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Next In Cybersecurity Certifications

Cybersecurity certifications from organizations provide important benchmarks that are often a requirement for government jobs.

Cybersecurity certifications from organizations such as CompTIA, (ISC) 2, SANS Institute, CyberSecurity Institute, ISACA, Cisco, and the federal government provide important benchmarks that are often a requirement for government jobs. Still, they can also be overused and misunderstood.

"People think it means you're expert in everything, but we don't sell it that way," says Hord Tipton, executive director of (ISC)2, which manages the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification.

A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies warns that cybersecurity certifications create "a false sense of security" and are used too often to demonstrate "expertise in documenting compliance" rather than real skills.

Some certification programs overemphasize how to do well on multiple-choice tests. "Some people are really good at taking an exam, but that's only one piece of it," says Vernon Ross, director of talent and organizational capability for IT with Lockheed Martin.

The CSIS report argues that mandated certification and licensing requirements aren't enough and recommends another approach: creation of an independent board of cybersecurity examiners akin to the National Board of Medical examiners.

Several of the CSIS report authors have created such an organization, the nonprofit National Board of Information Security Examiners, led by Mike Assante, former cybersecurity executive at Idaho National Labs and North American Electric Reliability Corp. However, some observers warn of a potential conflict of interest, given the CSIS tie.

Assante (who isn't one of the report authors) says the newly formed board doesn't aim to compete with existing certifications, but to employ more advanced "performance-based" testing than is used elsewhere. That might include hands-on tests and simulated environments.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.