I took the CompTIA Security+ exam today, and well, I failed. Not by much though – a mere 100 points. Not too bad considering I JUST started studying yesterday. (I know, stupid, right? Silly me, totally forgot I scheduled it so soon.)
Regardless, the exam was a little more complex than I anticipated, but overall, it was fairly easy.
This test examines more than just your basic knowledge of Security+ principles – it examines your ability to actually perform basic networking functions. If you’re taking this exam soon (as I will be again in the next few weeks), here are my recommendations to help you better prepare.
Before we begin, to pass the CompTIA Security+ exam, there are 70 questions on the test, and you are given 90 minutes to complete all questions. Passing score is at least a 750 out of 900 possible points. (I scored 651 – grrr!)
Want to learn more about this exam? Click to visit CompTIA’s Security+ page.
Simulations to Study
I was expecting the familiar, cut-and-dry Q&A style of test. Nope! Surprisingly, the exam included simulations where you actually had to do things, such as configure a firewall or wireless network.
To elaborate, the firewall question gave a scenario, and using best practices for configuring firewalls, you’re expected to set up the rules by putting them in order, and specifying the source, destination, port number, and protocol type for each rule. Port numbers are not choices so make sure you know them.
One particular simulation required you to review system logs to determine which device offered the best protection against intrusion attempts. By reviewing the success and failure events of access logs of four devices, you had to choose which device was best protected from unauthorized access.
Another simulation asked you to configure an enterprise wireless network using the most secure settings, which required configuring a RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) centralized authentication system. Configuration settings included server address, port numbers, etc.
Of all the simulations, the easiest one focused on hardware security. You have to choose the best methods to secure hardware and mobile devices. Given a list of choices, such as cable lock, strong password, remote wipe, and device encryption, you are asked to associate each choice with either mobile device, physical server, or both.
Concepts to Know
Among other things, here is a basic list of what you should know before taking the test:
- Ports, including port numbers and protocol types
- Risk-related concepts, including risk calculations, incident management, and policy types
- Wireless network types, including authentication methods
- Attack types, including DoS, malware, and social engineering
- Security threat and vulnerabilities tools and techniques, including vulnerability scanner and penetration testing
- Threat mitigation and deterrent techniques, including system logs, proximity readers, and port security
- Application security, including input validation, cross-site scripting prevention, SQL injections, and LDAP injections
- Authentication methods, including separation of duties, least privilege, mandatory access control (MAC), access control lists (ACLs), and implicit deny
- Cryptographic tools and products, including AES, DES, 3DES, RC4, CHAP, and PAP
Materials to Read
To study for this exam, I only used one book, CompTIA Security+ Review Guide by Sybex. Despite failing (which is my fault for not studying more), I feel this book adequately covered material on the exam. This book comes with a practice CD, and review questions at the end of every chapter. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a straightforward study guide.
Another resource worthy of checking out is practice exam test banks. A few of my colleagues were successful in solely using test bank questions to prepare. Personally, I like understanding the fundamentals – not just knowing the answers to pass. Perhaps an ideal combination of study materials would be the study guide mentioned above and a test bank of questions.
Last Words of Advice
You may want to start studying BEFORE the day of your exam. This test is fairly easy for anyone with a basic understanding of networking principles. Just make sure to brush up on your terminology and practical applications of the concepts mentioned above.
If you’ve taken the Security+ exam…
- What advice can you offer?
- What did you think about the exam?
- How has being Security+ certified helped your career?