The (ISC)2 CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional Official Study Guide, Eighth Edition, offers you a solid foundation for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam. By purchasing this book, you’ve shown a willingness to learn and a desire to develop the skills you need to achieve this certification. This introduction provides you with a basic overview of this book and the CISSP exam.
This book is designed for readers and students who want to study for the CISSP certification exam. If your goal is to become a certified security professional, then the CISSP certification and this study guide are for you. The purpose of this book is to adequately prepare you to take the CISSP exam.
Before you dive into this book, you need to have accomplished a few tasks on your own. You need to have a general understanding of IT and of security. You should have the necessary five years of full-time paid work experience (or four years if you have a college degree) in two or more of the eight domains covered by the CISSP exam. If you are qualified to take the CISSP exam according to (ISC)2, then you are sufficiently prepared to use this book to study for it. For more information on (ISC)2, see the next section.
(ISC)2 also allows for a one-year reduction of the five-year experience requirement if you have earned one of the approved certifications from the (ISC)2 prerequisite pathway. These include certifications such as CAP, CISM, CISA, CCNA Security, Security+, MCSA, MCSE, and many of the GIAC certifications. For a complete list of qualifying certifications, visit https://www.isc2.org/Certifications/CISSP/Prerequisite-Pathway. Note: You can use only one of the experience reduction measures, either a college degree or a certification, not both.
The CISSP exam is governed by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2. (ISC)2 is a global not-for-profit organization. It has four primary mission goals:
- Maintain the Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) for the field of information systems security.
- Provide certification for information systems security professionals and practitioners.
- Conduct certification training and administer the certification exams.
- Oversee the ongoing accreditation of qualified certification candidates through continued education.
The (ISC)2 is operated by a board of directors elected from the ranks of its certified practitioners.
(ISC)2 supports and provides a wide variety of certifications, including CISSP, SSCP, CAP, CSSLP, CCFP, HCISPP, and CCSP. These certifications are designed to verify the knowledge and skills of IT security professionals across all industries. You can obtain more information about (ISC)2 and its other certifications from its website at www.isc2.org.
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential is for security professionals responsible for designing and maintaining security infrastructure within an organization.
The CISSP certification covers material from the eight topical domains. These eight domains are as follows:
- Security and Risk Management
- Asset Security
- Security Architecture and Engineering
- Communication and Network Security
- Identity and Access Management (IAM)
- Security Assessment and Testing
- Security Operations
- Software Development Security
These eight domains provide a vendor-independent overview of a common security framework. This framework is the basis for a discussion on security practices that can be supported in all types of organizations worldwide.
The most recent revision of the topical domains will be reflected in exams starting April 15, 2018. For a complete view of the breadth of topics covered on the CISSP exam from the eight domain groupings, visit the (ISC)2 website at www.isc2.org to request a copy of the Candidate Information Bulletin. This document includes a complete exam outline as well as other relevant facts about the certification.
(ISC)2 has defined the qualification requirements you must meet to become a CISSP. First, you must be a practicing security professional with at least five years’ full-time paid work experience or with four years’ experience and a recent IT or IS degree or an approved security certification (see www.isc2.org for details). Professional experience is defined as security work performed for salary or commission within two or more of the eight CBK domains.
Second, you must agree to adhere to a formal code of ethics. The CISSP Code of Ethics is a set of guidelines the (ISC)2 wants all CISSP candidates to follow to maintain professionalism in the field of information systems security. You can find it in the Information section on the (ISC)2 website at www.isc2.org.
(ISC)2 also offers an entry program known as an Associate of (ISC)2. This program allows someone without any or enough experience to qualify as a CISSP to take the CISSP exam anyway and then obtain experience afterward. Associates are granted six years to obtain five years’ of security experience. Only after providing proof of such experience, usually by means of endorsement and a resume, can the individual be awarded CISSP certification.
Overview of the CISSP Exam
The CISSP exam focuses on security from a 30,000-foot view; it deals more with theory and concept than implementation and procedure. It is very broad but not very deep. To successfully complete this exam, you’ll need to be familiar with every domain but not necessarily be a master of each domain.
As of December 18, 2017, the CISSP exam is in an adaptive format. (ISC)2 calls the new version CISSP-CAT (Computerized Adaptive Testing). For complete details of this new version of exam presentation, please see https://www.isc2.org/certifications/CISSP/CISSP-CAT.
