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offensivesecurity

The Rule of Three

EXP-301 Logo by Offensive Security

The Windows User Mode Exploit Development (EXP-301) course and the accompanying Offensive Security Exploit Developer (OSED) certification is the last of the three courses to be released as part of the Offensive Security Certified Expert – Three (OSCE3) certification. Since the appointment of the new CEO Nina Wang in 2019, Offensive Security has revamped its venerable lineup of courses and certifications, culminating in the new OSCE3 announced at the end of 2020. As I’ve discussed in my Offensive Security Experienced Penetration Tester (OSEP) review, this makes a lot of sense from a marketing and sales strategy standpoint. Although Offensive Security was best known for its no-expiry certifications, it has since retired a number of them, including the old OSCE and more recently Offensive Security Wireless Attacks (OSWP). It has also introduced a number of recurring revenue subscription products such as the Offensive Security Proving Grounds, PWK365, and more. Oh, and it’s raising the price of exam retakes from $150 to $249. These are all great business decisions for Offensive Security, but for the regular cybersecurity professional, is the EXP-301/OSED worth it?

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Good Things Come in Threes

In August last year, Offensive Security announced that it was retiring the long-standing Offensive Security Certified Expert (OSCE) certification and replacing it with three courses, each with their own certification. If you get all three, you are also awarded the new Offensive Security Certified Expert – Three (OSCE3) certification.

OSCE3 by Offensive Security

While this is undoubtedly a great business decision by Offensive Security – the market loves bundles – how useful are these courses for security professionals? The first of the three courses, Advanced Web Attacks and Exploitation (WEB-300)/Offensive Security Web Expert (OSWE), was already released at that time and is a known quantity. In October 2020, Offensive Security released the Evasion Techniques and Breaching Defenses (PEN-300) course that comes with the Offensive Security Experienced Penetration Tester (OSEP) certification and more recently released Windows User Mode Exploit Development (EXP-301)/Offensive Security Exploit Developer (OSED). The three courses target specific domains and therefore are relevant to different roles in offensive security.

As I had already achieved the OSWE in 2019, I took the 60-day OSEP package from January to February 2021. At the time of writing, this costs $1299. PEN-300/OSEP teaches Red Team skills – if your job involves network penetration (such as through phishing emails) and subsequently pivoting through Active Directory environments with the occasional Linux server, this is the course for you. If you are mostly working on application penetration testing (think web and mobile apps), OSWE is a better fit. And if you are doing vulnerability research in binaries, OSED will build that foundation.

Overall, I felt that the OSEP was worth the price of admission given the sheer amount of content it throws at you, as well as the excellent labs that will solidify your learning-by-doing. Here's my review along with some tips and tricks to maximize your OSEP experience.

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