Is the CSX-P Worth It?
One of the open secrets of the IT world is that all the time, money, and effort that gets spent on cybersecurity isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary. The dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about is that it's possible to spend next to nothing on your cybersecurity program and never have to worry about attacks, vulnerabilities or bad actors. Just turn off all wireless capabilities on all devices, never connect any device to the internet or any other network, and keep them powered off forever.
Obviously, that's not a perfect solution. Fortunately, there's an alternative. It's not cheap, it's not easy, and it's not something that everyone can do on their own: the CSX-P. The CSX-P proves to employers and colleagues that you know how to identify and handle vulnerabilities on a network, how to configure and implement network protective technologies, and how to recover from incidents when they do happen. The CSX-P isn't cheap, so whether or not it's worth it for you and your career depends on what you learn from this report. Read on and then decide if the CSX-P is worth it.
What is the CSX-P?
The CSX-P is an advanced cybersecurity certification from ISACA. ISACA, or Information Systems Audit and Control Association, is a professional organization of IT professionals. Membership in ISACA is restricted to networking professionals who work in some part of the field of controlling the flow of information on a digital network.
Earning the CSX-P means a lot more than passing some test about implementing security procedures on a network. In addition to proving your technical mastery over digital network protection, earning the CSX-P proves that you're a professional in your job and understand the broader consequences of your network security decisions and posture.
You don't have to be a member of ISACA in order to earn the CSX-P, but it tends to be cheaper in the long run. Plus, earning the membership represents a commitment to professional excellence. The certification itself covers network security fundamentals like configuring and managing a business and security environment. But it also covers advanced topics in threat detection and evaluation as well as incident response and recovery.
Someone who earns the CSX-P is an expert in following and making use of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework – meaning they've mastered the five cybersecurity domains: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover.
Whether you're a member of ISACA or not, in order to earn the CSX-P, there's one exam you have to pass: the ISACA CSX Cybersecurity Practitioner (CSX-P) certification.
What Does the CSX-P Test?
The one CSX-P exam emphasizes the five sections of the NIST security framework: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover. The CSX-P tests you on four different sections:
Domain 1: Business and Security Environment (Identify)
Domain 2: Operational Security Readiness (Protect)
Domain 3: Threat Detection and Evaluation (Detect)
Domain 4: Incident Response and Recovery (Respond and Recovery)
The CSX-P exam is four hours long and only has 20 items. It's an unusual exam in that it's an online lab-based performance exam. There are no multiple-choice questions, no written responses, and no need to prove you've memorized random facts. The CSX-P exam tests your ability to actually do the steps that make the NIST security framework possible.
And the CSX-P exam doesn't focus on any one area of cybersecurity expertise. Someone with the CSX-P is a holistic cybersecurity practitioner, from the maintenance and configuration of individual security devices all the way to the management of actually responding to security threats.
How Much Does the CSX-P Exam Cost?
The CSX-P costs $575 if you're an ISACA member and $760 if you're not a member of ISACA. Be careful: there are a number of different ways to be eligible for the CSX-P exam, and there's a lot of competing information online. According to ISACA's certification summary for the exam, the CSX-P costs $760 for non-members and $575 for members. An ISACA membership costs $135/year plus your local chapter's dues in addition to a $10 new member fee ($30 if you mail it in).
If you already hold a cybersecurity certification from ISACA or one of its approved partners (CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, CISSP, CySA+, OSCP to name a few), you can instead take the Accelerated CSX-P Certification Suite, which is cheaper than the CSX-P. As long as you're eligible for it, the Accelerated CSX-P only costs $549 for ISACA members and $599 for non-members.
The CSX-P is only valid for three years, and re-certifying or maintaining your CSX-P can be time-intensive and costly. Once you've earned the CSX-P, you don't just keep it by retaking it. Every year you have to earn at least 20 continuing education credits (called CPE) in skills-based training/lab activities, and 120 CPE hours over the course of three years. When you add up all those costs and requirements, the CSX-P can be a pretty expensive certification to earn and keep.
