Certifications / Security

Is the GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) Worth It?

Is the GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) Worth It?
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Published on May 8, 2023

The GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) is a world-renowned certification that focuses on detecting, responding to, and resolving security incidents. With cyber threats being an ever-increasing concern for organizations of all sizes, the demand for professionals who can manage security incidents has never been higher. As a result, earning a GIAC certification is a smart career move. 

Let’s discuss what the GCIH exam is and help you determine if it fits your career goals — and is worth your time and effort to earn. 

What is the GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)?

The GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) is a professional certification offered by GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification), a leading provider of information and security certifications. GIAC certification holders are recognized as skilled professionals in managing security incidents such as malware outbreaks, network breaches, and insider threats. 

To become GCIH-certified, you need to pass the GCIH certification exam, which is designed to validate a candidate’s threat detection awareness and ability to respond to cyber threats and incidents. As you’ll see from the exam topics below, the exam encourages the participant to take a more offensive posture vis-à-vis cyberattacks and penetrations.

Ready to Take on the GCIH Certification Exam?

Level up your security skills by getting GCIH-certified. Start preparing for the exam with the help of CBT Nuggets trainer Erik Choron’s Hacker Tools, Technique, and Incident Handling course. His training covers a lot of domains and topics that you’ll encounter on the GIAC Certified Incident Handler certification exam. It also contains practical, real-world examples to help you learn the latest security best practices.

Not a CBT Nuggets subscriber? Sign up for a 7-day free trial to get a feel of what it’s like to learn IT with us. Explore all of our cybersecurity training and start learning skills that can help you keep networks and data safe!

How Much Does the GCIH Certification Exam Cost?

The cost to attempt the GCIH exam is $949 USD according to GIAC. GIAC certifications must be renewed every four years, with registration available two years before the expiration date. Various options with their own CPE values are available for ongoing competency and certification renewal. 

The maintenance fee is a non-refundable $469, payable every four years during registration. To avoid risking your certification expiring, it is important to submit CPE information and documentation 30 days before its expiration date.

What is the Format of the GCIH Exam?

The GCIH exam is a proctored exam through PearsonVUE or ProctorU that consists of 106 questions. Candidates are allotted four hours and must get a minimum of 70% on the exam to pass. The test is taken with CyberLive technology. This means while the test itself will have multiple choice, you will be provided access to VMs, programs, and code via CyberLive. You can find out more about CyberLive here

When it comes to GIAC exams, there's good news – they're open book format. This means you're allowed to bring in some hardcopy books and notes into the testing area to assist you. However, it's important to be mindful that allowable workstation space is limited, so make sure to plan accordingly.

While you're allowed to bring in some reference materials, there are some restrictions to keep in mind. While the GCIH certification exam is open book, it is not open internet or computer. Furthermore, any hardcopy materials that contain or refer to practice exam tests or answers are forbidden. 

In addition, here are the key points to keep in mind about skipping questions and taking breaks during a GIAC exam:

  • You can't review or change answered questions, but you can skip up to 10 questions..

  • Skipped questions can be answered later by clicking the 'Answer Skipped' button, and unanswered questions will be marked as incorrect.

  • You get 15 minutes of break time, which can be taken all at once or in two shorter sessions.

  • Any skipped questions must be answered before you can take a break.

  • The exam clock resumes automatically if you don't return from your break within 15 minutes.

What is on the GCIH Exam?

The GCIH certification exam tests candidates on just everything related to computer hacking. While none of the domains are specifically weighted, there are plenty of topics that could be covered. While the list below is not inclusive, these are some of the topics you can expect to be tested on.

  • Detecting Covert Communications Identify, defend against, and mitigate against the use of covert tools such as netcat.

  • Detecting Evasive Techniques Identify, defend against, and mitigate against methods attackers use to remove evidence of compromise and hide their presence. 

  • Detecting Exploitation Tools Identify, defend against, and mitigate against the use of Metasploit.

  • Drive-By Attacks Identify, defend against, and mitigate against drive-by attacks in modern environments.

  • Endpoint Attack and Pivoting Identify, defend against, and mitigate against attacks against endpoints and attack pivoting.

  • Incident Response and Cyber Investigation Demonstrate an understanding of what Incident Handling is, why it is important, an understanding of the PICERL incident handling process, and industry best practices in Incident Response and Cyber Investigations.

  • Memory and Malware Investigation Demonstrate an understanding of the steps necessary to perform basic memory forensics, including collection and analysis of processes and network connections and basic malware analysis in traditional and cloud environments.

Many of the tasks listed above require certain tools. For example, there are many instances where you may have to understand and know how to monitor network traffic. That means it is critical to have a good understanding of network analysis tools such as Wireshark. It is also very important to have hands-on experience using Linux.

Who Should Take the GCIH Exam?

I’m assuming by now, it is clear the GCIH exam is for experienced cybersecurity experts. Here’s a quick list of IT professionals who could benefit immensely from studying for this exam — and earning GCIH certification. 

  • Incident handlers

  • Incident handling team leads

  • System administrators

  • Security practitioners

  • Security architects

  • Any security personnel who are first responders

Is the GCIH Certification Worth It?

The short answer is “Yes.” As someone who has taken many certification exams, I haven’t come across a certification that was so in-depth. But if you pass this challenging exam, you will have a leg up on the competition. And some serious cybersecurity chops. The GCIH exam can help you: 

  • Build new skills and validate existing ones. Learning how to hack (ethically of course) is one of the most exciting things you can learn in the IT world. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from, and be accredited, by the most knowledgeable in the field. 

  • Advance in your career. The exam demonstrates expertise in hacking and threat detection, and it looks great on a resume when you are job hunting. Growing your skills in this way could also create new opportunities within your existing organization. 


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