This blog was co-authored by Brent Hill, Exam Protections & Security Operations Manager, and Brent Morris, Security Investigations & Enforcements Program Manager.
The concept of certification is built on trust and integrity. When someone is certified by an organization, that organization is guaranteeing that the certification holder met the requirements to earn that certification and that the process of earning it was fair, and importantly, secure. Here at Cisco, the Exam Security Program protects our certifications’ integrity and maintains the respect and trust with which they’re regarded. Our role is to be active throughout the entirety of the certification process, building security into everything we do to continually maintain the integrity and reputation of Cisco exams. In short, we’re the team that operates behind the scenes, policing the behaviors and activities that can jeopardize the value of the certifications people work so hard to earn.
Meet the Cisco Exam Security team
For a bit of context, the Exam Security Program was formalized in 2001, and is managed and based in the United States. Our team consists of Brent Hill, Exam Protections & Security Operations Manager, and Brent Morris, the Security Investigations & Enforcements Program Manager. Right now, we have security and enforcement oversight of 100+ exams, eight CCIE labs, 2700 Pearson Vue testing centers, and all online exam delivery.
Before we get too far into this, we want to point you in the direction of a recent interview we did for the Cisco Learning Network Podcast. We talked at length about the topic of exam security. If you want more information about my background, our perspective on all of this, and a bit more context about the team (including a deeper dive into how we created the Exam Security Program), check it out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Let’s step into this discussion with an eye toward the big picture. On the podcast, we go through some of the challenges we face and the ideals that drive us. One of the points that serve as both an ideal to strive for and a challenge we face is how we maintain value. Obviously, value can be calculated in different ways; there’s monetary value, of course, but there’s also value in knowing the material you’re learning is vital and up to date, there’s value in knowing the exam you’re taking is an accurate benchmark of skills, and there’s value in the certification itself. Protecting those values doesn’t just happen at the end of Cisco’s exam process or in the testing center—it guides everything we do. And that includes what we’re doing internally and externally.
Behind the scenes of certification exam security
You should never feel like a Cisco exam or certification lacks value. Our internal work also allows us to collaborate with teams in Cisco to make sure the security measures we’ve devised are integral parts of their design process, baked into the way that they’re thinking and operating. It also allows them to be proactive when they see a problem with their content and support us in identifying solutions. Our ability to collaborate allows us to work far more effectively across a large organization.
Externally, we’re always looking for ways to protect the integrity of our exams and our certifications. One of the big problems we look for in the wild is what we call ‘Exam Brain Dumps.’ Essentially, a brain dump is when someone who has taken the exam remembers the specifics of a problem or section and then disseminates it online, either for sale or free. (We talk about it a bit more at length on the podcast.) What’s more, is that this is covered specifically by the Cisco Candidate NDA, so these people know what they’re doing.
We protect you throughout the exam process
Obviously, having an exam problem or section out in the world threatens the integrity of the exam. Candidates can use that information to cheat. When someone earns their certification through cheating, that devalues everyone’s certification and calls into question the trust that Cisco has built, so we’re always on the lookout for this sort of dissemination.
So that sort of works as a good example of the thinking that goes into what we do. We’re always on the lookout for brain dumps, collusion, fraud, proxy testing, false score reports, etc., because each of those things cuts into the validity of a Cisco exam. When we find them, we have to take action. Because once something is on the internet, it’s out of our hands. There are other considerations here as well. We’re not just changing the exam, we’re also invalidating certifications for people who accessed the material and giving them lifetime bans. It’s severe.
Our intent is also to protect candidates who don’t know better. Cisco certification exams are hard, and there are legit study resources out there. But the last thing we want to see is a candidate to give their money to someone who can jeopardize their certification or mislead them.
The options are there. But remember: There isn’t an easy, short route to passing a Cisco certification exam. So, when you come across the promise of an easy, too-good-to-be-true route to getting certified, you should feel alarmed.
How to report a Cisco exam violation
It’s not hard to figure out if the material you’re seeing is legitimate or not, we want to help you and we’re here for that. Sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org is the best way to figure out if what you’re looking at or considering buying is going legit. And we’re happy to direct you to other options, we’re on your side during this process, which is the point of exam security. We have a zero-tolerance policy for cheating, and we have developed different methods for catching cheaters, it’s just not worth doing at any level.
There are a lot of responsibilities that we ask candidates to take on, which are detailed on both the Candidate Rights and Responsibilities document we’ve created and the Exam Policy page. When candidates come to earn a certification, they become part of our community and agree to a code of conduct that we use to maintain the security of our exams and protect their value for everyone.
Overall, we’re here to work with our community to protect their certifications and hard work. We encourage questions and tips because we want to help. Feel free to reach out to us and have that discussion, let us know if you have concerns, or see something you think we should look at.
Thanks for taking the time to read and learn a bit more about Exam Security. Reach out in the comment section with questions and let’s start a discussion. We’d love to hear about your Cisco exam experiences and how we can best support your certification journey.
Questions? Need to report an exam policy violation? Send us an email.
The Brents (Brent Hill and Brent Morris)
Listen on the Cisco Learning Network Podcast
“How to Protect the Integrity of Your Cisco Certification“
Available now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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Thank you for all that you do to protect the integrity of the exams!
Great, great post!!! Really useful!!!
It’s good to see CISCO working to secure the integrity of the coveted certifications. The problem of dumps is an age old menace which doesn’t seem to go away. Really wish that the CCIE certifications include an interview/viva which will ensure dumpsters are identified and fail to get that cherished CCIE number.
There has to be way for companies and recruiters to know that they’re not hiring someone who has cheated on an exam.