In interesting set of reference material, that is regularly coming back in data protection, cybersecurity and information security discussions I lately had with peers and colleagues. May you can use it too…
Feel free to provide some feedback yourself, if you know additional pointers I should add.
You know where to find me.
2022-04-27 14:00: Added EDPB announcement to references section
“ SOC reports refer to an audit of internal controls to ensure data security, minimal waste, and shareholder confidence; SOX relates to government-issued record keeping and financial information disclosure standards law. In other words, one is about keeping information safe, and the other is about keeping corporations in check.“
The main title of the (ISC)² article on CCSP vs CCAK is “CCSP Certification vs. CCAK Certificate: What Are the Distinctions?”
That’s exactly what you get. A list of technical differentiators between CCSP and CCAK, but according to (ISC)².
But if you hope to get an actual answer to what the right certification is, for you… they forget to ask …you.
What do you think would be the conclusion, if you ask that question to either one of the contestants while you compare 2 certifications? Of course each party will simply draw the conclusion that their own certification is the best choice.
To answer the most important question, the dilemma CCSP or CCAK, is simple: do you need technical or audit skills for cloud security?
In essence, the answer is simple:
if you need cloud audit skills, dive in to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and ISACA Certificate CCAK.
if you want to have architect level technical cloud expertise and knowledge, choose CCSP
if you want cloud security knowledge, in basic or advanced hands-on, there are other choices to start with (more about it below)
So, if you ask the question “what is the right certification for you”, you immediately know that there is no right answer, but there are many options. Options for a multi level expertise roadmap in cloud security, based on your current skills and your future goals.
If you like a tough challenge: why not jump into the CCAK or CCSP, CCSP or CCAK, whatever, right away.
But if you would like to boost your chance of success… take a deep breath and better plan smartly.
And don’t start with CCSP/CCAK, but prepare your track towards CCSP/CCAK first.
First some background to plan your roadmap
Just to set expectations, this article only focuses on the personal education and certification options, offered by (ISC)², ISACA and CSA. Including other education provider would lead us too far. There are way more other (cyber)security certifications available, but we focus on the cloud security track, which limits the options…
Feel free to comment with other options for cloud security training. I’ll update the article where relevant.
The Cloud Security Alliance launched the CCSK in 2011. And as they explained here, “the CCSK was quite literally the industry’s first examination of cloud security knowledge when it was released back in 2011. “
The CCSK is an easy entry, high level introduction to Cloud Security, and it doesn’t require you to have deep technical cloud security expertise.
But it still is a nice baseline for the cloud security essential knowledge.
You need at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience
CCSP is pretty much the same level of difficulty as CISSP, but has focus on cloud security.
The CCSP was launched in 2015, as a cooperation between (ISC)² and CSA. (see CSA press release here), a couple years after the CCSK launch in 2011. The CCSP is the bigger brother of the CCSK, more advanced, and as CSA rightfully mentions in there CCSK-CCSP comparison blog, the CCSP is on the level of CISSP with a major cloud flavor.
That’s where the dummy math description comes from…
As ISACA mentions on their product page: “The Industry’s First Global Cloud Auditing Credential”.
For completeness, I mentioned the CISSP ( Certified Information Systems Security Professional). I don’t think it needs a lot of explanation, it’s pretty much the reference standard for IT Systems security. (ISC)² references it as “The World’s Premier Cybersecurity Certification”.
It’s a pretty heavy exam, and it does require at least 5 years professional security experience. This is not an entry level exam.
You can buy a double-try access ticket for the CCSK online exam (60 questions, 90 minutes), so if you would fail the first attempt, study again and retry the exam.
Then plan your track: only technical (no interest for audit) or audit, or both
If you focus on technical expertise in cloud security, CCSP is a reference standard (at least, on of them…) .
As mentioned: CCSP = CISSP + CCSK.
