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Network World - Interest in IT security certifications is booming, as more U.S. companies tighten up the protection surrounding their critical network infrastructure and as a growing number of employees view security expertise as recession proof.
Three of the top 10 IT certifications in terms of demand among U.S. employers are security related, according to Foote Partners, a consultancy that tracks IT employment trends. These include the Red Hat Certified Security Specialist – which ranks as No.2 on the Foote Partners list – as well as the CompTIA Security+ (No.3) and the GIAC Security Essentials Certificate (No.6).
"Throughout the whole recession, security [expertise] has done nothing but keep going up in value," says David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners. "Companies are realizing that there's no such thing as perimeter security. A lot of breaches are internal. It's a question of not just how do you prevent intrusions, but it's a question of how do you protect data."
Worries about security breaches are prompting companies to get more IT employees trained and certified in information security, Foote says. "Employees are looking at security certifications as career safety," he adds. "Security is a great long-term career move because there's a steady drumbeat of regulations and compliance."
Infosec certifications have been gaining popularity since 2005, when the Defense Department issued a directive known as 8570 that requires military employees, defense contractors and other federal employees involved with information assurance to have security credentials. As vendor-neutral certifications, both the CompTIA Security + and GIAC Security Essentials Certificate meet this mandate.
"We've had record months throughout the year, driven by the government sector. The Defense directive 8570 is having a significant impact," says Terry Erdle, senior vice president of skills certification at CompTIA. "We're seeing interest from federal government, state and local government, education, defense contracting and federal contracting."
The fastest-growing infosec certification is Red Hat's. Launched in 2006, this certification is aimed at senior network administrators and is designed to prove that a person has deep skills related to running Red Hat Enterprise Linux in a secure fashion.
"Between this time last year and today, the number of people who have passed [the Red Hat Certified Security Specialist] exam has grown by 70%," says Randy Russell, director of certification at Red Hat. "Clearly, something is happening with this particular credential."
To qualify for this certification, network engineers must first pass the Red Hat Certified Engineer test and then be trained as a Red Hat Certified Security Specialist. Engineers must pass three exams – in advanced networking security, Linux policy administration and directory services/authentication — in order to earn this credential.
Russell says more IT professionals and their employers are interested in this certification because they understand the security risks that exist today.