About the Exam

The CompTIA Security+ certification is a vendor-neutral credential. The CompTIA Security+ exam is an internationally recognized validation of foundation-level security skills and knowledge, and is used by organizations and security professionals around the globe.

The CompTIA Security+ exam will certify the successful candidate has the knowledge and skills required to install and configure systems to secure applications, networks, and devices; perform threat analysis and respond with appropriate mitigation techniques; participate in risk mitigation activities; and operate with an awareness of applicable policies, laws, and regulations.

 

The successful candidate will perform these tasks to support the principles of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The CompTIA Security+ certification is aimed at an IT security professional who has:

• A minimum of two years’ experience in IT administration with a focus on security
• Day-to-day technical information security experience

• Broad knowledge of security concerns and implementation, including the topics in the domain list

These content examples are meant to clarify the test objectives and should not be construed as a comprehensive listing of all content in this examination.

The lists of examples provided in bulleted format are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document. CompTIA is constantly reviewing the content of our exams and updating test questions to be sure our exams are current and the security of the questions is protected. When necessary, we will publish updated exams based on existing exam objectives. Please know that all related exam preparation materials will still be valid.

   

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

TEST DETAILS

Required exam
Number of questions Types of questions
Length of test Recommended experience

Passing score

CompTIA Security+ SY0-501

Maximum of 90

Multiple choice and performance-based

90 minutes

At least two years of experience
in IT administration with a focus on security

750 (on a scale of 100–900)

EXAM OBJECTIVES (DOMAINS)

The table below lists the domains measured by this examination and the extent to which they are represented:

DOMAIN

1.0 Threats, Attacks and Vulnerabilities

2.0 Technologies and Tools
3.0 Architecture and Design
4.0 Identity and Access Management

5.0 Risk Management

6.0 Cryptography and PKI

        

1.1

1.0 Threats, Attacks and Vulnerabilities

Given a scenario, analyze indicators of compromise and determine the type of malware.

• Viruses
• Crypto-malware

• Ransomware
• Worm
• Trojan
• Rootkit
• Keylogger
• Adware
• Spyware

• Bots
• RAT
• Logic bomb

• Backdoor

1.2

Compare and contrast types of attacks.

• Social engineering

- Phishing
- Spear phishing
- Whaling
- Vishing
- Tailgating
- Impersonation
- Dumpster diving
- Shoulder surfing
- Hoax
- Watering hole attack
- Principles (reasons for effectiveness)

- Authority
- Intimidation - Consensus
- Scarcity
- Familiarity
- Trust
- Urgency

• Application/service attacks

- DoS
- DDoS
- Man-in-the-middle - Buffer overflow

- Injection -IV

- Cross-site scripting
- Cross-site request forgery
- Privilege escalation
- ARP poisoning
- Amplification
- DNS poisoning
- Domain hijacking
- Man-in-the-browser
- Zero day
- Replay
- Pass the hash
- Hijacking and related attacks

- Clickjacking
- Session hijacking - URL hijacking
- Typo squatting

- Driver manipulation - Shimming

- Refactoring

- MAC spoofing
- IP spoofing

• Wireless attacks

- Replay

- Evil twin
- Rogue AP
- Jamming
- WPS
- Bluejacking
- Bluesnarfing
- RFID
- NFC
- Disassociation

• Cryptographic attacks

- Birthday
- Known plain text/cipher text - Rainbow tables
- Dictionary
- Brute force

- Online vs. offline - Collision

- Downgrade
- Replay
- Weak implementations

1.3

Explain threat actor types and attributes.

• Types of actors

- Script kiddies
- Hacktivist
- Organized crime
- Nation states/APT - Insiders
- Competitors

• Attributes of actors

- Internal/external
- Level of sophistication

- Resources/funding
- Intent/motivation

• Use of open-source intelligence

1.4

Explain penetration testing concepts.

• Active reconnaissance
• Passive reconnaissance

• Pivot
• Initial exploitation
• Persistence
• Escalation of privilege

• Black box
• White box
• Gray box
• Penetration testing vs. vulnerability scanning

1.5

1.6

Explain vulnerability scanning concepts.

• Passively test security controls
• Identify vulnerability
• Identify lack of security controls
• Identify common misconfigurations

• Intrusive vs. non-intrusive
• Credentialed vs. non-credentialed • False positive

Explain the impact associated with types of vulnerabilities.

