The GIAC certifications from SANS are a relative new comer to the Information Security game, but they have come out with a bang in the past few years and have become VERY popular among employers who are seeking applicants with real technical knowledge. The federal government even qualifys it as a Technical level I certification according to the DoD 8570.1m. I took the GIAC GSEC certification boot camp 4 years ago and it was by far my favorite class so far. The instructors were very well prepared and really knew how to practice the principals, not just teach them. The classes themselves were very long but during the night classes, you actually get hands on with the latest hacking tools. It was very cool to learn how to use some of the tools that the hackers were using against our networks. Some of the students even decided to try these tools on the hotels network that night! The test itself was pretty difficult. I am almost happy to say that because it really proves that you know your stuff. It’s not just a fluff test like some of the other INFOSEC certifications. To be honest though, I failed the test on the first try. I thought I was prepared for how technical the test was, but I was not prepared at all for the in depth questions on using the hacking tools. For my first try I just used the SANS study materials and looking back, I feel like they give you a mountain of information, but with no real way to study it for the actual test. I decided I needed to supplement the SANS materials with an actual study guide. I went online to find the best reviewed GSEC books and came across the SANS GIAC Certification: Security Essentials Toolkit (GSEC) book by Eric Cole.This book really changed the way I attacked the GSEC exam and made a huge difference in my knowledge retention. I also loved how the book actually taught me the principles while preparing me for the test. For someone just getting into Information Security and really looking to build a technical foundation that employers will drool over, this certification is an excellent way to start. After I passed the test, my employer was very impressed. They actually gave me a 8% raise just for passing the test. It was great for them because they could bill customers more for DoD 8570.1m certified employees. Now when they put out job ads, they always include SANS GIAC GSEC as “highly desired”. They will always pay more for someone with this certification because unlike a lot of the other Information Security (INFOSEC) certifications, this one actual shows you have technical working knowledge, not just theoretical knowledge.