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PCNSA and PCNSE

Are you a Security Engineer with experience managing the Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls? Did you know that Glassdoor released a certified Security Engineer for Palo Alto Networks that can earn an average of $173K annually? To validate their skills, every Security Engineer managing Palo Alto Networks Firewalls must have certifications. The primary certificate for the System Engineer of Palo Alto Networks is to take the PCNSA (Palo Alto Networks Certified Networks Security Administrator) exam and PCNSE (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer) exam. PCNSA and PCNSE certifications verify knowledge of Palo Alto Networks products, especially its network security solutions. Many have struggled to pass these exams; some need help finding the latest learning guide to prepare for the exams.

Before I share the lists, let me give brief information regarding the Palo Alto Networks Certifications path so you can understand which certifications you need the most. If you check the PearsonVUE/Paloatonetworks page, currently, Palo Alto Networks has multiple certification options for engineers who are becoming familiar with the cybersecurity world. Palo Alto Networks now have entry-level and specialized certifications based on product solutions offered by Palo Alto Networks. The certificates are as follows: 

Palo Alto Networks certifications are as follows:

  1. PCCET (Palo Alto Networks Certified Cybersecurity Entry-level Technician)
  2. PCNSA (Palo Alto Networks Certified Networks Security Admin)
  3. PCDRA (Palo Alto Networks Certified Detection and Remediation Analyst)
  4. PCNSE (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer)
  5. PCSFE (Palo Alto Networks Certified Software Firewall Engineer)
  6. PCCSE (Prisma Certified Cloud Security Engineer)
  7. PCSAE (Palo Alto Networks Certified Security Automation Engineer)
  8. PCNSC (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Consultant)

There are no specific prerequisites for taking these certification exams. So you can choose based on your preference and readiness; for all System Engineers ready to take the Palo Alto Networks certifications, at least you will need to pass the PCNSA and PCNSE exams. I will share the steps to prepare for both exams below.

 Palo Alto Networks List of Certifications

Figure 1. Palo Alto Networks List of Certifications

Preparation for PCNSA (Palo Alto Networks Certified Networks Security Admin) Exam

PCNSA Overview

The PCNSA certification validates the knowledge and skills required for a System Engineer to deploy and operate Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs). As Palo Alto Networks Beacon/PCNSA explained, a System Engineer has demonstrated knowledge of Palo Alto Networks NGFW feature set and in the core components of the Palo Alto Networks product portfolio with this certification. They also have shown their ability to operate the Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall to protect networks from cyber threats. 

PCNSA Exam Topics Learning Guide

There are several ways to prepare for the PCNSA exam. Palo Alto Networks has provided multiple learning courses and enablement paths that can be used for exam preparation. You can use the Palo Alto Networks education platform Beacon. Beacon is a platform where a System Engineer can access all technical assets to learn how to install, deploy, and optimize Palo Alto Networks technology. In Beacon, you can use the free digital learning Palo Alto Networks provides and register for partner and employee enablement courses. Especially for PCNSA, there are enablement paths that System Engineers can follow. The enablement is to take EDU-210, the Firewall Essentials: Configuration and Management course. This course is free for Partner and Palo Alto employees and can be purchased from a third-party training centre. 

From Beacon/EDU-210, you will gain knowledge that can help you to:

  • Understand how to configure and manage Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls using its essential features.
  • Understand how to configure and manage defined traffic to and from zones using Security Policy and NAT Policy.
  • Understand how to configure and manage Firewall to block traffic from known and unknown IPs, domains, and URLs using the Threat Prevention feature.
  • Understand how to monitor traffic using Web GUI and create firewall reports.

Other than EDU-210 courses, you can also use the Beacon to gain access to the PCNSA study guide and PCNSA blueprint. The PCNSA study guide will cover all knowledge per the PCNSA blueprint. As for the PCNSA blueprint, straightforward notes highlight the exam’s topics. The latest PCNSA exam will reflect the latest PAN-OS version, PAN-OS 11.0, known as Nova. With this update, the certification exam now also covers Firewall Management through Panorama in addition to Next-Generation Firewalls (Find the Latest and Greatest in Cybersecurity Technology With Palo Alto Networks Updated PCNSA Certification, 2023).