• Race conditions
• Vulnerabilities due to:

- End-of-life systems
- Embedded systems
- Lack of vendor support

• Improper input handling
• Improper error handling
• Misconfiguration/weak configuration
• Default configuration
• Resource exhaustion
• Untrained users
• Improperly configured accounts
• Vulnerable business processes
• Weak cipher suites and implementations

• Memory/buffer vulnerability

- Memory leak
- Integer overflow
- Buffer overflow
- Pointer dereference - DLL injection

• System sprawl/undocumented assets • Architecture/design weaknesses
• New threats/zero day
• Improper certificate and

key management

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

           

2.1

2.0 Technologies and Tools

Install and configure network components, both hardware- and software-based, to support organizational security.

• Firewall

- ACL
- Application-based vs. network-based

- Stateful vs. stateless
- Implicit deny

• VPN concentrator

- Remote access vs. site-to-site - IPSec

- Tunnel mode
- Transport mode - AH
- ESP

- Split tunnel vs. full tunnel - TLS
- Always-on VPN

• NIPS/NIDS

- Signature-based
- Heuristic/behavioral
- Anomaly
- Inline vs. passive
- In-band vs. out-of-band - Rules
- Analytics

- False positive

- False negative

• Router

- ACLs

- Antispoofing

• Switch

- Port security
- Layer 2 vs. Layer 3

- Loop prevention
- Flood guard

• Proxy

- Forward and reverse proxy

- Transparent
- Application/multipurpose

• Load balancer

- Scheduling

- Affinity

- Round-robin

- Active-passive
- Active-active
- Virtual IPs

• Access point

- SSID
- MAC filtering
- Signal strength
- Band selection/width
- Antenna types and placement
- Fat vs. thin
- Controller-based vs. standalone

• SIEM

- Aggregation
- Correlation
- Automated alerting and triggers

- Time synchronization
- Event deduplication
- Logs/WORM

• DLP

- USB blocking

- Cloud-based

- Email

• NAC

- Dissolvable vs. permanent

- Host health checks
- Agent vs. agentless

• Mail gateway

- Spam filter

- DLP
- Encryption

• Bridge
• SSL/TLS accelerators
• SSL decryptors
• Media gateway
• Hardware security module

- tracert
- nslookup/dig
- arp
- ipconfig/ip/ifconfig - tcpdump
- nmap
- netcat

2.2

Given a scenario, use appropriate software tools to assess the security posture of an organization.

• Protocol analyzer • Network scanners

- Rogue system detection

- Network mapping

• Wireless scanners/cracker
• Password cracker
• Vulnerability scanner
• Configuration compliance scanner • Exploitation frameworks

• Data sanitization tools • Steganography tools
• Honeypot
• Backup utilities

• Banner grabbing
• Passive vs. active
• Command line tools

- ping
- netstat

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

2.3

Given a scenario, troubleshoot common security issues.

• Unencrypted credentials/clear text • Logs and events anomalies
• Permission issues
• Access violations

• Certificate issues
• Data exfiltration
• Misconfigured devices

- Firewall

- Content filter

- Access points

• Weak security configurations • Personnel issues

- Policy violation
- Insider threat
- Social engineering - Social media

- Personal email

• Unauthorized software
• Baseline deviation
• License compliance violation

(availability/integrity) • Asset management
• Authentication issues

2.0 Technologies and Tools

2.4

2.5

Given a scenario, analyze and interpret output from security technologies.

• HIDS/HIPS
• Antivirus
• File integrity check • Host-based firewall

• Application whitelisting
• Removable media control • Advanced malware tools • Patch management tools

• UTM
• DLP
• Data execution prevention • Web application firewall

- Camera use
- SMS/MMS
- External media
- USB OTG
- Recording microphone - GPS tagging
- WiFi direct/ad hoc
- Tethering
- Payment methods

• Deployment models

- BYOD
- COPE
- CYOD
- Corporate-owned - VDI

- File transfer
- Directory services
- Remote access
- Domain name resolution
- Routing and switching
- Network address allocation - Subscription services

Given a scenario, deploy mobile devices securely.

