NSA boosts credentials

International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium Web site

Scrutiny of job applicants' credentials at the National Security Agency has always been intense, and it's about to get even more intense for senior information technology security specialists.

The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium signed a deal with the agency in February to develop a certification test for NSA's Information Assurance Directorate. The outcome is the Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP) credential, a new certification for the agency's employees or contractors who work on information assurance.

Dow Williamson, communications director for the consortium, said professionals who already have other information systems certifications were looking for something else that could help advance their careers and set them apart from general information systems workers. The group already offered a certification called the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), but ISSEP takes that one step further.

"Our CISSPs said they wanted more of a career path focus and asked what came next after CISSP certification," Williamson said. "CISSP focuses on 10 domains of the information security space, and the ISSEP focuses on four additional domains."

An NSA spokesperson said the certification will allow the agency to identify individuals whose skills extend beyond the information security basics.

"For NSA, this will serve to push our process to a larger community and to identify a group of individuals and companies who could provide support to NSA customers," the spokesperson said. "This exam is available to anyone worldwide, but the focus will continue to be on U.S. regulations."

The spokesperson said the certification will not be required.

"While the CISSP certification may be recommended for many positions within the Information |Assurance Directorate and other areas of NSA, the ISSEP certification will not be as widespread," the spokesperson said. "One area where the certification may be required or desired is in the role of systems security designer."

Williamson said the consortium has focused much of its effort on the Defense Department and its national security requirements during the past several months. "There are a lot of folks at NSA who have CISSP certification," he said. "So we think a lot of them will be interested in the ISSEP follow-up. This partnership with NSA and ISSEP represents a new relationship."

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Ratcheting up certifications

The National Security Agency is offering a new certification level for its information technology staff. The Information Systems Security Engineering Professional certification covers the following subject matters:

* Systems security engineering.

* Technology management.

* Certification and accreditation.

* U.S. government information assurance regulations.

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The more traditional Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification covers the following subjects:

* Access control systems and methodology.

* Applications and systems development.

* Business continuity planning.

* Cryptography.

* Law, investigation and ethics.

* Operations security.

* Physical security.

* Security architecture and models.

* Security management practices.

* Telecommunications, network and Internet security.

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