The other thing you need to prepare is to understand exam topics; below are the topics included in the PCNSA certification:

PCNSA Exam Compositions

Figure 2. PCNSA Exam Compositions

Device Management and Services

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of firewall management interfaces
  2. Provision local administrator
  3. Assign role-based authentication
  4. Maintain firewall configurations
  5. Push policy updates to Panorama-managed firewalls
  6. Schedule and install dynamic updates
  7. Create and apply security zones to policies
  8. Identify and configure firewall interfaces
  9. Maintain and enhance the design of the virtual or logical router

Managing Objects

  • Create and maintain address and address group objects
  • Create and support services and service groups
  • Create and sustain external dynamic lists
  • Configure and keep application filters and application groups

Policy Evaluation and Management

  • Develop the appropriate application-based Security policy
  • Differentiate specific security rule types
  • Configure security policy match criteria, policy actions, and logging actions.
  • Identify and implement proper NAT policies
  • Optimize Security policies using appropriate tools

Securing Traffic

  • Compare and contrast different types of Security profiles
  • Create, modify, add, and apply suitable Security profiles and groups
  • Differentiate between Security profile actions
  • Use the information available in the logs
  • Enable DNS Security to control traffic based on domains
  • Create and deploy URL-filtering-based controls
  • Differentiate between group mapping purpose and IP-to-user mapping function within policies and logs.

You can read the above-detailed exam topics in the study guide from Palo Alto Networks in this PCNSA study guide.

PCNSA Exam Format

  • Exam Series: PCNSA
  • Seat Time: 80 minutes
  • Number of items: 60-75 items
  • Format: Multiple Choice, Scenarios with Graphics, and Matching
  • Languages: English and Japanese

PCNSA Exam Registration

Register for your Palo Alto Networks exams from the Pearson VUE page PearsonVUE/paloaltonetworks. You can schedule the exams on-site at Pearson VUE testing centre or take Online Proctored (OP) whenever or wherever desired. The PCNSA exam costs $155, and always check the live community every quarter, and you can find the discount vouchers

Preparation for PCNSE (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer) Exam

PCNSE Overview

As explained by Palo Alto Networks Beacon/PCNSE, PCNSE is a formal, third-party proctored certification that indicates that those who have achieved it possess the in-depth knowledge to design, install, configure, manage, and also troubleshoot common issues on the Palo Alto Networks platform. Security Engineers usually need 6 to 12 months of hands-on experience deploying and configuring the NGFW before taking this exam (Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer (PCNSE), 2019). But no worries, with this list, you can proceed with the certification without waiting 6 to 12 months.

PCNSE Exam Topics Learning Guide

You can use Beacon from Palo Alto Networks to take courses about its Next-Generation Firewall. The enablement path that Palo Alto Networks recommends to prepare the knowledge to take PCNSE follows the Firewall Essentials: Configuration and Management (EDU-210) course, Panorama: Managing Firewalls at Scale (EDU-220) course and Firewall: Troubleshooting (EDU-330).

From Beacon/EDU-220, you will gain knowledge that can help you to:

  • Understand how to configure and manage Panorama Centralized Management
  • Gain knowledge on how to configure templates (including template variables) and device groups
  • Gain knowledge on how to manage log collection logging, and reporting
  • More familiar with planning and design considerations when deploying Panorama Centralized Management 

From Beacon/EDU-330, you will gain knowledge that can help you to:

  • Understand how to investigate networking issues using Web GUI or CLI
  • Understand and follow troubleshooting methodologies for specific features 
  • Able to analyze logs to resolve the various problems in real-life scenarios
  • Able to solve advanced and uncommon issues and challenges
  • Solve advanced, scenario-based challenges

The other thing you need to prepare is to understand exam topics; below are the topics included in the PCNSE certification:

