As part of its Cybersecurity Week 2022, CRN recently listed the top 10 cybersecurity certifications, and two GIAC certifications made the list: GIAC Cloud Security Essentials (GCLD) and GIAC Cloud Penetration Tester (GCPN).
"Before I was GIAC certified, when I would interview for a role, I would get grilled over so many foundational topics as they tried to see how to stump me. I feel now that I am certified that the whole ‘Trust Me, I'm Certified’ actually does exist and I was able to land my dream role thanks to the skills and knowledge I've learned via taking SANS courses and passing GIAC exams."
Nate Gonzalez, GSEC, GCIH
Certifying to Stay Current
Both GIAC certifications that CRN named have to do with cloud environments, which is not overly surprising, seeing as how cloud infrastructure has been exploding in use over the past decade. Organizations need skilled personnel capable of defending these cloud systems. Additionally, the fact that the GIAC Cloud Penetration Tester (GCPN) certification made the list points to organizations making a move toward more proactive approaches to security. Not only do organizations need practitioners to defend their cloud systems, but they increasingly need infosec professionals capable of offensive security tactics, identifying vulnerabilities proactively so that they can be resolved prior to a security incident or breach taking place.
GIAC Director of Technology Jeff Pike told CRN that the GCLD certification is the “gateway” to more advanced security training. It covers the essentials of cloud security from a vendor-
neutral perspective, while touching on the three major cloud platforms – Azure, AWS, GCP. Just because it is an “essentials” certification does not mean you should think of it as a simple one to attain. “It’s not easy,” Pike said. “It’s broad (in scope), but it definitely gets into the details.”
The GCPN certification, writes CRN, is all about security tactics in the cloud like “testing customers’ security measures in a form of ‘red teaming’ and other methods”. The GCPN certification validates a practitioner’s ability to conduct cloud-focused penetration testing and assess the security of systems, networks, architecture, and cloud technologies.
"I don't get certs to impress anyone else. I do it for me. I'll get out of my defender comfort zone and conquer that fear of 'What if I'm not good enough?'"
Danny Akacki, GPEN
Proving You’re a Hacker with a Heart of Gold
While attaining cybersecurity certifications is a worthy endeavor for practitioners across all areas of focus and specialties, offensive operations areas of practice like penetration testing offers a golden example that makes it easy to see the value clearly.
“Penetration testing is a lot like hacking,” writes Mae Rice for Built In. “Both involve scanning devices, software, and wireless networks for tiny security vulnerabilities. The only difference is the underlying intentions: penetration testers work for tech companies, reporting any cybersecurity issues so they can get patched. Hackers intend to hack, and penetration testers intend to help.”
Because the line between hackers and penetration testers can often be blurry, certifications can be key to demonstrating practical ability and overcoming trust issues from potential employers.
"The most valuable thing to me about being GIAC certified is that fellow infosec professionals recognize that the knowledge associated with the cert is there. GIAC certs and exams aren't exercises in rote memorization."
Top Penetration Testing Certs
Built In identified the top 12 penetration testing certifications, and we’re proud to say that seven of those 12 are GIAC Certifications—ranging from general to hyper-specialized. Those certifications are:
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) – This certification exam covers penetration testing fundamentals as well as security strategies. It requires you to understand how denial-of-service and client attacks work, popular attack modes, and specific tools and techniques used to execute them.
- GIAC Enterprise Vulnerability Assessor (GEVA) – Enterprise IT systems have a size, scale, and activity level that require specific and unique assessment methods. This certification exam focuses on methods such as network scanning and PowerShell scripting, as well as vulnerability assessment frameworks for such environments.
- GIAC Assessing and Auditing Wireless Networks (GAWN) – Achieving this certification means that you are capable of exploiting even slight gaps in wireless network security with attacks like fuzzing, Bluetooth, and high-frequency RFID.
- GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst (GMOB) – This penetration testing certification is focused on the ever-evolving mobile device field and requires exam takers to understand how hackers unlock and root mobile devices on the variety of different operating systems that exist. To achieve this certification, you’ll also need to know how to protect data on stolen and malware-infected devices.
- GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT) – Attacks geared toward responsive web apps often include cross-site request forgery, client injections, and authentication attacks. Testers need to know not only about these possible attacks but also the related penetration testing techniques.
- GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN) – Emphasizing process, this certification focuses on general penetration testing expertise and covers three key stages of an exploit: reconnaissance, attack, and escalation. Specific attack styles covered on the exam include password attacks and web application injection attacks.
- GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN) – Advanced penetration testing techniques like fuzzing, shellcode scripting, and exploiting stack overflows are covered in this certification. Not only will the exam focus on network exploits and attacks on Windows and Linux systems, but it will also touch on the ability of pen testers to communicate to the business the value of what they do.
"GIAC certified individuals know how to use the same tools and techniques that attackers do, learn to think like an attacker and protect from them."
GIAC certifications are listed as preferred qualifications on thousands of job postings around the world. Not only do infosec practitioners recognize the significance of achieving our certifications, but so do hiring managers. The know that GIAC certifications are a guarantee of critical skill mastery.