The CISSP-CAT exam will be a minimum of 100 questions and a maximum of 150. Not all items you are presented with count toward your score or passing status. These unscored items are called pretest questions by (ISC)2, while the scored items are called operational items. The questions are not labeled on the exam as to whether they are scored or unscored. Test candidates will receive 25 unscored items on their exam, regardless of whether they achieve a passing rank at question 100 or see all of the 150 questions.
The CISSP-CAT grants a maximum of three hours to take the exam. If you run out of time before achieving a passing rank, you will automatically fail.
The CISSP-CAT does not allow you to return to a previous question to change your answer. Your answer selection is final once you leave a question.
The CISSP-CAT does not have a published or set score to achieve. Instead, you must demonstrate the ability to answer above the (ISC)2 bar for passing, called the passing standard (which is not disclosed), within the last 75 operational items (i.e., questions).
If the computer determines that you have a less than 5 percent chance of achieving a passing standard and you have seen 75 operational items, your test will automatically end with a failure. You are not guaranteed to see any more questions than are necessary for the computer grading system to determine with 95 percent confidence your ability to achieve a passing standard or to fail to meet the passing standard.
If you do not pass the CISSP exam on your first attempt, you are allowed to retake the CISSP exam under the following conditions:
- You can take the CISSP exam a maximum of 3 times per 12-month period.
- You must wait 30 days after your first attempt before trying a second time.
- You must wait an additional 90 days after your second attempt before trying a third time.
- You must wait an additional 180 days after your third attempt before trying again or as long as needed to reach 12 months from the date of your first attempt.
You will need to pay full price for each additional exam attempt.
It is not possible to take the previous paper-based or CBT (computer based testing) flat 250 question version of the exam. CISSP is now available only in the CBT CISSP-CAT format in English.
The refreshed CISSP exam is available in English, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Korean.
Effective December 18, 2017, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam (English version only) will be available exclusively via CAT through (ISC)2-authorized Pearson VUE test centers in authorized markets. CISSP exams administered in languages other than English and all other (ISC)2 certification exams will continue to be available as fixed-form, linear examinations.
CISSP Exam Question Types
Most of the questions on the CISSP exam are four-option, multiple-choice questions with a single correct answer. Some are straightforward, such as asking you to select a definition. Some are a bit more involved, asking you to select the appropriate concept or best practice. And some questions present you with a scenario or situation and ask you to select the best response. Here’s an example:
- What is the most important goal and top priority of a security solution?
- Preventing disclosure
- Maintaining integrity
- Maintaining human safety
- Sustaining availability
You must select the one correct or best answer and mark it. In some cases, the correct answer will be very obvious to you. In other cases, several answers may seem correct. In these instances, you must choose the best answer for the question asked. Watch for general, specific, universal, superset, and subset answer selections. In other cases, none of the answers will seem correct. In these instances, you’ll need to select the least incorrect answer.
In addition to the standard multiple-choice question format, (ISC)2 has added a few advanced question formats, which it calls advanced innovative questions. These include drag-and-drop questions and hotspot questions. These types of questions require you to place topics or concepts in order of operations, in priority preference, or in relation to proper positioning for the needed solution. Specifically, the drag-and-drop questions require the test taker to move labels or icons to mark items on an image. The hotspot questions require the test taker to pinpoint a location on an image with a cross-hair marker. These question concepts are easy to work with and understand, but be careful about your accuracy of dropping or marking.
Advice on Taking the Exam
The CISSP exam consists of two key elements. First, you need to know the material from the eight domains. Second, you must have good test-taking skills. You have a maximum of 3 hours to achieve a passing standard with the potential to see up to 150 questions. Thus, you will have on average just over a minute for each question. Thus, it is important to work quickly, without rushing but also without wasting time.
Question skipping is no longer allowed on the CISSP exam, and you’re also not allowed to jump around, so one way or another, you have to come up with your best answer. We recommend you attempt to eliminate as many answer selections as possible before making a guess. Then you can make educated guesses from a reduced set of options to increase your chance of getting a question correct.
Also note that (ISC)2 does not disclose if there is partial credit given for multiple-part questions if you get only some of the elements correct. So, pay attention to questions with check boxes instead of radio buttons, and be sure to select as many items as necessary to properly address the question.
