0-401 (Part 2 of 3)

May 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | 1 Comment
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In my previous post, I covered the overall changes from SY0-301 to SY0-401. I described how the exam is moving from “tell” to “show and tell,” with more emphasis on applying your knowledge to scenarios than simply answering fact-based questions.

In this post I’ll delve into the first three domains and draw out the topic-level changes that may affect your study plan, especially if approaching your three-year renewal in Security+.

(In my final post, I’ll cover domains 4 through 6 and the list of acronyms.)

Domain 1: Network Security Changes

Domain 1.1 now states “Implement security configuration parameters on network devices and other technologies,” where this SY0-301 domain only asked you to explain each security function and its purpose. In addition, all-in-one security appliances are now referred to as UTM security appliances. These are now listed as including URL filters, content inspection, and malware inspection.

Domain 1.2 now states “Given a scenario, use secure network administration principles” where this SY0-301 domain focused on applying and implementing these principles. This particular change means that all questions now written for this domain will include scenarios.

Domain 1.3 now states “Explain network design elements and components” where they SY0-301 domain was only about distinguishing and differentiating between these components. The Cloud computing topic within this domain now has four new subtopics: Private, Public, Hybrid, and Community.

Domain 1.4 now states “Given a scenario, implement common protocols and services” where this SY0-301 domain was only about implementing common protocols. This particular change means that all questions now written for this domain will include scenarios. New protocols added to this domain include: iSCSI, Fibre Channel, FCoE, FTP, SFTP, TFTP, TELNET, HTTP, and NetBIOS. (Most of these were listed in Domain 1.5 in SY0-301 and were moved to this domain.) Also, this domain now includes a listing of port numbers that you should definitely know: 21, 22, 25, 53, 80, 110, 139, 143, 443, and 3389.

Domain 1.5 now states “Given a scenario, troubleshoot security issues related to wireless networking” where this SY0-301 domain was actually domain 1.6, where it read “Implement wireless network in a secure manner.” Once again, this domain change means that all questions now written for this domain will include scenarios. In addition, there are four new topics for this domain:

All of the new topics added to this domain are:

  • Application-aware devices (1.1)
  • Unified threat management (1.2)
  • Layered security / Defense in depth (1.3)
  • OSI relevance (1.4)
  • Captive portals (1.5)
  • Antenna types (1.5)
  • Site surveys (1.5)
  • VPN (over open wireless)  (1.5)
Domain 2: Compliance and Operational Security Changes

There were so many new topics added in this domain that I have chosen to list them in the domain description (to prevent slow death by bulleted list).

Domain 2.1 now states “Explain the importance of risk-related concepts” instead of just defining the concepts, as in SY0-301. The topics that have been added to this domain are: False negatives, SLE, ARO, MTTR, MTTF, MTBF, Vulnerabilities, Threat vectors, Probability / threat likelihood, Recovery time objective, and recovery point objective.

Domain 2.2 is a new objective: “Summarize the security implications of integrating systems and data with third parties.” The topics included in this domain are as follows:

  • On-boarding/off-boarding business partners
  • Social media networks and/or applications
  • Interoperability agreements
  • SLA
  • BPA
  • MOU
  • ISA
  • Privacy considerations
  • Risk awareness
  • Unauthorized data sharing
  • Data ownership
  • Data backups
  • Follow security policy and procedures
  • Review agreement requirements to verify compliance and performance standards

Domain 2.3 now states “Given a scenario, implement appropriate risk mitigation strategies” instead of just carrying out these strategies as in SY0-301. One new topic was added to this domain: Enforce technology controls, including Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

Domain 2.4 is technically a new domain, but it was actually listed as a topic under Domain 2.4 in SY0-301. It states “Given a scenario, implement basic forensic procedures.” This is another domain that will include only scenario-based questions. Only one new topic is listed here: Big data analysis.

Domain 2.5 now states “Summarize common incident response procedures” where this SY0-301 domain was about executing the appropriate incident response procedures. All but one of this topics in this domain are new:

  • Preparation
  • Incident identification
  • Escalation and notification
  • Mitigation steps
  • Lessons learned
  • Reporting
  • Recovery/reconstitution procedures
  • First responder
  • Incident isolation
  • Quarantine
  • Device removal
  • Data breach

Domain 2.6 is the same as Domain 2.4 in SY0-301. Topics that were added to this domain include: Role-based training, Information classification levels (High, Medium, Low, Confidential, Private, and Public), and Follow up and gather training metrics to validate compliance and security posture.

