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 My textbook, though written in 2012, was already outdated (in very few things, but the point still stands).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!

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I have my prescriptions and other necessities filled at a CVS not far from my work. Prescriptions are more common than other things, so I don’t have to go up front much. However, when I do, there are annoyed people in long lines at the self-checkout machines. There is one employee effectively manning the machines, because without fail something goes wrong; and one employee actually checking people out in human form. This annoys me to no end. One, I hate how automated our lives have become. I want a person to scan my items and smile and be done. Two, the machines often break or require help because obviously you can’t fix whatever is wrong yourself. Most recently, I bought a few things that I was going to simply place in my own bag. I was under the impression that I could push the button that said “Use My Own Bag” and then it would do all its little calculations and weights and whatever, and I could start. Error! The employee came over, said this machine could not do that, and asked me to take my bag off. I asked him if I would still get $0.05 off for using my own bag. He basically repeated what he’d said earlier. So I took my bag off, scanned my items, and carefully placed them on the awkward tray next to it. I almost reached for the “Use My Own Bag” button but decided against bothering with it. I might not even get the $0.05 off, since it’s not groceries? I don’t know.

But it really bothered me. In a tough economy, CVS is not only taking away jobs, they are making everyone else irritated. I can see it in the other customer’s eyes and body language. Shared rolled eyes. So I decided to write a complaint to CVS. This is what it said:

Hello,
I often go to this CVS since it is near my office and is convenient for running errands and picking up prescriptions. I am continually frustrated by the self-checkout kiosks, as they result in longer lines, increased time, and annoyance when, frequently, they malfunction and a service rep has to come over and fix it anyway. On top of that, which shows poor customer service day-to-day, you have replaced people who need jobs with machines and frustration. The machines do not speed anything up – they often slow it down – and in a tough economy, people simply cannot be replaced like this. It’s absurd. Please reconsider having these self-checkouts in your stores, and bring back (faster) humans. Thank you.

I submitted this on September 5 and awaited a response, since I requested someone follow up with me. I got one today, September 10. While a decent effort – it’s clearly not entirely automated – they can’t exactly ensure it won’t happen again, since the whole point is that they are pretty much the only way to check out. Now, I get having half and half for the people who are fast by themselves, but not a near-total replacement.

Thank you for your e-mail. I am eager to respond. I am very sorry to hear about your experience with the self check out machine malfunctioning and causing long lines. Your comments have been recorded here and I have notified our front store operations team as well as the district and regional managers. We will take the appropriate action with the store to ensure there is no recurrence. Thank you again for sharing your comments with us. We value our customer’s constructive feedback. If you would like to discuss this matter further please contact us at 1-800-746-7287. We are available Monday through Friday 8:30 am – 7 pm ET.

Well. There is a link to reply to this email but I don’t know what else to say.

Do you like the self-checkout? If not, maybe you could also complain your local CVS, if they do this. Hmmm.