Teaching Security Certifications in New Mexico

I’ve been trying for some seven years to get the University of New Mexico to let me start offering hard-core cyber-security (i.e. hacking) certification courses, without even a whiff of success until recently. The Marketing Department and Custom Training division surveyed our captive audience, which is pretty sizable: Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and three other bases in the state; sizeable state, county and tribal entities; and mega-corps like Intel and HP.

We looked at their interest in ITIL, (ISC)2’s CISSP, ISACA’s CISA, Cisco’s CCNA-Security, GIAC’s GPEN, ISECOM’s OPST, EC-Council’s CEH, and Offensive Security’s OSCP.

One big factor that all clients considered was national and local demand for certified pros here in New Mexico. While many of the job sites aren’t completely forthcoming about how many jobs match a keyword, LinkedIn offers hard numbers for both global and state job openings that request or require particular certifications. LinkedIn reported:

8954 job listings that mention ITIL certification, 26 in New Mexico;

9,036 jobs mentioning the CISSP, 22 in New Mexico,

8,779 jobs mentioning the CISA, 4 in New Mexico,

11,416 job listings that mention the CCNA, 37 in New Mexico

395 jobs mentioning GPEN certification, 1 in New Mexico,

13 jobs mentioning the OPST certification, 0 in New Mexico,

3006 jobs mentioning the CEH, 2 in New Mexico, and

794 jobs mentioning the OSCP, 1 in New Mexico.

Of these, the last four could be called the “hackiest.” ISECOM’s OPST showed very weak numbers both global and locally, so despite some interesting aspects to its practice, none of our audience members showed the slightest interest. The GPEN showed more global-level strength, and attracted some attention from the national facilities, but needs to exist in the ecosystem of GIAC curricula. The OSCP is the truly hard-core hacker’s cert, with its 24-hour examination, but isn’t really “taught” at all; you have to hack and crack your way to a conclusion. It kind of cuts out the middle-man (teachers).

Mentioning the CEH started phones ringing immediately. UNM let me set up an InfoByte session to discuss all these certs and get a feel for what people would pay for. Which cert made ears perk up? The CEH.

I know quite a bit about the organizations and people that were in play in the creation of EC-Council. Despite the extremely tricky test, one individual’s “Run Away From the CEH” propaganda campaign (you can find the various renditions of the article in lots of places in the Internet) succeeded in spreading an early conception that EC-Council is a “diploma mill,” among other accusations. I’ve studied v8 and v9, and find the CEH has definitely matured as a certification, with an exam that is still quite tough, and more tightly focused on current issues and tools than ever.

So finally – finally! – I got the certification and UNM scheduled one section of a Certified Ethical Hacker class. Where I’ve had to struggle to find students to make some classes run, the CEH class made minimum enrollment (5 students) within hours of appearing in the online catalog. And certain entities are already asking about custom and on-site trainings, always a sign of a program with legs.

We’ll see how this first section goes. If interest persists or increases, my next campaign will be urging UNM to become an “official” EC-Council training center (and getting myself EC-Council instructor certified). While the word “official” carries some weight, when you self-study or get “unofficial” training you simply pay $100 extra above the $650 test registration fee.

I’ll have a lot to say about how I studied, what materials I used and my impressions (without details, of course) of the exam. For the moment I’m delighted to have found a pony that can run in this race. Updates will follow.