Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) is an information security certification entity that specialises in technical and practical certification as well as new research in the form of its GIAC Gold program. SANS Institute founded the certification entity in 1999 and the term GIAC is trademarked by The Escal Institute of Advanced Technologies.
GIAC provides a set of vendor-neutral computer security certifications linked to the training courses provided by the SANS. GIAC is specific to the leading edge technological advancement of IT security in order to keep ahead of "black hat" techniques. Papers written by individuals pursuing GIAC certifications are presented at the SANS Reading Room on GIAC's website.
Initially all SANS GIAC certifications required a written paper or "practical" on a specific area of the certification in order to achieve the certification. In April 2005, the SANS organization changed the format of the certification by breaking it into two separate levels. The "silver" level certification requires two multiple-choice tests, whereas the "gold" level certification has both the multiple-choice tests requirement as well as a practical.
As of June 18, 2012, GIAC claims to have granted 42,663 certifications worldwide.
Controversy surrounded the decision to allow certifications without completion of the practical assignment. This decision had the effect of simplifying the process to obtain the various four-letter designations. GIAC desired to increase the probability of students attempting certifications, presumably to increase the population of certified individuals, and therefore the industry relevance of GIAC certifications as a whole. Organizations which use GIAC certifications as professional qualification standard for candidates often do not specify a Gold or Silver certification requirement. The community concern was that devaluation of older certifications would ensue.