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"CISSP Exam - Learning Above Technology and

Understanding Security in a Holistic Manner"

Contributed By Shon Lee Harris

For years I have heard people complain about having to learn things for the CISSP exam that they would never use in their life. When I was studying for this exam several years ago, I also had the same perspective as others. I also hear people saying that they are required to understand security through (ISC)2's view for this exam, which does not match with reality. The contention of these statements is that someone would have to memorize items for the test that are not useful in their professional life - thus a waste of time. Again, I was also in the same boat when I prepared and took the exam ages ago. Now I see it completely differently.


I realized that since I have authored books and taught CISSP classes for many years, I understand the material at a much greater degree than I would have if I just studied and took the test and moved on with life.


The things that people complain about having to learn (Bell Lapadula, Biba, Clark-Wilson, etc.) are very beneficial to their understanding of security in a holistic manner instead of just focusing on their original thought of what makes up security. Many technical people seem to think that learning anything above technology is a waste of their time. This thinking is common to these people because they think of anyone who does not understand technology like they do as inferior. But most companies are doing business not just to have software and networks in place. The software, network, and systems are just a few of the tools the company uses to support and further their business. So understanding things that are above technology, commonly referred to as soft skills, are in reality more essential in the business world - which is where we all live and work.


Although I am very much frustrated with the manner that the questions on the CISSP exam are worded (confusing, vague, subjective), I have greater appreciation of the actual Common Body of Knowledge CBK. I was already a security consultant before I took the exam, and then I wrote books, and taught CISSP - and I am still a security consultant, but the difference in my knowledgebase and view on security has drastically changed.


I, like most people, concentrated on the security topics relevant to my current job. At the time on-line banking was just coming to the market (yes I am that old) and I worked with programmers, software architects, project managers, analysts, and end customers - all doing on-line banking . To be honest at that time I was the least interested in the different types of fire suppression, access control models, trusted computing base or anything outside of my domain of topics that I lived, worked and breathed in.


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