You will be provided a dry-erase board and a marker to jot down thoughts and make notes. But nothing written on that board will be used to alter your score. And that board must be returned to the test administrator prior to departing the test facility.
To maximize your test-taking activities, here are some general guidelines:
- Read each question, then read the answer options, and then reread the question.
- Eliminate wrong answers before selecting the correct one.
- Watch for double negatives.
- Be sure you understand what the question is asking.
Manage your time. You can take breaks during your test, but this might consume some of your test time. You might consider bringing a drink and snacks, but your food and drink will be stored for you away from the testing area, and that break time will count against your test time limit. Be sure to bring any medications or other essential items, but leave all things electronic at home or in your car. You should avoid wearing anything on your wrists, including watches, fitness trackers, and jewelry. You are not allowed to bring any form of noise-canceling headsets or ear buds, although you can use foam earplugs. We also recommend wearing comfortable clothes and taking a light jacket with you (some testing locations are a bit chilly).
If English is not your first language, you may register for one of several other language versions of the exam (when applicable). Or, if you choose to use the English version of the exam you may reference the translated (ISC)2 Certification Acronym and (ISC)2 Certification Terms glossaries, a complete list of acronyms and terms you may encounter during your (ISC)2 exam which is available from www.isc2.org.
Finally, (ISC)2 exam policies are subject to change. Please be sure to check www.isc2.org for the current policies before you register and take the exam.
Study and Exam Preparation Tips
We recommend planning for a month or so of nightly intensive study for the CISSP exam. Here are some suggestions to maximize your learning time; you can modify them as necessary based on your own learning habits:
- Take one or two evenings to read each chapter in this book and work through its review material.
- Answer all the review questions and take the practice exams provided in the book and in the test engine. Complete the written labs from each chapter, and use the review questions for each chapter to help guide you to topics for which more study or time spent working through key concepts and strategies might be beneficial.
- Review the (ISC)2’s Exam Outline: www.isc2.org.
- Use the flashcards included with the study tools to reinforce your understanding of concepts.
Completing the Certification Process
Once you have been informed that you successfully passed the CISSP certification, there is one final step before you are actually awarded the CISSP certification. That final step is known as endorsement. Basically, this involves getting someone who is a CISSP, or other (ISC)2 certification holder, in good standing and familiar with your work history to submit an endorsement form on your behalf. The endorsement form is accessible through the email notifying you of your achievement in passing the exam. The endorser must review your résumé, ensure that you have sufficient experience in the eight CISSP domains, and then submit the signed form to (ISC)2 digitally or via fax or post mail. You must have submitted the endorsement files to (ISC)2 within 9 months after receiving the confirmation-of-passing email. Once (ISC)2 receives your endorsement form, the certification process will be completed and you will be sent a welcome packet via USPS.
(ISC)2 has three concentrations offered only to CISSP certificate holders. The (ISC)2 has taken the concepts introduced on the CISSP exam and focused on specific areas, namely, architecture, management, and engineering. These three concentrations are as follows:
Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP) Aimed at those who specialize in information security architecture. Key domains covered here include access control systems and methodology; cryptography; physical security integration; requirements analysis and security standards, guidelines, and criteria; technology-related aspects of business continuity planning and disaster recovery planning; and telecommunications and network security. This is a credential for those who design security systems or infrastructure or for those who audit and analyze such structures.
Information Systems Security Management Professional (ISSMP) Aimed at those who focus on management of information security policies, practices, principles, and procedures. Key domains covered here include enterprise security management practices; enterprise-wide system development security; law, investigations, forensics, and ethics; oversight for operations security compliance; and understanding business continuity planning, disaster recovery planning, and continuity of operations planning. This is a credential for professionals who are responsible for security infrastructures, particularly where mandated compliance comes into the picture.
Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP) Aimed at those who focus on the design and engineering of secure hardware and software information systems, components, or applications. Key domains covered include certification and accreditation, systems security engineering, technical management, and U.S. government information assurance rules and regulations. Most ISSEPs work for the U.S. government or for a government contractor that manages government security clearances.
For more details about these concentration exams and certifications, please see the (ISC)2 website at www.isc2.org.
