Certified Information Systems Security Professional

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Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is an independent information security certification governed by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, also known as (ISC)².

As of May 2014, (ISC)² reports 93391 members hold the CISSP certification worldwide, in 149 countries.[1] In June 2004, the CISSP obtained accreditation by ANSI ISO/IEC Standard 17024:2003 accreditation.[2][3] It is also formally approved by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in both their Information Assurance Technical (IAT) and Managerial (IAM) categories for their DoDD 8570 certification requirement.[4] The CISSP has been adopted as a baseline for the U.S. National Security Agency's ISSEP program. CISSP is a globally recognized certification in the field of IT security.[5]


In the mid-1980s a need arose for a standardized, vendor-neutral certification program that provided structure and demonstrated competence. In November 1988, the Special Interest Group for Computer Security (SIG-CS), a member of the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA), brought together several organizations interested in this goal. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium or "(ISC)²" formed in mid-1989 as a non-profit organization.[6]

By 1990, the first working committee to establish a Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) had been formed. The first version of the CBK was finalized by 1992, and the CISSP credential was launched by 1994.[7]

Certification subject matter[edit]

The CISSP curriculum covers subject matter in a variety of Information Security topics.[8] The CISSP examination is based on what (ISC)² terms the Common Body of Knowledge (or CBK). According to (ISC)², "the CISSP CBK is a taxonomy – a collection of topics relevant to information security professionals around the world. The CISSP CBK establishes a common framework of information security terms and principles that allow information security professionals worldwide to discuss, debate and resolve matters pertaining to the profession with a common understanding."[9]

The CISSP certification covers the following ten domains:[8][9]

  1. Access control
  2. Telecommunications and network security
  3. Information security governance and risk management
  4. Software development security
  5. Cryptography
  6. Security architecture and design
  7. Operations security
  8. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning
  9. Legal, regulations, investigations and compliance
  10. Physical (environmental) security

(ISC)² is now[when?] releasing the Third Edition Official Guide to the CISSP CBK one domain at a time on iTunes and for the Kindle.[10] The entire book is also now available in hard copy.


Candidates for the CISSP must meet several requirements:

  • Possess a minimum of five years of direct full-time security work experience in two or more of the ten (ISC)² information security domains (CBK). One year may be waived for having either a four-year college degree, a Master's degree in Information Security, or for possessing one of a number of other certifications from other organizations.[11] A candidate not possessing the necessary five years of experience may earn the Associate of (ISC)² designation by passing the required CISSP examination. The Associate of (ISC)² for CISSP designation is valid for a maximum of six years from the date (ISC)² notifies the candidate of having passed the exam. During those six years a candidate will need to obtain the required experience and submit the required endorsement form for certification as a CISSP. Upon completion of the professional experience requirements the certification will be converted to CISSP status.[12]
  • Attest to the truth of their assertions regarding professional experience and accept the CISSP Code of Ethics.[13]
  • Answer four questions regarding criminal history and related background.[14]
  • Pass the CISSP exam with a scaled score of 700 points or greater out of 1000 possible points. The exam is multiple choice, consisting of 250 questions with four options each, to be answered over a period of six hours. 25 of the questions are experimental questions which are not graded.[14]
  • Have their qualifications endorsed by another CISSP in good standing. The endorser attests that the candidate's assertions regarding professional experience are true to the best of their knowledge, and that the candidate is in good standing within the information security industry.[15]


Holders of CISSP certifications can earn additional certifications in areas of specialty. There are three possibilities:[16] 1. Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP-ISSAP) 2. Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (CISSP-ISSEP) 3. Information Systems Security Management Professional (CISSP-ISSMP)

Ongoing certification[edit]

The CISSP credential is valid for three years. The credential can be renewed by re-taking the exam, but most certificate holders renew by submitting Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. To maintain the CISSP certification, a certificate holder is required to earn and submit a minimum of 20 CPEs each year and 120 CPEs by the end of their three-year certification cycle. They are also required to pay an annual fee of US$85.

