Today, I went to a testing location to take my Security+ exam. I’ve been studying out of a textbook for two months to prepare for it. So what the heck is it?

Security+ is a certification by CompTIA – the Computing Technology Industry Association. They’re a non-profit that basically advocates for IT around the world, helping people to get vendor-neutral certifications and advance the workforce. Cool. They support a number of certifications, one of which is Security+. Security+ is aimed at understanding and implementing network security controls. There are a lot of aspects to this – many of which I would not have thought of at all before preparing for the exam.

Direct from the website:

CompTIA Security+ is an international, vendor-neutral certification that demonstrates competency in:

  • Network security
  • Compliance and operational security
  • Threats and vulnerabilities
  • Application, data and host security
  • Access control and identity management
  • Cryptography

CompTIA Security+ not only ensures that candidates will apply knowledge of security concepts, tools, and procedures to react to security incidents, it ensures that security personnel are anticipating security risks and guarding against them.

It’s quite extensive. And ever-changing. My textbook, though written in 2012, was already outdated (in very few things, but the point still stands). For example, there are new algorithms for encrypting communications and sending them over the Internet. These adapt and update frequently, since attackers discover vulnerabilities they can exploit to gain confidential information, take down servers, and in general create havoc. I learned how to determine if an attack is occurring and the steps to mitigate it and then preserve computer forensic evidence. It was fascinating, if very difficult. More importantly, how to do my best to make sure such an attack has a low chance of occurring. Because no risk can ever be eliminated.

I was relieved, mostly, when I learned I passed today. Focusing on studying and memorizing was really hard when my mind kept wandering to why my boyfriend broke up with me last week. What I wanted to say to him, to ask, to ponder. Healing, dealing with the fact that it was over. This morning, I meant to meditate (my new year’s resolutions have gone out the window since the breakup, but I hope to recover in February). I slept in instead, running out the door to get a little more cramming in at the office before catching a bus to the testing center. I caught the right bus, but missed my stop, so when I got out, I had to run back several blocks, knowing I had just a few minutes before the starting time. It was incredibly cold out; my lungs did not thank me for running outside like that. Once I got there and signed in, they gave me a smile and let me thaw/catch my breath before taking me upstairs to the test room.

The test was hard. I think the hardest I’ve ever done, to this point. That includes my test to become an EMT – though, I guess, to be fair I had an intense semester with lots of coaching for that. I reviewed several of my questions, and finally took the plunge to click “submit.” Then! Then they wouldn’t give me my score until after I took a demographic survey. Finally, I read the small print on the screen – I got a 784, and you need a 750 to pass. Whew!! That means I got the equivalent of 87%. I think I sat there staring at it for a minute until it processed. Then I bundled up and headed back to the office, a giant grin on my face. I did it. Without applied experience, I still managed to pass.

Things will be okay. It may take awhile for me to truly be okay, but hey – I can still accomplish things, broken heart and all!