What Experience Do You Need for the CSX-P?
It might cost a fair bit of time and money to earn the CSX-P, but that's because it covers a lot of ground, and earning it proves that you understand all the moving pieces involved with maintaining a cybersecurity program. Someone planning to earn the CSX-P must be familiar with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for managing cybersecurity risks. The NIST framework is the foundation that the CSX-P is built on, so you should understand the practices and knowledge that are built into Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover.
Before you attempt the CSX-P, you should have experience running vulnerability assessment processes and scanning tools on your network. You need to know how to identify and document security vulnerabilities based on criteria like defined asset criticality and impacts on technical operations. An important part of the CSX-P exam is knowing how to aggregate information from multiple sources inside your network. So you should know how to read logs, extract event data, process network assessments and more.
Obviously, you should have experience implementing cybersecurity controls in network, application, endpoint, and server environments. You should also have experience going into those controls and validating that they're actually operating as expected. You'll want to have experience documenting all changes made to cybersecurity controls in accordance with managerial procedures. You should have experience with monitoring network behavior for anomalous activity and potential threats.
Last, before you attempt the CSX-P, you'll want to have experience with performing attack analysis and highlighting vectors, targets, scope, and impact of attacks against your network. After an attack happens, you should also be able to demonstrate that you can execute predefined plans to contain damage.
Who Should Take the CSX-P?
The CSX-P is an advanced cybersecurity certification, so it's ideal for cybersecurity professionals who are a few years into their career, as well as IT professionals who want to transition into cybersecurity. Experienced network administrators, cybersecurity analysts, and cybersecurity engineers should take the CSX-P.
Is CSX-P Worth it for Network Administrators?
If you're a network administrator and you'd like to move into cybersecurity, the CSX-P is worth it for proving you're ready to make the jump. But if you like the job you have in network administration and are only looking for an introduction to cybersecurity principles, it probably isn’t worth the time and money it'll cost you to earn. The CSX-P is an advanced professional certification, so it's worth it if you're hoping to do all the things on the exam for your job on a regular basis.
Is CSX-P Worth it for Cybersecurity Analysts?
Yes, the CSX-P is a great target for most cybersecurity analysts to aim for. The roadmap that the CSX-P lays out is one that most cybersecurity analysts can follow to improve their skills and knowledge and eventually land advanced positions with more complex responsibilities. It's worth reviewing the CSX-P exam in detail to make sure that the job you want to eventually land includes all the parts that the CSX-P covers because there is a lot.
Is CSX-P Worth It for a Cybersecurity Engineer?
Yes, most cybersecurity engineers will find the CSX-P worth it for their careers. You probably already know how to run vulnerability assessments and use scanning tools for your job, how to process all the data that logs and event data give you, and manage and implement security measures across your network. The CSX-P rounds out your experience and shows employers you're at the height of your game and know how to speak in the language of the NIST Framework.
Is the CSX-P Worth It?
The CSX-P is expensive and so whether or not it's worth it for you and your career is a tricky question. But for most cybersecurity professionals who want to earn a certification that proves their familiarity with all the different aspects of network security maintenance and optimization, $760 is a good price.
Using CSX-P to Learn Skills
If you go to ISACA's website and read the detailed overview, it reads like a checklist of all the skills and knowledge that a trusted, experienced cybersecurity manager would know. For cybersecurity professionals who are still early in their career but looking for a well-defined path of skills to earn to eventually become a master, the CSX-P is a great way to learn all the skills that go into a career in cybersecurity.
By taking a series of courses in each of the NIST framework's five domains and following that up with preparatory training for the CSX-P exam, you can learn all the skills necessary to be a fully vetted cybersecurity professional.
Using CSX-P to Validate Skills
The CSX-P coupled with an ISACA membership is one of the strongest statements of cybersecurity professionalism in the world. Employers appreciate seeing membership in a professional organization because it means you went out of your way to associate with a group of professionals who hold themselves to a higher standard.
Similarly, earning the CSX-P proves that you have a firm grasp of the many complicated and advanced skills that go into keeping a network locked down and secure.
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