Domain 2.7 states “Compare and contrast physical security and environmental controls” and pulls some topics from SY0-301 Domain 2.6 Explain the impact and proper use of environmental controls. New topics to this domain include the following:

  • Physical security
    • Hardware locks
    • Mantraps
    • Video Surveillance
    • Fencing
    • Proximity readers
    • Access list
    • Proper lighting
    • Signs
    • Guards
    • Barricades
    • Biometrics
    • Protected distribution (cabling)
    • Alarms
    • Motion detection
  • Control types
    • Deterrent
    • Preventive
    • Detective
    • Compensating
    • Technical
    • Administrative

Domain 2.8 is completely new and states “Summarize risk management best practices.” However, most of the topics in it are repeated from SY0-301 Domains 2.5 and 2.7. The NEW topics in this domain are as follows:

  • Risk assessment
  • IT contingency planning
  • High availability
  • Redundancy
  • Tabletop exercises

Domain 2.9 is completely new, and states “Given a scenario, select the appropriate control to meet the goals of security.” This domain, like many others, will only include scenario-based questions. The topics covered in this domain are as follows:

  • Confidentiality
    • Encryption
    • Access controls
    • Steganography
  • Integrity
    • Hashing
    • Digital signatures
    • Certificates
    • Non-repudiation
  • Availability
    • Redundancy
    • Fault tolerance
    • Patching
  • Safety
    • Fencing
    • Lighting
    • Locks
    • CCTV
    • Escape plans
    • Drills
    • Escape routes
    • Testing controls
Domain 3: Threats and Vulnerabilities Changes

Domain 3.1 now states “Explain types of malware” where this SY0-301 domain asked you to analyze and differentiate malware. The new topics here are ransomware, polymorphic malware, and armored viruses.

Domain 3.2 now states “Summarize various types of attacks” where this SY0-301 domain was about analyzing and differentiating the attacks. Three new attack types were added to this domain: Password attacks (Brute force, Dictionary attacks, Hybrid, Birthday attacks, and Rainbow tables),  typo squatting/URL hijacking, and watering hole attacks.

Domain 3.3 now states “Summarize social engineering attacks and the associated effectiveness with each attack” where this SY0-301 domain was about analyzing and differentiating these attacks. One new topic, Principles (reasons for effectiveness), was added with several subtopics: Authority, Intimidation, Consensus/Social proof, Scarcity, Urgency, Familiarity/liking, and Trust.

Domain 3.4 now states “Explain types of wireless attacks” where this SY0-301 domain was about analyzing and differentiating the attacks. Four new topics have been added to this domain: Near field communication, Replay attacks, WEP/WPA attacks, and WPS attacks.

Domain 3.5 now states “Explain types of application attacks” where this SY0-301 domain was about analyzing and differentiating the attacks. Four new topics have been added to this domain: Integer overflow, LSO (Locally Shared Objects), Flash Cookies, and Arbitrary code execution / remote code execution.

Domain 3.6 now states “Analyze a scenario and select the appropriate type of mitigation and deterrent techniques.” The major change to this domain is that is uses the word scenario, which implies that all questions on this topic will now be scenarios. There are no new topics in this domain.

Domain 3.7 now states “Given a scenario, use appropriate tools and techniques to discover security threats and vulnerabilities” where this Sy0-301 domain was about implementing these tools. Once again, scenarios are specifically mentioned as being the question type for this domain.  Two new tools are listed in this domain: Passive vs. active tools and Banner grabbing.

Domain 3.8 now states “Explain the proper use of penetration testing versus vulnerability scanning.” Three vulnerability scanning topics have been added to this domain: Intrusive vs. non-intrusive, Credentialed vs. non-credentialed, and False positive.

Stay tuned next week, when I’ll finish out my summary of changes in Domains 4, 5, and 6!

Until next time!


We Knew It Was Coming: Security+ SY0-401 (Part 1 of 3)

April 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | 1 Comment
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Has it been three years already? It seems like just last week I was talking about SY0-301, and now here I am trying to catch my breath after pushing the 2014 Security+ exam, SY0-401, over the finish line and into our practice test lineup. (But really, I am just glad to finally get to write about something other than project management.) As usual, the new Security+ exam will include many of the same topics as the previous version. In this post I’ll focus on the overall differences between SY0-301 and SY0-401. In the next two posts (get excited!) I’ll take a closer look at changes within the examination blueprint, which can be downloaded here  from CompTIA. (Note: the download requires you to provide personal information.)

Topics and weightings

At first glance, it may seem that very little has changed. The six domains are the same apart from some shifts in weighting (the percentage of the test devoted to that topic):

1.0 Network Security 20% (21% in SY0-301) 2.0 Compliance and Operational Security 18% (no change) 3.0 Threats and Vulnerabilities 20% (21% in SY0-301) 4.0 Application, Data and Host Security 15% (16% in SY0-301) 5.0 Access Control and Identity Management 15% (13% in SY0-301) 6.0 Cryptography 12% (11% in SY0-301)

As you can see from these numbers, this new distribution will probably only mean one or two questions more for Domains 5 and 6. But it’s more important to note that within each domain, there are many topic-level changes that will affect your study plan. Within these domains CompTIA has added several new topics which were not tested in 301. These new topics include application-aware devices, unified threat management, defense-in-depth, OS hardening, white-listing versus black-listing, and many others that I’ll cover in the next two posts. There are three new sub-domains distributed among Domains 2 and 4. These new sub-domains add topic coverage on mobile security, mitigating security risks in a static environment, and implementing basic forensic procedures. That last sub-domain leads neatly into my next topic: you can expect increased difficulty and more applied concept questions on the new Security+ exam, in comparison to the older style of asking straight knowledge-based questions.

