What Is CCSK?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) is a great way to build your knowledge of cloud security, showcase your skills, and expand your career options.

[Featured Image]:  Candidate for CCSK certificate preparing for the exam.

As more businesses move their operations online, cloud security is becoming integral to business security and safety. Because of this, professionals that have the knowledge and ability to help businesses secure their platforms are in high demand. If you are tech-savvy and interested in applying your knowledge to cloud security, obtaining a Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) can help you stand out from the crowd and showcase your skill set to employers. Read on to learn more about this certificate, why it is important, and what you can expect from the exam.

What is CCSK?

CCSK is a widely recognized certificate developed by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) that represents the standard of knowledge needed to work in cloud security. The test assesses your understanding of data encryption, cloud incident response, application security, SecaaS, best practices for IAM, and securing technologies. The CCSK is the building block for cloud security and covers the essential knowledge needed to secure data across many platforms. Because different companies often vary in their technologies and specific security needs, you may need to complement the CCSK knowledge base with additional training specific to the job. However, the goal of the CCSK certificate is to represent the understanding required to work in cloud security for any company or platform. 

Do I need a CCSK to work in cloud security?

Because cloud security is a new and emerging field, many employers and company executives need to gain background knowledge in this area themselves. This can make assessing the skill level of potential hires easier. The CCSK certificate represents a globally acknowledged standard of skill for those working in cloud security. While it's not legally required, many employers often look for this certificate to verify their potential candidates can perform the tasks required of the position. If you are applying to a cloud security position without this credential, your employer may opt for another candidate with this certificate. 

What are the benefits of earning a CCSK?

The CCSK covers the basics of strategic and tactical cloud security skills. The material for this certificate is vendor-neutral, meaning the skills should apply to any career path within cloud security. This is beneficial when entering the information security industry because you can work for most companies, regardless of their specific platforms and technologies. This expands your job opportunities and can make shifting between fields and companies much easier than if the certificate was vendor-specific.

When you take the CCSK, you are testing your strategic and tactical knowledge of cloud security. The deep focus on cloud security for this certificate will represent your in-depth knowledge of cloud architecture and information security, specifically in this domain. This can help you showcase to employers why you are the best candidate for the position and what extensive skills you have to offer the company.

Another benefit of the CCSK is that it provides a stepping stone for more advanced certificates, such as the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) and Security Trust Assurance Registry (STAR). This allows you room to grow within your career and level your knowledge to increase benefits, take on more responsibility, and progress within your company.

Read more: How to Become an Information Security Analyst: Salary, Skills, and More

What is covered in CCSK?

When you take the CCSK exam, the material focuses on completing 14 key topic areas over 90 minutes. There are 60 questions contained within the open-book exam, but the questions require you to think critically.

The material on the exam breaks down into the following categories:

  • Data security and encryption

  • Information governance

  • Infrastructure security

  • Compliance and audit management

  • Virtualization and containers

  • Security as a service

  • Cloud computer concepts and architecture

  • Legal issues, electronic discovery, and contracts

  • Management plane and business continuity

  • Incident response

  • Application security

  • Identify, entitlement, and access management

  • Governance and enterprise risk management

  • Related technologies (big data, Internet of Things, mobile, serverless computing)

Much of the material from this exam comes from the CSA Security Guidance v.4, with additional material coming from ENISA Recommendations and the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix. When preparing for this exam, you will want to ensure you review these materials and are comfortable with the knowledge inside. Many people consider the exam challenging, so taking the time to go through review materials and practice tests can help you prepare for when the time comes to take the exam.

How long does it take to study for a CCSK?

The amount of time it takes to study for a CCSK depends on your current level of knowledge and how quickly you can pick up the material. If you have a strong technical background and find cloud security materials come intuitively to you, it may only take you a few weeks. If all the materials are new to you or you find it takes more time to learn them, allotting a few months of continual study may be necessary. After all, it’s better to overestimate the time you need to study than underestimate it.

How much does it cost to gain a CCSK?

As of July 2022, the CCSK exam costs US$ 395. Usually, you will be responsible for paying this expense. However, if you are getting this certificate for your current job, your employer may be willing to help with the cost.

How difficult is the CCSK exam?

The CCSK exam is challenging, with just a 62 percent passing rate. However, you can find many materials online to help you study and prepare before the exam. You will need to score over 80 percent on the exam to pass, which includes 90 questions in 60 minutes. Reading through explanatory materials on the different concepts, completing practice questions, and taking timed practice exams can help you master the material and gauge your preparedness level. 

While the studying process can be time-consuming, especially if you have other responsibilities outside of it, the benefits of this certificate are worth the effort. We recommend allotting a certain amount of time per day or week and monitoring your progression on the concepts. After a few weeks, you will start to understand how quickly you are going through the material and plan for your future exam. If you have trouble self-studying, engaging with an online tutor or course can help you stay on track.

Preparing for your CCSK exam

When preparing for the CCSK exam, a few options may suit you, depending on how you learn best. The first option is to study on your own. Many online resources can help you understand the material and practice with test questions. However, this method requires a high level of self-motivation and continual monitoring of your own progress. 

If you work best in guided environments, enrolling in the CCSK training may be the right choice. Guided training is often a combination of lectures and labs where you learn concepts and then apply them to practice questions. Depending on the training, you may even have additional extensive exercises, such as securely bringing a practice organization into the cloud or encrypting data sets. Another benefit of guided practices is that you will have a community of fellow students who are also training for the exam. This can provide a platform to ask questions, learn from one another, and build your professional network. These pieces of training often cost additional money, so it is important to determine whether this fits your current budget.

Regardless of whether you self-study or enter guided training, the end goal is the same: for you to pass your CCSK examination. Finding the study method that best fits your lifestyle and preferences can help you stick to your study routine and maximize your efforts. 

Progression to CCSP

Once you complete your CCSK certificate and spend a few years working in cloud security, a natural next step in the CCSP certification. A key difference between these credentials is that the CCSK is a certificate focusing on cloud security, while the CCSP is a certification that covers a broad range of information security and represents a senior level of experience. Because the CCSP certification goes one step further than the CCSK certificate, it is an excellent option should you want to further your qualifications and open new job opportunities. This certification requires five years of experience in information security and information technology or four years of experience plus the CCSK certificate. Typically, the CCSP certification is a requirement for professions such as cloud administrators, cloud architects, cloud engineers, security architects, and related careers. 

Many professionals with a CCSP certification started with their CCSK, and the CCSK is a great way to enter into the professional field of cloud security. As you find the right niche, you can build upon your CCSK with additional experience and certifications to expand your skill set and explore new areas.

Next steps

Are you interested in starting your career in cloud technology? The CCSK certificate is a valuable credential that represents your knowledge of cloud security and shows employers you have the skills needed to perform well on the job. If you are looking to begin learning the necessary knowledge to pass the CCSK exam, taking courses in cybersecurity and cloud security, such as the ones offered on Coursera, can help you get familiar with the field and start building your base knowledge. Courses such as Security in Google Cloud by Google Cloud or Protecting Cloud Architecture with Alibaba Cloud by Alibaba Cloud Academy provide a significant first step to launch you into your new and exciting career.

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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