Figure 3. PCNSE Exam Topics

Core Concepts

  1. Identify how Palo Alto Networks products used together to improve PAN-OS experience services.
  2. Determine and assign appropriate interfaces or zone types for customer environments.
  3. Identify decryption deployment strategies
  4. Enforce User-ID
  5. Determine how to configure and when to use the Authentication policy rules
  6. Differentiate the fundamental functions between the management plane and data plane
  7. Define the purpose of multiple virtual systems (multi-vsys) environment

1st Deploy and Configure Core Components

  1. Configure Management Profiles
  2. Deploy and configure Security Profiles.
  3. Configure zone protections, packet buffer protection, and DoS protection
  4. Design and planning to deploy Palo Alto Networks firewall
  5. Configure authorization, authentication, and device access
  6. Configure and manage certificates
  7. Configure routing
  8. Configure NAT
  9. Configure site-to-site tunnels
  10. Configure service routes
  11. Configure application-based QoS

2nd Deploy and Configure Features and Subscriptions

  1. Configure App-ID
  2. Configure GlobalProtect
  3. Configure decryption
  4. Configure User-ID
  5. Configure WildFire
  6. Configure Web Proxy

3rd Deploy and Configure Firewalls using Panorama

  1. Configure templates and template stacks
  2. Configure device groups
  3. Manage firewall configurations within Panorama.

Manage and Operate

  1. Manage and configure log forwarding
  2. Plan and execute the process required to upgrade a Palo Alto Networks system.
  3. Manage HA functions.

Troubleshooting

  1. Troubleshoot site-to-site tunnels
  2. Troubleshoot interfaces
  3. Troubleshoot decryption
  4. Troubleshoot routing
  5. General Troubleshooting
  6. Troubleshoot resource protections
  7. Troubleshoot GlobalProtect
  8. Troubleshoot policies
  9. Troubleshoot HA functions

You can read the above-detailed exam topics in the study guide from Palo Alto Networks in this PCNSE study guide.

PCNSE Exam Format

  • Exam Series: PCNSE
  • Seat Time: 80 minutes
  • Number of items: 70
  • Format: Multiple Choice, Scenarios with Graphics, and Matching
  • Languages: English and Japanese

PCNSE Exam Registration

Register for your Palo Alto Networks exams from the Pearson VUE page PearsonVUE/paloaltonetworks. You can schedule the exams on-site at Pearson VUE testing centre or take Online Proctored (OP) whenever or wherever desired. The cost for the PCNSE exam is $175, and always check the live community every quarter, and you can find discount vouchers

You can also Check our Expert guide

Conclusion

I have shared with you some materials for PCNSA and PCNSE exams. If you can follow the steps and preparation, you will be ready for the exam and may pass the certification more confidently. Lastly, there are also exam practice dump questions that you can access from Beacon, so make sure to take a look at these set questions beforehand. This set of questions can be found on Beacon pages for PCNSA Exam Dump Practices and PCNSE Exam Dump Practices. Palo Alto Networks prepared both question sets and outlined all topics related to the PCNSA exam questions or PNCSE exam questions. Please find these tips helpful, and I wish you all success in taking Palo Alto Networks Certifications. You can visit our YouTube channel and learn more about certification. Here is the link: 591cert YouTube.

References

  1. Palo Alto Networks, Inc. (n.d.). Pearson VUE. Retrieved August 18, 2023, from https://home.pearsonvue.com/paloaltonetworks
  2. Find the latest and greatest cybersecurity technology with Palo Alto Networks’ updated PCNSA certification. (2023, January 5). LIVEcommunity. Retrieved August 20, 2023, from https://live.paloaltonetworks.com/t5/certification-articles/find-the-latest-and-greatest-in-cybersecurity-technology-with/ta-p/526030
  3. Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer (PCNSE). (2019, March 9). Beacon. Retrieved August 20, 2023, from https://beacon.paloaltonetworks.com/student/collection/668346-palo-alto-networks-certified-network-security-engineer-pcnse 

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