My path to the CCNA Security certification

Today I earned the infamous CCNA Security certification. It’s exactly a month later than planned but I’m happy I managed to pass it on the first try. From reading other peoples experiences I went into this exam expecting to see some curve balls and I did.

The biggest complaints I’ve heard from people who have sat this exam is that the official certification guide doesn’t adequately prepare you for it. Also, the blueprint isn’t really that helpful either, see this post in Cisco’s learning forum. Daniel, the author of that post gives his perspective on how he found it, it’s eye opening. With hindsight, I agree. Had I simply used the OCG on its own I would have failed this exam. Even with all the material I went through I wasn’t confident during the exam that I had passed.

Below is a list of all the materials that I used to prepare for this:

  • CCNA Security 210-260 Official Cert Guide Premium Edition and Practice Test, ISBN: 9780134077895
  • CCNA Security 210-260 Complete Video Course
    By Omar Santos, Aaron Woland, Mason Harris
  • 31 Days Before Your CCNA Security Exam (Digital Study Guide): A Day-By-Day Review Guide for the IINS 210-260 Certification Exam (eBook, videos, interactive exercises, quizzes)
  • CCNA Security (210-260) Portable Command Guide, 2nd Edition
    By Bob Vachon
  • Cisco CCNA Security 210-260 IINS (references 640-554 A LOT)¬†with Keith Barker
  • Cisco CCNP Security Firewall (CBT Nuggets)
  • Cisco CCNP Security VPN 2.0¬†(CBT Nuggets)

I started off with the OCG guide and Keith Barker’s 210-260 + 640-554 video series. Then I binged watched the ‘CCNA Security 210-260 Complete Video Course’ By Omar Santos, Aaron Woland, Mason Harris. All video series were a nice complement to the book. The latter might not be on most peoples radar but I highly recommend it.

For my virtual labs I used Keith Barker’s CCNP Security Firewall videos to get up to speed on ASDM. Along with using the 31 Days Before Your CCNA Security Exam and the Portable Command Guide. The digital version of the 31 Days Before Your Exam was surprisingly good. It has quite a bit of video content and a lot of quizzes throughout. Breaking it down into daily chunks and using it in combination with the Portable Command Guide was a nice combination.

Preparing for this exam was tough as some of the technology that you’re required to know about is simply no longer used in the real world. CCP and ACS being two of them. After installing CCP and briefly experimenting with it, I decided not to invest any more time on it and gambled that it wouldn’t show up on the exam. To practice AAA with tacacs+ I used an open source tacacs+ server to do so. I followed this guide to accomplish that using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. (Cisco’s ISE was not an option that was available to me).

The practice exams that come with the Premium OCG guide was definitely worth the investment and I would highly recommend it if you’re on the same path.

My thoughts on the exam can be summed up in a single word..meh. I didn’t enjoy it, it was a classic Cisco exam in my opinion. Lots of tricky questions that are worded with a lot of ambiguity. Exam aside I really did learn a lot that’s been directly applicable to my job, which is the most important thing.