Notes on This Book’s Organization
This book is designed to cover each of the eight CISSP Common Body of Knowledge domains in sufficient depth to provide you with a clear understanding of the material. The main body of this book comprises 21 chapters. The domain/chapter breakdown is as follows:
- Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4: Security and Risk Management
- Chapter 5: Asset Security
- Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10: Security Architecture and Engineering
- Chapters 11 and 12: Communication and Network Security
- Chapters 13 and 14: Identity and Access Management (IAM)
- Chapters 15: Security Assessment and Testing
- Chapters 16, 17, 18, and 19: Security Operations
- Chapters 20 and 21: Software Development Security
Each chapter includes elements to help you focus your studies and test your knowledge, detailed in the following sections. Note: please see the table of contents and chapter introductions for a detailed list of domain topics covered in each chapter.
The Elements of This Study Guide
You’ll see many recurring elements as you read through this study guide. Here are descriptions of some of those elements:
Exam Essentials The Exam Essentials highlight topics that could appear on the exam in some form. While we obviously do not know exactly what will be included in a particular exam, this section reinforces significant concepts that are key to understanding the Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) area and the test specs for the CISSP exam.
Written Labs Each chapter includes written labs that synthesize various concepts and topics that appear in the chapter. These raise questions that are designed to help you put together various pieces you’ve encountered individually in the chapter and assemble them to propose or describe potential security strategies or solutions.
Real-World Scenarios As you work through each chapter, you’ll find descriptions of typical and plausible workplace situations where an understanding of the security strategies and approaches relevant to the chapter content could play a role in fixing problems or in fending off potential difficulties. This gives readers a chance to see how specific security policies, guidelines, or practices should or may be applied to the workplace.
Summaries The summary is a brief review of the chapter to sum up what was covered.
Chapter Review Questions Each chapter includes practice questions that have been designed to measure your knowledge of key ideas that were discussed in the chapter. After you finish each chapter, answer the questions; if some of your answers are incorrect, it’s an indication that you need to spend some more time studying the corresponding topics. The answers to the practice questions can be found at the end of each chapter.
What’s Included with the Additional Study Tools
Readers of this book can get access to a number of additional study tools. We worked really hard to provide some essential tools to help you with your certification process. All of the following gear should be loaded on your workstation when studying for the test.
The Sybex Test Preparation Software
The test preparation software, made by experts at Sybex, prepares you for the CISSP exam. In this test engine, you will find all the review and assessment questions from the book plus additional bonus practice exams that are included with the study tools. You can take the assessment test, test yourself by chapter, take the practice exams, or take a randomly generated exam comprising all the questions.
Sybex’s electronic flashcards include hundreds of questions designed to challenge you further for the CISSP exam. Between the review questions, practice exams, and flashcards, you’ll have more than enough practice for the exam!
Glossary of Terms in PDF
Sybex offers a robust glossary of terms in PDF format. This comprehensive glossary includes all of the key terms you should understand for the CISSP, in a searchable format.
Bonus Practice Exams
Sybex includes bonus practice exams, each comprising questions meant to survey your understanding of key elements in the CISSP CBK. This book has six bonus exams, each comprising 150 questions to match the longest possible length of the real exam. These exams are available digitally at www.wiley.com/go/cissptestprep.
How to Use This Book’s Study Tools
This book has a number of features designed to guide your study efforts for the CISSP certification exam. It assists you by listing at the beginning of each chapter the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge domain topics covered in the chapter and by ensuring that each topic is fully discussed within the chapter. The review questions at the end of each chapter and the practice exams are designed to test your retention of the material you’ve read to make sure you are aware of areas in which you should spend additional study time. Here are some suggestions for using this book and study tools (found at www.wiley.com/go/cissptestprep):
- Take the assessment test before you start reading the material. This will give you an idea of the areas in which you need to spend additional study time as well as those areas in which you may just need a brief refresher.
- Answer the review questions after you’ve read each chapter; if you answer any incorrectly, go back to the chapter and review the topic, or utilize one of the additional resources if you need more information.
- Download the flashcards to your mobile device, and review them when you have a few minutes during the day.
- Take every opportunity to test yourself. In addition to the assessment test and review questions, there are bonus practice exams included with the additional study tools. Take these exams without referring to the chapters and see how well you’ve done—go back and review any topics you’ve missed until you fully understand and can apply the concepts.
Finally, find a study partner if possible. Studying for, and taking, the exam with someone else will make the process more enjoyable, and you’ll have someone to help you understand topics that are difficult for you. You’ll also be able to reinforce your own knowledge by helping your study partner in areas where they are weak.