After putting it off until the very last moment, I finally wrote and passed the Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) PW0-204 exam. This was important since it had been almost 3 years since I passed the CWSP (PW0-200) exam and my credentials were set to expire on the 25th of June. Crisis averted! With the exam out of the way, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some thoughts on my experiences while preparing for it.
In no specific order, here are a few things I found very interesting about my time studying for PW0-204:
Wireless security was much less complicated 3 years ago. When I took the PW0-200 exam, I didn’t have to know anything about 802.11n, 802.11k, 802.11w, or 802.11r. All of these, now ratified, IEEE standard amendments come with their own set of additional security settings and concerns that must be taken into consideration when securing a WLAN. Continuing to educate yourself and staying on top of the latest industry developments is the easiest way to ensure that a certification’s body of knowledge doesn’t leave you behind.
Experience in the field helps immensely with this exam. When I first wrote the PW0-200 exam, 3 years ago, I had a great interest in the subject but very little real-world WLAN experience. This time around, after living and breathing WLANs for 3 years, I found I was able to quickly skim or review a lot of the CWSP Study Guide since I deal with 802.1X/EAP, PKI, and WIDS/WIPS solutions quite frequently in my role as a security consultant. In my opinion, the CWSP certification is a great example of an exam that goes beyond ‘textbook studying’ and really tries to incorporate lessons that can only truly be learned through hands-on experience. Certifications like that rock because they signify practical/useful knowledge instead of just the ability to memorize answers for a test.
Keeping my existing CWNA and CWSP credentials was just stop number one on this journey. With that out of the way, I’m now beginning my assault on the Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) designation. Last time I check there were less than 100 CWNEs globally so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. I have to pass both the CWDP and CWAP exams first. Wish me luck and I look forward to posting my thoughts and insights on my next exam this summer.
I firmly believe that the only way to stay on top of the wireless networking industry is to fully embrace the idea of lifelong learning. To me, this doesn’t just mean learning new skills and products, but also taking the time to revisit and refresh the things you think you already know. That’s why I jumped at the chance to sit in on a three-day Implementing Aruba WLANs course being held at my office. True, I do already have my ACMA, but I attained this back when controllers were running ArubaOS 3.x. Now that ArubaOS 6.x is out, I figured it couldn’t hurt to revisit the course and make sure I’m still up to date. Here are a few observations after completing the first day:
Regardless of how simple a WLAN controller is to configure, anyone involved in designing, securing, or administering a WLAN must still understand the underlying 802.11 technology. Fancy wizards and snazzy interfaces are great when things are working fine, but don’t expect your WLAN to run as efficiently, securely, or resiliently if you don’t know what all those knobs and dials are actually doing. That beings said, Aruba Networks has done a great job improving and enhancing their configuration wizards. These wizards do such a good job of simplifying the basics of configuring your controller(s) that someone could technically get a secure WLAN up and running with very little wireless knowledge or experience. Unfortunately, there is no WLAN Administration Wizard. Until that day arrives, hit the books and start learning the underlying technology. A good place to look for vendor neutral wireless certification is the CWNP organization.
Wireless networks are at a critical, and potentially dangerous, juncture in their relatively short lives. If we spend the time to properly plan, design, and secure wireless networks they have the potential to dramatically affect the way we work and play in a very positive and reliable way. However, if we rely too heavily on the perceived simplicity of deploying wireless networks without doing our homework first, then we are setting mobile computing up for failure or, at the very least, an existence that falls very short of the true potential of wireless networking.
Overall, day one was very informative and a lot of fun. It’s always great to see people putting in the time and effort required to properly implement a wireless network. So far the Deploying Aruba WLANs course has delivered what was promised and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the next two days.