So the track is clear
After passing the CCSK exam,
Take the CISSP exam
then take the CCSP
This is the easier route if you already have 5yr+ experience. It’s not the cheapest route, as you pass the CISSP first, but it’s worth the effort. (you only need to pay 1 yearly fee at (ISC)², so after 1 certification, … no extra cost in yearly membership fee) For junior, less experienced, security engineers, start with SSCP before jumping into CISSP, and then CCSP.
When you target IT security audits, you need to take a different route depending your background. Having the CCSP/CISSP background is extremely useful to boost your career in audit.
But for the CCAK, the core audit baseline is CISA.
Keep in mind, similar to CISSP and CCSP, CISA has the same requirements regards professional experience, 5 years.
But if you’re a ISACA CISA, you can add CCSK to the track and land on the CCAK.
Then it’s obvious, first tech, then audit, meaning a smart combination of
(SSCP > ) CISSP
CISA (or alternative)
ISO27001 Implementer & Auditor
And alternative route to the auditing experience is ISO27001 auditing, but you’ll need some implementation experience before you can audit.
Within the ISACA portfolio, the CISM (Certified Information Security Manager), covers the same areas as most ISO27001 (lead) implementer courses.
Which can be helpful to ramp up for the CISA audit part, to gain some hands-on in IT & Infosec governance.
Visualizing your cloud security education roadmap
Lots of blah for a simple choice?
Allow me to visualize the options…
The difference between “certification” and “certificate”, does it really matter?
In it’s blog post (ISC)² tries to put CCSP above CCAK by saying “CCSP is a certification; CCAK is a certificate.”
And they continue “A certification recognizes a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, typically framed by a job role, while a certificate’s scope is narrower and only documents training course completion. A certification often requires continuing professional education (CPE) to stay in front of trends, while a certificate’s body of knowledge does not evolve over time or require CPE credits to maintain.“
And their explanation is at least flawed and cutting corners to benefit CCSP.
There are many explanations and interpretations of “certification”, depending the context. But in essence, “certification” is a process and a certificate is a document (the result).
When you certify for “CCSP” at (ISC)², you need to comply with the CCSP condition and then get a document, your CCSP certificate. Idem for CCAK, you need to comply with their conditions.
Both the certification process for CCSP as the process for the CCAK are used by other similar education providers.
Eg, PECB, ISACA, EC-COUNCIL, … and others require to pay a yearly fee, keep CPE/CPD (continous professional education or development). Some yearly fees are cheaper as others.
Like CSA, Microsoft and others ask for a 1 time exam fee, and then update the exam on longer term, not yearly, and do not require a yearly maintenance fee.
It’s a choice of the certificate owner, how the evaluation and exams are done.
Some of them comply to the ISO17024, and education standard. There are huge benefits to comply (like increased credibility, compatibility with other certifications, …). But it’s not mandatory.
(ISC)² uses an exam, with experience requirement and continuous education once you pass the exam, but you do not need to pass the exam again, unless it’s upgraded to a new build or major version.
But CSA does exactly the same, for example when CCSK was upgraded from v3 to v4, you needed to pass the exam again.
Not on a yearly basis, but the program is updated, the exam is updated… on a regular basis, without yearly fee.
It’s rather a (small) financial effort, not of significance for most companies paying the bill. (Although as an individual, the cost of certification can become a serious burden…)
And it’s certainly not relevant when choosing between CCSP and CCAK. CCAK is cheaper, as referenced in the (ISC)² comparison chart.
(ISC)²: CCSP Certification vs. CCAK Certificate: What Are the Distinctions?
End 2020 IDG published a study on Security priorities, and it provides important guidelines to the priorities of securing yourself and your company
Protection of confidential and sensitive data
Enhance access control
Understand external threats
Plan for unexpected risks
This pretty much confirms that your customers, stakeholder’s and staff interest in protecting personal data is driving security from business perspective.
