Thoughts on the CWSP…

So, today I passed the Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) exam. For those of you not familiar with the CWNP program, it’s an intensive vendor-neutral certification path that delves deeply into 802.11 tech… VERY deeply. It’s been very beneficial for my career, and it’s one of the few educational courses that I truly enjoy. Anyone interested in learning more about how wireless ticks should take a look at the CWNA at least.

The CWNP program begins with the CWNA as the foundational wireless cert, then it branches into three separate specializations – Security, Analysis, and Design. Once all four exams are completed and a lengthy application submitted (essay questions and all), you can become a candidate for the Certified Wireless Network Expert designation. It’s pretty elite, with only ~150 or so CWNE’s in the USA. I’m gunning to complete the CWNE application by the end of 2017.

For the CWSP course, I used the following resources:

  • CWSP Official Study Guide PW0-204
  • CWSP Official Study Guide CWSP-205
  • Extensive use of the Sybex online companion included with the CWSP-205 book
  • Sample tests available directly from CWNP

I did NOT use the Certitrek guide published in 2015, as those books have not been well received.

The CWSP course covers wireless encryption methods, EAP, fast roaming mechanisms, the different handshakes and key hierarchy, RADIUS, LDAP, MDM, and much more. The book was great. And HARD. Lots of detail to sink your teeth into. I had some issues with incorrect questions on the Sybex portal, so just remember that you can’t 100% trust what their exams tell you when you do your review.

As for the exam?

Honestly, it was disappointing. I won’t give much away, but it was way too easy compared to the level of knowledge demanded from the study guides… and I do have other concerns that I don’t want to share in a public forum. But don’t let that scare you away from the course – the knowledge gained was great, but I personally feel that the ease of the exam cheapened the certification a bit.

To those of you looking to take the exam, keep hammering through the practice exams from the CWSP-205 book. Once you can pass them reliably, you’ll be more than ready for the real thing.

What’s next for me? I had planned on taking the Wireshark course next to get more familiar with packet analysis, but my work is requesting that I chew through the VCP-NV next, so packet analysis will have to wait a month or two.

On to VCP-NV, WCNA, CWAP, then CWDP!

Merry Christmas to all.

One man’s rambling journey to CCNA…

As of Monday, I am finally a CCNA. It’s been a long and strange journey and I wanted to share my steps with you in the hopes that it helps those also going for the cert (without breaking the NDA of course!).

Background

I’ve been in the networking industry for a few years. Four years ago I got my Net+ and then began working towards my CCNA… but then I got a job that only dealt with HPN, so I put away the Cisco books. I worked my way all the way through HPE’s master certifications for networking (ATP, ASE, MASE) and several wireless certs (CWNA, ACMP) and had to digest a lot of Cisco on the way… Cisco’s textbooks are better reference materials than most and networking is networking, so it’s transferable knowledge!

But I decided that I wanted to prove myself with Cisco, as I still run into it in my day-to-day and I had heard that their tests were more difficult.

Exam

I passed the composite exam (v2) with a middling score of 863. I didn’t attempt the step by step method. I studied seriously for about a month.

Resources Used

I have a pretty sizeable IT library that I have at my disposal, but for the CCNA specifically I used:

  • Todd Lammle’s CCNA textbook
  • Chris Bryant’s CCNA Udemy Course
  • Boson’s NetSim
  • CBT Nuggets
  • Packet Tracer and GNS3

I started with Lammle’s book and read it cover to cover, doing all the hands-on labs and review questions multiple times. The book was easy to read and well presented.

I then ran through the Boson netsim using the intelligent learning mode until I had successfully answered every question in their 400 question database three times. I HIGHLY recommend this product – it has simulation labs baked in that give you a decent idea of what to expect. It was a good ego check for me.

I then purchased the Chris Bryant CCNA video series and cherry picked areas that I felt I was weak on. This helped solidify things for me.

These resources gave me the info that I needed and I recommend all of them, especially Boson.

My Two Cents

My takeaway is that the CCNA has gotten a lot harder than it was when I first looked at it and it’s a solid foundational curriculum. I’ve taken exams dealing with high level datacenter topics like MPLS, VPLS, SPBB, TRILL, SDN, etc and I did better on those than I did with Cisco’s introductory exam! Kudos to those of you who are working towards the CCNA. It really makes sure you know how to build a network, not just be familiar with general concepts. Some network vendors just ask you to know what VRRP does, Cisco asks that you know the hello timers and virtual MAC addresses!

Advice on the exam

Be sure to nail down port numbers, subnetting, and above all troubleshooting. Some exams may test you on your knowledge of subnets, but Cisco “bakes it in” to the questions and expects you to know it off the top of your head while figuring out the other issues.

Advice to Cisco

Kudos for making a great learning path, but you seriously should use Boson’s lab engine instead of whatever that “thing” was that I saw today. Eesh!

Next up… CCNP, CCDA, CCDP, CWAP, CWSP, CWDP, CWNE! Books are on the way…