I'm a post graduate student and self taught programmer. I concentrated on Computer Networks & Operating Systems more during my undergraduate studies. I can explain usually used protocols by sniffing the traffic on wires. Operating Systems was my obsession, I know internals of Linux (read code & books).

Now I'm teaching myself Penetration testing from books that are well known to the community and practicing the same. I've no interest in getting "certification" but knowledge wise, would preparing CCNA syllabus help me "significantly" during my penetration tests?

I doubt because its "Cisco" certification. I mean its just one company that produces routers & firewalls.

  • of course the CCNA is just a test to see whether you know some basic networking info, so while studying the syllabus could be of value to you, actually sitting the test - probably not.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 15:04

3 Answers 3


The CCNA covers a lot of Cisco specific ground, but it also covers a lot of general routing and switching knowledge.

That said, the general knowledge base you should already have about how switches work, packets route, and why traceroute works ought to cover most of what would matter. The process of setting up a router and dynamic protocols, developing sound network topology, and being familiar with walking around a Cisco switch are what I'd consider the primary benefits of knowing the CCNA material.

I would consider it helpful, but not significantly helpful. You might use it if gain access to Cisco equipment while pentesting, but I wouldn't rank this high on this list of topics I'd focus on in teaching pentesting.

  • 1
    Significance depends on initial knowledge on networking. If you do not have "general knowledge" that CCNA offer you HAVE TO get it. and CCNA is decent way of doing it Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 14:50
  • @VitalyNikolaev: I don't know how to configure routers or ACLs. I mean, I actually configured couple of times in our networking lab. I know everything that is mentioned in any undergraduate level computer network book.
    – claws
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 16:55
  • CCNA is not only router/acl configuration, it is very basic networking. unless you going to limit yourself to application pen testing u have to know these basics. go and read list of topics that CCNA covers. most of them pure theory, useless in practice but that will for sure make you smarter. allow you understand world. :) Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 22:20

I wrote the CCNA back in 2000, it was really basic back then. My cert long expired and I'm re-writing. The exam that I aced in 2000 is now a serious PITA. The old CCNA is closer to the newer CCENT.

The CCNA exam will drill you for speed, speed and more speed. Worse, there's over 1200 pages of material to master for a 75 minute exam. Preparing for it will waste weeks of your time and frustrate you. Unless you've got a really good memory or really good luck, you're not going to be able to get through it without substantial experience. I have multiple certifications and the only exam I ever failed was the CCNA.

Being able to quickly extract information from routers or quickly diagnose misconfiguration in a WAN protocol is not necessary for pen testing. You can always ask a network guru or dig through the manuals, but the CCENT will at least familiarize you with routing protocols, some basic VLAN stuff and the Cisco command line.

Do not underestimate the CCNA. 42 questions, 75 minutes, many scenario based questions. Trunking, routers-on sticks, WAN encapsulations, Cisco defaults and idiosyncracies like their stupid "basic access lists", setting up stupid NAT vs. misnamed PAT, on and on and on.

When you get your CCNA, it makes sense to continue on to your CCNP. It's easier.

Just get the CCENT. It will be fun and interesting.


Yes, studying CCNA material would help significantly.

The CCNA is pretty general. There is very little of it that is only relevant to Cisco hardware. The content in the Cisco course just gives you that bigger picture that is extremely useful.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .