GICSP: Reducing Risk and Improving Security

Training and certification for industrial control cyber security is becoming a hot topic. Training courses to educate engineers to hot-defend IACS or ICS (industrial control and automation system) are made available by a number of companies; however, many of the training programs that are designed cover only select parts of full-spectrum. This issue becomes truly evident when personnel from different companies, with unequal levels of expertise in security and training work together on major projects together. In some instances the disparities and dissonance in security knowledge among personnel can be very clear.

For several years Yokogawa had incorporated a number of initiatives with its customers and their suppliers to address the issue. Together, Yokogawa and a short list of customers made several attempts to promote a new and universally effective security certification specifically for industrial control systems. When the idea was accepted by SANS and GIAC – the largest and most trusted sources of security training and security certification in the worldthe concept began to truly gain traction. The universally all-inclusive certification concept culminated at the end of 2013 with the release of the GICSP certification


Most people outside the world of IT would not be familiar with SANS or GIAC. Established over 25 years ago, today SANS is a security research and training organization viewed to be one of the best in the US and the world, specifically in IT. GIAC is the certification body of SANS. GIAC prepares and administers the exams that are distributed by SANS.

-          GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) was established in 1999 to validate the skills of information security professionals. GIAC certifications are trusted by thousands of companies and government agencies, including the US National Security Agency (NSA).

-           SANS is the leading organization in computer security training. Established i 1989, the SANS Institute is known for providing intensive, immersion training designed to help you and your staff master the practical steps necessary for defending systems and networks.

SANS has been involved in ICS security for some time and holds a number of global conferences each year. In recent years, SANS has teamed up with John Pollet at Red Tiger Security and give a number of industrial security training courses worldwide – a significant development in this area.

The new GICSP certification (Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional) is intended to establish a base level of knowledge for professionals that work in a number of fields – to serve as a bridge to bring together IT, engineering and cybersecurity professionals to ensure the full-spectrum security of a control system from conception through its entire lifecycle to retirement. Project engineers, support and maintenance engineers, or asset owner staff working in the area should establish an appreciation and mutual understanding of the important issues and challenges in ICS security – and GICSP does just that.

GICSP Content

The GICSP certification is a multiple choice exam of 115 questions. Of these questions, 100 are for evaluation and 15 being tested for future use. The exam will assess the knowledge of the candidate in a number of areas such as Architecture, Risk Assessments, Monitoring, Change Management, Business Continuity, Incident Management, Industrial Control Systems (RTUs, SIS, etc), System Hardening and general Cybersecurity Essentials. GICSP is aimed at ensuring that the people whom are certified have a concrete base level of knowledge that they should know if they are in a role that could impact cyber security of an ICS environment.

The certification is meant to be neither too difficult – nor too easy. If you come from a purely IT background, the exam would be challenging in a number of areas. Similarly, a pure process control engineer may find the IT questions to be challenging. The exam covers a base level in all relevant areas.  

SANS course 410 (ICS Security Essentials) is an effective channel to prepare for the GICSP exam. The course is typically one week full-time, but can be spread over several weeks if needed. Take note that there are many information sources readily available online, in regards to the knowledge areas of the certification. Specific training and preparation is not required, but most believe that SANS education is a must.

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GICSP and Yokogawa

GICSP is the only credential of its kind. It addresses the specific cyber security issues in the ICS field, and is perfectly aligned with Yokogawa’s longstanding commitment in bringing safety and efficiency to its customers. Yokogawa is one of the leading companies with GICSP certified employees in the industrial automation industry.

Commenting on GICSP in a recent press release, Shailendra Shete, head of the Global Engineering Business Division, says, Employees who get this certification will be conversant with the latest technologies and be at the forefront of efforts to provide such services to the industry. I think that they will be able to help Yokogawa take and maintain a leading position in the provision of security services." (read the full press release here)

At a recent Yokogawa business conference, Shell Global Solutions Manager Tyler Williams spoke of GICSP in a similar light; “The most important aspect of setting up a cyber security solution is to ensure that your engineers respect the fact that IT can bring a different, capable set of skills to the table... (GICSP) are the perfect credentials for helping us to continue our security journey,” said Williams. (read further comments by Tyler Williams here)

Now, having standardized methods and terminology, more people are able to work together. By working together we can achieve better results, and better results will lead to a better future. With that being said, it is equally important to educate site staff and become GICSP certified as well.

Yokogawa’s is proud to have played a contributing role in the development of GICSP, and will aim to ensure safe and efficient operations at customer facilities. Due to this belief, Yokogawa will continue its efforts to increase the number of GICSP certified professionals at each of its Group companies around the world, and encourages other companies to take part as well.

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