In the mid-1980s a need arose for a standardized, vendor-neutral certification program that provided structure and demonstrated competence. In November 1988, the Special Interest Group for Computer Security (SIG-CS), a member of the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA), brought together several organizations interested in this goal. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium or "(ISC)²" formed in mid-1989 as a non-profit organization.
By 1990, the first working committee to establish a Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) had been formed. The first version of the CBK was finalized by 1992, and the CISSP credential was launched by 1994.
Certification subject matter
The CISSP curriculum covers subject matter in a variety of Information Security topics. The CISSP examination is based on what (ISC)² terms the Common Body of Knowledge (or CBK). According to (ISC)², "the CISSP CBK is a taxonomy – a collection of topics relevant to information security professionals around the world. The CISSP CBK establishes a common framework of information security terms and principles that allow information security professionals worldwide to discuss, debate and resolve matters pertaining to the profession with a common understanding."
The CISSP certification covers the following ten domains:
(ISC)² is now[when?] releasing the Third Edition Official Guide to the CISSP CBK one domain at a time on iTunes and for the Kindle. The entire book is also now available in hard copy.
Candidates for the CISSP must meet several requirements:
Possess a minimum of five years of direct full-time security work experience in two or more of the ten (ISC)² information security domains (CBK). One year may be waived for having either a four-year college degree, a Master's degree in Information Security, or for possessing one of a number of other certifications from other organizations. A candidate not possessing the necessary five years of experience may earn the Associate of (ISC)² designation by passing the required CISSP examination. The Associate of (ISC)² for CISSP designation is valid for a maximum of six years from the date (ISC)² notifies the candidate of having passed the exam. During those six years a candidate will need to obtain the required experience and submit the required endorsement form for certification as a CISSP. Upon completion of the professional experience requirements the certification will be converted to CISSP status.
Attest to the truth of their assertions regarding professional experience and accept the CISSP Code of Ethics.
Answer four questions regarding criminal history and related background.
Pass the CISSP exam with a scaled score of 700 points or greater out of 1000 possible points. The exam is multiple choice, consisting of 250 questions with four options each, to be answered over a period of six hours. 25 of the questions are experimental questions which are not graded.
Have their qualifications endorsed by another CISSP in good standing. The endorser attests that the candidate's assertions regarding professional experience are true to the best of their knowledge, and that the candidate is in good standing within the information security industry.
The CISSP credential is valid for three years. The credential can be renewed by re-taking the exam, but most certificate holders renew by submitting Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. To maintain the CISSP certification, a certificate holder is required to earn and submit a minimum of 20 CPEs each year and 120 CPEs by the end of their three-year certification cycle. They are also required to pay an annual fee of US$85.
For CISSPs who hold one or more concentrations, CPEs submitted for the CISSP concentration(s) will be counted toward the annual minimum CPEs required for the CISSP.
CPEs can be earned through several paths, including taking classes, attending conferences and seminars (online and in person), teaching others, undertaking volunteer work, and professional writing, all in areas covered by the CBK. Most activities earn 1 CPE for each hour of time spent, however preparing (but not delivering) training for others is weighted at 4 CPEs/hour, published articles are worth 10 CPEs, and published books 40 CPEs.
In 2005, Certification Magazine surveyed 35,167 IT professionals in 170 countries on compensation and found that CISSPs led their list of certificates ranked by salary. A 2006 Certification Magazine salary survey also ranked the CISSP credential highly, and ranked CISSP concentration certifications as the top best-paid credentials in IT. Many with the CISSP have been hired for government and law enforcement agencies in addition to corporate technology departments.
In 2008, another study came to the conclusion that IT professionals with CISSP (or other major security certifications) tend to have salaries $21,000 higher than IT professionals without such certificates.
Critics of the CISSP claim that the (ISC)² has devalued the CISSP (such as by relaxing standards and refusing to adequately prosecute ethical lapses by its holders) in the pursuit of higher revenue via allowing more CISSP holders, that few employers - especially for top-paying jobs - care about CISSP as evidenced by their job postings, and that much of what the CISSP claims to certify is based only on the holder's own testimony.