CyberOps Professional — “Early Access” Course Initial Impressions

A Bit of a Background

I had the opportunity to be accepted to Cisco’s then Global Cybersecurity Scholarship program back in 2017. It was during those times that Cisco introduced CCNA Cyber Ops certification, a two-exam largely vendor-agnostic certification in their security certification portfolio. Through this program, Cisco provided about ~5 months of free access (~2.5months per exam prep course) to the e-learning portal as well as free exam vouchers (with retakes) for each exam, and special discounts on the official study guide ebooks.

Thanks to this program, after passing 210–250 SECFND and 210–255 SECOPS exams in early 2018, I obtained CCNA CyberOps, my very first cybersecurity certification.

Some Changes

In recent years, Cisco has streamlined is certification program. Among the changes were the renaming of this certification and the creation of the Associate and Professional levels (akin to their other certifications). Those who have obtained the earlier version got their certifications renamed to Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate. Additionally, those who have not taken theirs would now only need to pass one (1) exam (200–201 CBROPS) instead of the earlier two (2).

The Cisco Certified CyberOps Professional was (iirc) also just launched towards the end of last year, with the exam first having been made available back in November 17, 2020. To obtain the Professional level, one needs to pass two (2) exams: 350–201 CBRCOR (the core exam) and 300–215 CBRFIR (the concentration exam).

While the official learning materials for the concentration exam are yet to be seen, Cisco is launching the course Performing CyberOps Using Cisco Security Technologies (CBRCOR) meant to prep takers for the core exam. Although official full release date is said to be by April 2021, one can get an “early access” to this e-learning (that also comes with 365 days of access to the content as opposed to the usual 180-day access post launch).

350–201 CBRCOR: Initial Impression

I have only purchased the course recently (in light of the ongoing 30% special discount), so I have only gone through some of the sections. So here’s my initial impression on the material (although I haven’t gone through the full T&C myself, I’ll attempt not to violate any, e.g. NDA, copyright, etc):

  1. Those in CCNA CyberOps cohorts before (I was on Cohort 5 iirc) during the Cisco global scholarship will be familiar with this learning portal’s look and feel — it literally looks and feels the same.
  2. The material has 13 sections in total with many modules each. The structure pretty much mimics the earlier CCNA CyberOps e-learning, which has a Content Review Question(s) portion at the end of each module, and a Summary Challenge (i.e. assessment for that module) at the end of the section which has a tiered scoring from Bronze, to Silver, and to Gold.
  3. As of writing, there are already about 5 of 13 sections available (Cisco Learning Network Store mentioned only 3). Maybe they’ll release a few more sections until the official release on April 2021.
  4. The course intro video feels a bit unpolished; probably needs a retake or additional video editing
  5. Some of the module content appears like an overview or a high-level brief. Some gave me chapter summary of sorts impression. Some modules do a lengthier dive but generally, most left me wanting for more.
  6. There are practical hands-on labs! This I believe is the real benefit of this e-learning material. Not everyone has the access to the tools nor the first-hand experience about the scenario(s)/topic(s) mentioned, so having a related hands-on lab from the course material is highly beneficial. However, as what I’ve experienced back in the SECFND and SECOPS courses, the respective ebooks (for me) were still the best primary source materials overall, with the e-learning serving as supplementary materials to what was already discussed in the books. But then again, this is coming from viewing the “early access” contents — things will still change and improve.
  7. I missed something very important in the title of this course: “Performing CyberOps Using Cisco Security Technologies” (emphasis on the last 4 words). So, as the title implies, there are modules that are leaning/will lean on Cisco’s many security technologies. I am not yet aware of the specifics of the new 200–201 CBROPS (i.e. Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate) but this might be a bit of a disappointment for some especially since (now-retired) CCNA CyberOps was predominantly vendor-agnostic (frankly, for me, looking back, then CyberOps it was like a mix of Security+ and CySA+). Mind you, this is not to discourage anyone but it is something worth noting especially if you are assessing your options whether to stick with the Associate level or pursue this Professional level.

There is an overarching caveat to all these: I was just fresh from another exam on the last day of 2020 (which I will make a review on a separate post soon), so I might be a little biased for wanting more breadth/depth of coverage from the material especially since this course alone cost me as much as the what cost me to schedule/book that certification exam I just took some weeks ago.

Nonetheless, overall, since it’s “early access”, I do hope the team behind it plans to add more stuff on this e-learning material before the April 2021 launch.

Why CyberOps Professional and Not the Associate?

Frankly, I was initially considering just renewing my Associate level certification through the new 200–201 CBROPS exam. Although there are some differences/changes between the retired course and the new exam, I wanted to start with something new and something fresh especially for this new year 2021.

I had my first brushes with the field of information security some years ago but since the role was mixed with systems infrastructure and networking responsibilities, me wanting more specialized focus on security (as a contractor then) meant having to break into cyber elsewhere. Despite having the knowledge through years of reading and self-study (and setting up and experimenting on my own working externally accessible home lab with security controls to boot), sadly, I did not have the experience to show for in the countless job applications and interviews I have gone through then.

Hence, I tried dabbling with (free) cybersecurity courses hoping that would pave the way. CyberOps kind of jumpstarted the learning journey for me when I was admitted to the program. And hot off the heels of passing CyberOps then were other certifications that I subsequently managed to prep for and pass in the year that followed, i.e. CompTIA Security+, AWS Cloud Practitioner, eLearnSecurity Junior Penetration Tester (eJPT), and CompTIA CyberSecurity Analyst (CySA+).

I wanted to keep the momentum going last year but unfortunately, 2020 wasn’t a predominantly a great year for me either specifically in terms of my learning development. But thankfully, I managed to end the year with a big bang when, after ~3 months of preparation (~2 months on/off, ~1 full), I (provisionally) passed Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) on the last day of the year!! Thanks to that, my (provisional) passing elevated 2020 as an extra memorable year! (I’ll post a separate write-up on that soon)

Therefore, I wanted to have (a) workable goal(s) to continue on for this year. Apart from an unfinished course (i.e. eLearnSecurity Penetration Testing Professional v5 (PTPv5)) and unrealized plans (e.g. eLearnSecurity Certified Professional Penetration Tester (eCPPTv2), and two (2) Splunk certs) carried over from last year, I would like to continue where I left off so I am banking on a fresh CyberOps course to rev up my engines for another year-long of learning.

Extras

Additional Study Resources

Difference Between CCNA CyberOps and CyberOps Associate

On CCNA Cyber Ops (retired)

  • Two Retired (2) Exams: 210–250 SECFND (core exam 1) & 210–255 SECOPS (core exam 2)
  • Retired Trainings: Understanding Cisco Cybersecurity Fundamentals (SECFND) & Implementing Cisco Cybersecurity Operations (SECOPS)

On Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate

On Cisco Certified CyberOps Professional

Disclaimer: This is sort of an initial impressions review on the “early access” on-demand learning material for the Cisco Certified CyberOps Professional currently available on the Cisco Learning Network Store. I’m not associated with nor paid by Cisco. This post is also not sponsored by Cisco. This is solely for the intention of sharing initial feedback on the course and some additional information to the community.

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Angelus

Angelus

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a self-confessed news hound, web nomad, and tech junkie