For CISSPs who hold one or more concentrations, CPEs submitted for the CISSP concentration(s) will be counted toward the annual minimum CPEs required for the CISSP.[17]

CPEs can be earned through several paths, including taking classes, attending conferences and seminars (online and in person), teaching others, undertaking volunteer work, and professional writing, all in areas covered by the CBK. Most activities earn 1 CPE for each hour of time spent, however preparing (but not delivering) training for others is weighted at 4 CPEs/hour, published articles are worth 10 CPEs, and published books 40 CPEs.[17]


In 2005, Certification Magazine surveyed 35,167 IT professionals in 170 countries on compensation and found that CISSPs led their list of certificates ranked by salary. A 2006 Certification Magazine salary survey also ranked the CISSP credential highly, and ranked CISSP concentration certifications as the top best-paid credentials in IT.[18][19]

In 2008, another study came to the conclusion that IT professionals with CISSP (or other major security certifications) tend to have salaries $21,000 higher than IT professionals without such certificates.[20]

ANSI certifies that CISSP meets the requirements of ANSI/ISO/IEC Standard 17024, a personnel certification accreditation program.[2]


Critics of the CISSP claim that the (ISC)² has devalued the CISSP (such as by relaxing standards and refusing to adequately prosecute ethical lapses by its holders) in the pursuit of higher revenue via allowing more CISSP holders, that few employers - especially for top-paying jobs - care about CISSP as evidenced by their job postings, and that much of what the CISSP claims to certify is based only on the holder's own testimony.[21][22][23]


  1. ^ "Member Counts". (ISC)². Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b ANSI Accreditation Services - International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)2. ANSI
  3. ^ "(ISC)² CISSP Security Credential Earns ISO/IEC 17024 Re-accreditation from ANSI" (Press release). Palm Harbor, FL: (ISC)². September 26, 2005. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  4. ^ "DoD 8570.01-M Information Assurance Workforce Improvement Program" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. January 24, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ "NSA Partners With (ISC)² To Create New InfoSec Certification". February 27, 2003. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  6. ^ Harris, Shon (2010). All-In-One CISSP Exam Guide (5 ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-07-160217-8. 
  7. ^ History of (ISC)². (ISC)²
  8. ^ a b Conrad; Misenar; Feldman. 11th Hour CISSP. Syngress. ISBN 978-0-12-417142-8. 
  9. ^ a b Tipton; Henry. Official (ISC)² Guide to the CISSP CBK. Auerbach Publications. ISBN 0-8493-8231-9. 
  10. ^ (ISC)2 Release Notification
  11. ^ "CISSP Professional Experience Requirement". (ISC)². 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  12. ^ "How to Become an Associate". (ISC)². 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  13. ^ "(ISC)² Code of Ethics". (ISC)². 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  14. ^ a b "How To Certify". (ISC)². 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Endorsement". (ISC)². 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  16. ^ "CISSP® Concentrations". (ISC)². Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "Maintaining Your Credential". (ISC)². 2009. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Top Certifications by Salary in 2007". Certification Magazine. April 11, 2007. Archived from the original on March 29, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2007. 
  19. ^ Sosbe, Tim; Hollis, Emily; Summerfield, Brian; McLean, Cari (December 2005). "CertMag’s 2005 Salary Survey: Monitoring Your Net Worth". Certification Magazine (CertMag). Archived from the original on June 6, 2007. Retrieved April 27, 2007. 
  20. ^ Salary boost for getting CISSP, related certs. NetworkWorld
  21. ^ Is CISSP certification worth the effort? http://www.infoworld.com/t/it-jobs/cissp-certification-worth-the-effort-199113
  22. ^ A Certified Waste of Time http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/67
  23. ^ Your CISSP is Worthless. Now what? http://daveshackleford.com/?p=838

External links[edit]