If you see the increase of cyberattacks and ransomware hitting the business, it’s pretty obvious that Business Continuity Management and Disaster recovery must be on top of your priority list. You need to have a tested plan against successful cyberattacks and ransomware, to avoid extended business damage and massive (ransom) costs … afterwards.
To put a plan together, you need to understand who is your adversary and what the current state of cybersecurity is. And this study is a simple but smart guide to define your priorities.
The better you prepare, the less it will cost. But you’ll only be able to tell when it goes wrong.
The grading results in a score from A (top), (B) good, (C) average .. to (F) big fail lowest score …
So, it’s a very handy and free tool to check your website for issues.
Why are these websites not blocked by other tools or browsers?
First of all, check if you have an anti-virus or antimalware tool that checks the URL.
Because other browsers, apps or URL filters will not always check for the CRL (the certificate revocation list, containing certificates that are no longer valid…).
Or the CRL is not updated or and old CRL is cached. The ESET KB article mentioned, explains how to clear the CRL cache on your system.
Other interesting tools
The website (or mail) certificate is just one of the security indicators … If you want to check the reputation of your URL, domain, website, mail system, DNS, … there are some more interesting tools you should have at hand, like https://mxtoolbox.com/NetworkTools.aspx.
Quite a while ago I posted an article on web and mail reputation, there is some more interesting free tools you can use to check the domain reputation.
The CIS (Center for Information Security) Controls list is a very well known list of security measures to protect your environment against cyberattacks. The Center for Information Security provides a handy XLS sheet for download to assist in your exercise.
Security note for the security freaks, apparently the document is hosted on the pardot(dot)com Salesforce website, which might be blocked by Adlist domain blockers as it’s used for marketing campaigns, you might need to unblock it, or use Tor browser…)
FYI, the previous version (2019, v1) of the mapping had quite some gaps. Therefor I’ve submitted a suggestion for an updated CIS-ISO27001 mapping. And after review, a new version (1.1) with updates has been published on the CIS workbench.
You’ll notice that the update (1.1) version has still some gaps. And I’ll leave to the discretion of the CIS review work group to argument these gaps.
But I’m convinced you can map the CIS controls for 100% to ISO27001, in one way or another, meaning use ALL ISO27001 controls in certain extent (sometimes a subset, equally or a superset of it, combining controls.)
But the license for use of the CIS controls mapping does not allow redistribution of modified materials…
To further clarify the Creative Commons license related to the CIS ControlsTM content, you are authorized to copy and redistribute the content as a framework for use by you, within your organization and outside of your organization for non-commercial purposes only, provided that (i) appropriate credit is given to CIS, and (ii) a link to the license is provided. Additionally, if you remix, transform or build upon the CIS Controls, you may not distribute the modified materials. Users of the CIS Controls framework are also required to refer to (http://www.cisecurity.org/controls/) when referring to the CIS Controls in order to ensure that users are employing the most up-to-date guidance. Commercial use of the CIS Controls is subject to the prior approval of CIS® (Center for Internet Security, Inc.).”
So I CANNOT distribute the XLS as modified material (Why not?).
Extending the mapping
If you still want to build an extended version of the mapping on your own, you download the 1.1 version and add these items to the list:
Planning for ISO Certification using CIS Controls?
When you look at it from a different angle and you would like to build a plan to certify your ISO27001 implementation, we need to turn around the mapping, and look for the gaps in the ISO27001 security controls AND CLAUSES, when doing the CIS control mapping.
And then you’ll notice the explicit difference in approach between CIS controls and ISO27001 controls. CIS controls are focusing on technical implementation to harden your cybersecurity, while ISO27001 is a management system that needs these controls, but requires a management layer to support these technical controls. CIS controls are lacking this management layer. If you compare both systems in a table the story gets clear:
The “red” areas require extra work to make it ISO27001 compliant.
And as always, if you have suggestions of feedback to improve this article, let me know, I’ll fix it on the fly.