• Connection methods

- Cellular
- WiFi
- SATCOM
- Bluetooth - NFC

- ANT
- Infrared - USB

• Mobile device management concepts

- Application management - Content management
- Remote wipe
- Geofencing

- Geolocation

- Screen locks
- Push notification services
- Passwords and pins
- Biometrics
- Context-aware authentication - Containerization
- Storage segmentation
- Full device encryption

• Enforcement and monitoring for:

- Third-party app stores - Rooting/jailbreaking
- Sideloading
- Custom firmware

- Carrier unlocking
- Firmware OTA updates

2.6

Given a scenario, implement secure protocols.

• Protocols

- DNSSEC - SSH
- S/MIME - SRTP

- LDAPS - FTPS
- SFTP

- SNMPv3
- SSL/TLS
- HTTPS
- Secure POP/IMAP

• Use cases

- Voice and video
- Time synchronization - Email and web

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

            

3.1

3.0 Architecture and Design

Explain use cases and purpose for frameworks, best practices and secure configuration guides.

3.2

Given a scenario, implement secure network architecture concepts.

• Industry-standard frameworks and reference architectures

- Regulatory
- Non-regulatory
- National vs. international
- Industry-specific frameworks

• Benchmarks/secure configuration guides

- Platform/vendor-specific guides - Web server

- Operating system
- Application server
- Network infrastructure devices

- General purpose guides

• Defense-in-depth/layered security

- Vendor diversity - Control diversity

- Administrative

- Technical - User training

• Zones/topologies

- DMZ
- Extranet
- Intranet
- Wireless
- Guest
- Honeynets - NAT
- Ad hoc

• Segregation/segmentation/isolation

- Physical

- Logical (VLAN) - Virtualization - Air gaps

• Tunneling/VPN

- Site-to-site

- Remote access

• Security device/technology placement

- Sensors
- Collectors
- Correlation engines - Filters

- Proxies
- Firewalls
- VPN concentrators
- SSL accelerators
- Load balancers
- DDoS mitigator
- Aggregation switches - Taps and port mirror

• SDN

3.3

Given a scenario, implement secure systems design.

• Hardware/firmware security

- FDE/SED
- TPM
- HSM
- UEFI/BIOS
- Secure boot and attestation - Supply chain

- Hardware root of trust

- EMI/EMP

• Operating systems

- Types
- Network

- Server

- Workstation - Appliance
- Kiosk
- Mobile OS

- Patch management
- Disabling unnecessary

ports and services
- Least functionality
- Secure configurations
- Trusted operating system
- Application whitelisting/blacklisting - Disable default accounts/passwords

• Peripherals

- Wireless keyboards
- Wireless mice
- Displays
- WiFi-enabled MicroSD cards - Printers/MFDs

- External storage devices - Digital cameras

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

Explain the importance of secure staging deployment concepts.

3.4

3.5

• HVAC

• Sandboxing
• Environment

- Development - Test

- Staging

- Production

• Secure baseline
• Integrity measurement

3.0 Architecture and Design

Explain the security implications of embedded systems.

• SCADA/ICS
• Smart devices/IoT

- Wearable technology

- Home automation

• SoC
• RTOS
• Printers/MFDs
• Camera systems

• Special purpose

- Medical devices - Vehicles
- Aircraft/UAV

3.6

Summarize secure application development and deployment concepts.

• Development life-cycle models

- Waterfall vs. Agile

• Secure DevOps

- Security automation
- Continuous integration - Baselining
- Immutable systems
- Infrastructure as code

• Version control and change management • Provisioning and deprovisioning

• Secure coding techniques

- Proper error handling
- Proper input validation
- Normalization
- Stored procedures
- Code signing
- Encryption
- Obfuscation/camouflage - Code reuse/dead code
- Server-side vs. client-side

execution and validation

- Memory management
- Use of third-party libraries and SDKs - Data exposure

• Code quality and testing

- Static code analyzers
- Dynamic analysis (e.g., fuzzing) - Stress testing
- Sandboxing
- Model verification

• Compiled vs. runtime code

• On-premise vs. hosted vs. cloud • VDI/VDE
• Cloud access security broker
• Security as a Service

3.7

Summarize cloud and virtualization concepts.

• Hypervisor

-TypeI
- Type II
- Application cells/containers

• VM sprawl avoidance • VM escape protection • Cloud storage

• Cloud deployment models

- SaaS
- PaaS
- IaaS
- Private
- Public
- Hybrid
- Community

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

3.8

Explain how resiliency and automation strategies reduce risk.

