What Is CCSK? A 2023 Guide for Cloud Security Professionals

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] A candidate for the CCSK certificate holds a tablet and prepares for the exam at a table with a laptop and notebook.

As more businesses move their operations online, cloud security is becoming integral to business security and safety. As a result, professionals with the knowledge and ability to help businesses secure their platforms are in high demand. Obtaining a Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) can help you showcase this skill set to employers. You can learn more about this certificate, why it is important, and what you can expect from the exam in the following guide.

What is CCSK?

CCSK is a widely recognized certificate developed by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). It represents the standard of knowledge required to work in cloud security. The test assesses your understanding of data encryption, cloud incident response, application security, Security as a Service (SecaaS), best practices for Identity and Access Management (IAM), and secure technologies.

Because different companies vary in their technologies and specific security needs, you may need to complement the CCSK knowledge base with additional, job-specific training. 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?

A CCSK is not legally required. However, many employers look for this certificate to verify a potential candidate's ability to perform essential cloud security tasks. Cloud security is a new and emerging field. Many employers and company executives still need to gain background knowledge in this area themselves. Screening candidates for a CCSK can make assessing the skill level of potential hires easier. If you are applying to a cloud security position without this credential, your employer could opt for another candidate with this certificate. 

Is CCSK worth it?

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 highly 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.

You can demonstrate your proficiency in specialized skills.

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.

You will meet the prerequisites for more advanced cloud security certifications.

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)

Reference material for the CCSK exam

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 you're preparing for this exam, you'll want to make sure 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 hard is the CCSK exam?

The CCSK exam is challenging. It has a 62 percent passing rate [1]. However, there are many online resources you can use to prepare yourself for the exam successfully. 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. 

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.

Tips for managing your study time

The studying process can feel time-consuming, especially if you have other responsibilities outside of it. 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 future exams. If you have trouble self-studying, engaging with an online tutor or enrolling in a course can help you stay on track.

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How much does the CCSK exam cost?

As of January 2023, the CCSK exam costs $395. Typically, you are responsible for this expense. However, if you are getting this certificate for your current job, your employer may be willing to help with the cost.

How to prepare for the CCSK exam

When preparing for the CCSK exam, you have a few options. Finding the study method that best fits your lifestyle and preferences can help you stick to your study routine and maximize your efforts. The sections below outline three ways you can prepare yourself to pass the CCSK exam.

1. Independent study

If you're an independent learner, your best option might be to study on your own. This method requires a high level of self-motivation and continual monitoring of your own progress. Many online resources can help you understand the material and test yourself with questions. For example, you can download the CCSK v4 Exam Preparation Kit for an outline of the content of the exam and practice questions.

2. Guided study

If you're not confident in your background knowledge of cloud security concepts yet, consider taking some online classes to fill the gaps in your knowledge. Here are a few options to get you started with key concepts in the CCSK exam:

General cloud security concepts:

  • System Issues in Cloud Computing Specialization by the Georgia Institute of Technology. Gain hands-on project-intensive experience in developing different layers of a Cloud computing infrastructure with this course. You will earn a shareable certificate upon completion.

Vendor-specific cloud security concepts:

  • Security in Google Cloud Specialization. This vendor-specific course covers mitigation methods for attacks at various points in a Google Cloud-based infrastructure. Learn about phishing attacks, Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, and more while also earning a certificate for your resume.

  • Cloud Computing Security by the University of Colorado. Use this course to familiarize yourself with popular cloud security tools and systems. You'll learn how to create an AWS account, plan resources for your cloud systems, create and access AWS EC2 instances, and configure LAMP web services with MySQL database. You will earn a shareable certificate upon completion.

3. CCSK training

If you learn best in a guided environment, enrolling in 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. A benefit of guided practices like CCSK training or online courses is that you will become part of a community of fellow students. This can provide a platform to ask questions, learn from one another, and build your professional network.

What's next? Advancing to the CCSP

Once you complete your CCSK certificate and spend a few years working in cloud security, you might be ready to earn your 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. It represents a senior level of experience.

The CCSP certificate is an excellent option should you want to further your qualifications and open new job opportunities. It requires five years of experience in information security and information technology (IT) or four years of experience plus the CCSK certificate. The CCSP certification is a requirement for some advanced professions, such as cloud administrators, cloud architects, cloud engineers, security architects, and related careers. 

Gain more cloud security expertise with Coursera

Cloud security courses can help you build the foundational knowledge you'll need to eventually pass the CCSK exam. If you're new to the field, consider taking a beginner-friendly course from an industry leader like Preparing for Your Professional Cloud Security Engineer Journey by Google Cloud:

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Article sources

  1. Cloud Security Alliance. "Roadmap to Earning Your Certificate in Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), https://cloudsecurityalliance.org/blog/2020/11/24/roadmap-to-earning-your-certificate-in-cloud-security-knowledge-ccsk/." Accessed January 17, 2023.

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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