Passing the AWS Certified Security-Speciality exam

Recently I’ve passed the “AWS Certified Security — Speciality” exam, so I think that’s the best proof that my preparation process was good enough.

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In this post I want to share my path to pass the “AWS Certified Security — Speciality” exam, including sharing all my notes which I made during the preparation. The scope of the exam is quite general and sometimes you don’t know how deep you should go into some topic. Well, at least it was a dilemma for me regarding the services, which I don’t use on my daily basis. So I decided to make my notes public, because:

a) sharing the knowledge is cool! 👏👏👏

b) I hope that my notes will help you assess if you’re already prepared to take the exam or you need to further research certain topics.

I took the acloudguru course and I’d definitely recommend it. Information there is presented in an easy way and the course cover vast majority of the topics which appear on the exam. What is more, the instructor shows the most important parts in the form of labs (I’d go even further and encourage you to not only follow the instructor steps in the AWS console, but also to make your own lab scenarios).

In my case I could totally skip the Cloud HSM section, because on my final exam I found 2 easy questions related with this service (knowing key differences between Cloud HSM and KSM was enough to answer those questions). I’ve also watched all the recommended in the course presentations as well as went through FAQs of some services like IAM, KMS, CloudWatch (IMHO these are 3 the most important services you should know to pass the exam).

Additionally to acloudguru’s course I bought the access to 235 dump questions on WhizLabs. I think it’s a good way to check yourself, learn the style of exam questions and find the gaps in your knowledge. However, don’t expect you’ll see the same questions on your exam! In my case, I got only 2 <cough> very “similar” <cough> questions (I went through all those 235 WhizLabs questions 3–4 times so I remembered them quite well). Furthermore, I found there are outdated questions, e.g. currently you no longer need the approval from AWS support team to perform assessments of your EC2 instances, but the WhizLabs points the opposite answer as the correct one.

Below you can find a link to all my notes I made while preparing to the exam:

I can confirm that they covered at least 83% of all questions on my exam (after every question on the exam I wrote down if it is mentioned in my notes — thus I calculated such accurate number 😉). In the form of mind maps I wrote all key information I saw on the acloudguru’s course and every new information I found on WhizLabs dumps, presentation or FAQs. I put all notes in mind maps, because it’s effective way of learning for me — simply, it’s easier to me to remind the branches instead of the wall of text. Here is the example how does it look like on the example of KMS notes:

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I’d recommend you to go through all my notes and if you find something new, then google more about it. Some of the notes are just my mental shortcuts, because I knew the topic well so please don’t treat it as your only source for your preparations!

If you want to learn some general security best practices or systemise your knowledge about them and gain new fancy paper, then it’s definitely worth. Furthermore, if you tend to procrastinate like me, then having the upcoming deadline at the back of your mind is a great motivation to learn regularly every day. However, forget about gaining practical knowledge about offensive aspects of AWS security, like for example scenarios in CloudGoat, privilege escalation techniques, or data exfiltration from isolated EC2 instance.

All in all, I learn some new things, so I definitely don’t regret all time spent on the preparation. Is it hard exam? No, if you’re well prepared 😉 I spent almost 3 months for preparing to this exam (0,5–2 hours per day) and I felt quite confident when I went at the exam. Was it more than enough? Probably yes, but my goal is understanding the stuff, not just getting a new certificate. Finally, I’d like to end this post with Abraham Lincoln’s quote regarding time spent on preparation:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

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Interested in pentesting and cloud security | OSCP | eMAPT | AWS SAA | AWS CSS

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