Stop, Drop, & Scenario!

While many of the sub-domains cover the same list of topics, CompTIA has changed many of the keywords from “understand” and “explain” to “implement” and “troubleshoot.” Several also show the addition of one important phrase: “given a scenario.” Because this phrasing was added to so many domains, I feel I should take a little time to explain the distinction. As many of you know, the Security+ exam has been considered a mostly knowledge-based exam that includes mostly knowledge-based questions. Scenario questions are the next logical step up from knowledge-based questions. They expect you to take those tidbits of knowledge that you have memorized, remember them, and then apply them in the scenario to come up with the correct answer. Let me give you an example. First, look at a sample knowledge-based question from our practice test:

Which of the following is a default port used by FTP? a. 20 b. 53 c. 80 d. 443

Now look at another example, which turns this same question into a scenario:

Your company has recently implemented a new firewall. Users start complaining that they are unable to access resources on your company’s FTP server. What should you do? a. Open ports 20 and 21 on the new firewall. b. Open port 53 on the new firewall. c. Open port 80 on the new firewall. d. Open port 443 on the FTP server.

As you can see from my examples, you still need the same basic knowledge to answer both of these questions. So REALLY, answering these two questions is the same level of difficulty, but by adding the scenario you are ensuring that the student understands how the knowledge applies in a real-world situation. Instead of remembering which port belongs with FTP, the student also has to identify the location where the ports should be configured. I could also increase the difficulty of the scenario question by including more invalid options. We have released our SY0-401 practice test, a feat we are especially proud of because we are the first product to market. Please visit the product page for more information!

The next post will dive into the topic-level changes in Network Security (Domain 1), Compliance and Operational Security (Domain 2), and Threats and Vulnerabilities (Domain 3).

I’ll cover the other three domains in the final post in this series.

Until next time! –Robin

Join us: FREE CompTIA webinar starring Robin Abernathy

January 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Conferences, Kaplan IT Training news, Performance-Based Testing | Leave a comment
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Our very own Robin Abernathy will be talking all about performance-based testing, CEUs, and security certifications on Thursday, January 30th at 4pm ET in a webinar hosted by CompTIA. This event is the first of what will be a Professional Development series of webinars hosted by CompTIA and starring some of our favorite industry experts.

Register here to join in the fun! Note that although the description says ‘For Academy Partners,’ this webinar is open to anyone who creates a login ID.

To see the lineup of upcoming events, or to meet some of these experts in person at the next CompTIA Academy Educator Conference this August in Phoenix, AZ, visit:  CompTIA Events

Interested in Learning More about the new 800-series A+? Watch our Webinar video!

May 13, 2013 at 7:47 am | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment
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So a few months ago…after much arm twisting…I had the “opportunity” to host an A+ Webinar. (The term opportunity is in quotes because anyone who knows me knows that I get very nervous when speaking to a group, whether live or virtual, and I hate my recorded voice.) Well, the Webinar went off without a hitch…That is, unless you consider my very southern accent as a “hitch.”

The video of that Webinar is available now.  So if you’ll pardon my southern accent, agree NOT to count the number of times I say UMMM, and ignore the long pauses, here’s your chance to learn more about the new 800-series A+ exams:


Hope you enjoy it!


CompTIA offers tips on passing their performance-based questions

May 1, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Performance-Based Testing, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Our in-house CompTIA product developer, Robin Abernathy, was among the experts interviewed in a recent article published on CompTIA’s IT Careers Blog.

The article, How to Prepare for Performance-Based Questions, brought together a variety of tips and opinions from experts across various training and IT industries. Having all taken exams with performance-based test items, we can attest that they present a solid challenge to the test-taker and eliminate some of the rote memorization.

Robin also summarized a lot of excellent information in our previous blog posts:

CompTIA’s CASP exam now approved for DoD 8570.01-M

March 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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CompTIA recently announced that the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification has been accredited by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Information Assurance Workforce Improvement Program 8570.01-M.

The CASP certification is intended for IT professionals with at least 10 years of experience, of which 5 years should be hands-on security work. Like other D0D-accepted certifications from CompTIA (A+, Security+, and Network+), it must be renewed every three years or maintained through CompTIA’s Continuing Education program.

Transcender’s CASP practice exam includes 160 practice test questions and 238 flash cards, including several interactive items that help prepare the customers for the live exam experience.

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