• Automation/scripting

- Automated courses of action

- Continuous monitoring
- Configuration validation

• Templates
• Master image

• Non-persistence

- Snapshots
- Revert to known state
- Rollback to known configuration

- Live boot media

• Elasticity

• Scalability
• Distributive allocation

• Redundancy
• Fault tolerance
• High availability
• RAID

3.0 Architecture and Design

3.9

Explain the importance of physical security controls.

• Lighting
• Signs
• Fencing/gate/cage
• Security guards
• Alarms
• Safe
• Secure cabinets/enclosures
• Protected distribution/Protected cabling

• Airgap
• Mantrap
• Faraday cage
• Lock types
• Biometrics
• Barricades/bollards
• Tokens/cards

• Environmental controls

- HVAC
- Hot and cold aisles

- Fire suppression

• Cable locks
• Screen filters
• Cameras
• Motion detection

• Logs
• Infrared detection

• Key management

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

              

4.1

4.2

4.3

4.0 Identity and Access Management

Compare and contrast identity and access management concepts

• Identification, authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA)

• Multifactor authentication

- Something you are

- Something you have - Something you know - Somewhere you are
- Something you do

• Federation
• Single sign-on
• Transitive trust

Given a scenario, install and configure identity and access services.

• LDAP
• Kerberos

• TACACS+

• CHAP

•PAP

• MSCHAP
• RADIUS
• SAML
• OpenID Connect

• OAUTH

• Shibboleth
• Secure token

• NTLM

Given a scenario, implement identity and access management controls.

  • - Access control models 

  • - MAC

    - DAC
    - ABAC
    - Role-based access control - Rule-based access control

  • Physical access control

    - Proximity cards - Smart cards

• Biometric factors

- Fingerprint scanner - Retinal scanner
- Iris scanner
- Voice recognition

- Facial recognition
- False acceptance rate - False rejection rate
- Crossover error rate

• Tokens

- Hardware
- Software
- HOTP/TOTP

• Certificate-based authentication

- PIV/CAC/smart card

- IEEE 802.1x

• File system security • Database security

4.4

Given a scenario, differentiate common account management practices.

• Account types

- User account
- Shared and generic accounts/credentials

- Guest accounts
- Service accounts
- Privileged accounts

• General Concepts

- Least privilege
- Onboarding/offboarding

- Permission auditing and review

- Usage auditing and review
- Time-of-day restrictions
- Recertification

- Standard naming convention

- Account maintenance
- Group-based access control
- Location-based policies

• Account policy enforcement

- Credential management

- Group policy
- Password complexity - Expiration
- Recovery
- Disablement
- Lockout
- Password history
- Password reuse
- Password length

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

          

5.1

5.0 Risk Management

Explain the importance of policies, plans and procedures related to organizational security.

• Standard operating procedure • Agreement types

- BPA
- SLA
- ISA
- MOU/MOA

• Personnel management

- Mandatory vacations - Job rotation
- Separation of duties

- Clean desk
- Background checks
- Exit interviews
- Role-based awareness training

- Data owner
- System administrator - System owner
- User
- Privileged user
- Executive user

- NDA
- Onboarding
- Continuing education
- Acceptable use policy/rules of behavior - Adverse actions

• General security policies

- Social media networks/applications - Personal email

- Finance

- Reputation

• Privacy impact assessment
• Privacy threshold assessment

5.2

Summarize business impact analysis concepts.

• RTO/RPO
• MTBF
• MTTR
• Mission-essential functions
• Identification of critical systems

• Single point of failure • Impact

- Life
- Property - Safety

5.3

Explain risk management processes and concepts.

• Threat assessment

- Environmental
- Manmade
- Internal vs. external

• Risk assessment

- SLE
- ALE
- ARO
- Asset value
- Risk register

- Likelihood of occurrence - Supply chain assessment - Impact
- Quantitative

- Qualitative - Testing

- Penetration testing authorization - Vulnerability testing

authorization

- Risk response techniques - Accept

- Transfer - Avoid
- Mitigate

• Change management

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

5.4

5.5

Given a scenario, follow incident response procedures.

5.7

5.8

Compare and contrast various types of controls.

