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GIAC GSE - Intro

This post is intended to summarise what I've learnt about the GIAC GSE certification so far so I don't lose my own notes and to help others make their decision. I'll try to post some updates as I study!

So early in 2011, I made the decision to take the plunge and go for the GIAC GSE certification. I wasn't sure for a few reasons -

  • I didn't think that I was good enough. The list of folk that hold the GSE is pretty elite.
  • The amount of work that I thought would be involved scarred the sh*t out of me.
  • I was unsure of the consequences of the amount of study involved, on my family, work and active, sporty lifestyle :)

However, in the end-up, I was like 'screw it' -
  • I've spent a substantial amount of money obtaining GIAC certs and at this stage, every year there was at least one cert to renew ($400 per year). The fact that the GSE renews all my certs was very appealing :)
  • Additionally, having read articles on the web posted by several GSE-holders, which reassured me. Talking with folk like Steve Sims, Chris Mohan and Ash (who've all done the GSE and provided me with great advice) as well as Jeff Pike, the main GSE man in GIAC, also spiked my interest in going for the GSE.
  • The more I thought about the reward of passing the ultimate security certification after na intensive two day lab, the more attractive this certification became. It truly does seem to be the 'top' certification in the security field and I've never failed to learn enormously from any GIAC certification attempt.
  • Moreover, there's challenges and aspects to the GSE that I don't get the play with normally so improving infrequently-practiced skills can only be a good thing.
  • Finally, obtaining the GSE is a mixture of self-fulfillment throough the actual challenge itself and it surely has to improve your CV, right?
Check out the excellent GSE presentation from Jeff Pike on the GSE certification, where all the GSE myths are exposed.

I passed the GSE written in July 2011, without any major issues. I did study pretty hard, went through every book for the GSEC (401), GCIA (503) and GCIH (504) courses page-by-page (though I did skip most of the 503 workbook, simply because I play with packet captures on a dail basis). I also (for the first time in any of my GIAC exams) created an index (though it was quite simple) and I'm not 100% comfortable with creating an incredibly-detailed index but that's just me :)

If you are preparing for the GSE or thinking about it, check out these links -
  • Kevin Bong's excellent preparation advice.
  • Ash's blogs on preparing and sitting the GSE, always honest and humourous :)
  • Roger's Information Security Blog, where he goes into more detail on using indexes.
  • Daniel Miessler's contrary but well-written article on the point of going for the GSE.
Anyway, I've 96 days (probably minus a week to enjoy Christmas) before the GSE lab in Orlando, so I've lots of studying and practicing to do.

Finally, attempting the GSE (especially outside of your own continent - I simply couldn't wait for others in Europe to get sorted) is an expensive and if your company supports you doing it, consider yourself far I'm on my own!!


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