• Incident response plan

- Documented incident types/category definitions

- Roles and responsibilities
- Reporting requirements/escalation

- Cyber-incident response teams

- Exercise

• Incident response process

- Preparation
- Identification

- Containment
- Eradication
- Recovery
- Lessons learned

• Recovery
• Strategic intelligence/

counterintelligence gathering

- Active logging

• Track man-hours

Summarize basic concepts of forensics.

• Order of volatility • Chain of custody • Legal hold
• Data acquisition

- Capture system image
- Network traffic and logs

- Capture video
- Record time offset - Take hashes
- Screenshots
- Witness interviews

• Preservation

• Recovery sites

- Hot site
- Warm site - Cold site

• Order of restoration • Backup concepts

- Differential - Incremental

- Snapshots

- Full

• Geographic considerations

- Off-site backups
- Distance
- Location selection - Legal implications - Data sovereignty

• Continuity of operation planning

- Exercises/tabletop
- After-action reports
- Failover
- Alternate processing sites
- Alternate business practices

• Administrative • Physical

5.0 Risk Management

5.6

Explain disaster recovery and continuity of operation concepts.

• Deterrent • Preventive • Detective

• Corrective
• Compensating • Technical

Given a scenario, carry out data security and privacy practices.

• Data destruction and media sanitization

- Burning
- Shredding
- Pulping
- Pulverizing - Degaussing - Purging
- Wiping

• Data sensitivity labeling and handling

- Confidential - Private
- Public
- Proprietary - PII

- PHI

• Data roles

- Owner
- Steward/custodian - Privacy officer

• Data retention
• Legal and compliance

CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam Objectives Version 2.0 (Exam Number: SY0-501)

          

6.0

6.1 Cryptography and PKI

Compare and contrast basic concepts of cryptography.

• Symmetric algorithms
• Modes of operation
• Asymmetric algorithms
• Hashing
• Salt, IV, nonce
• Elliptic curve
• Weak/deprecated algorithms

• Key exchange
• Digital signatures
• Diffusion
• Confusion
• Collision
• Steganography
• Obfuscation
• Stream vs. block

• Key strength
• Session keys
• Ephemeral key
• Secret algorithm
• Data-in-transit
• Data-at-rest
• Data-in-use
• Random/pseudo-random

number generation
• Key stretching
• Implementation vs. algorithm selection

- Crypto service provider

- Crypto modules

• Perfect forward secrecy
• Security through obscurity

• Common use cases

- Low power devices
- Low latency
- High resiliency
- Supporting confidentiality - Supporting integrity

- Supporting obfuscation
- Supporting authentication
- Supporting non-repudiation
- Resource vs. security constraints

6.2

Explain cryptography algorithms and their basic characteristics.

• Symmetric algorithms

- AES
- DES
- 3DES
- RC4
- Blowfish/Twofish

• Cipher modes

- CBC
- GCM
- ECB
- CTR
- Stream vs. block

• Asymmetric algorithms

- RSA
- DSA
- Diffie-Hellman

- Groups - DHE
- ECDHE

- Elliptic curve

- PGP/GPG

• Hashing algorithms

- MD5 - SHA

- HMAC

- RIPEMD

• Key stretching algorithms

- BCRYPT

- PBKDF2

• Obfuscation

- XOR
- ROT13
- Substitution ciphers

6.3

Given a scenario, install and configure wireless security settings.

• Cryptographic protocols

- WPA
- WPA2

- CCMP

- TKIP

• Authentication protocols

- EAP
- PEAP
- EAP-FAST - EAP-TLS
- EAP-TTLS

- IEEE 802.1x

- RADIUS Federation

• Methods

- PSK vs. Enterprise vs. Open - WPS
- Captive portals

- User
- Root
- Domain validation
- Extended validation

• Certificate formats

- DER - PEM - PFX - CER - P12 - P7B

6.4

Given a scenario, implement public key infrastructure.

• Components

- CA
- Intermediate CA
- CRL
- OCSP
- CSR
- Certificate
- Public key
- Private key
- Object identifiers (OID)

• Concepts

- Online vs. offline CA

- Stapling
- Pinning
- Trust model
- Key escrow
- Certificate chaining

• Types of certificates

- Wildcard
- SAN
- Code signing
- Self-signed
- Machine/computer - Email

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