The new (ISC)² CISSP CBK [2021 update]

March 22, 2021 by Greg Belding

A new common body of knowledge (CBK) for the CISSP certification 

Effective May 1, 2021, (ISC)² has unveiled a new CBK for the (certified information systems security professionals (CISSP) certification exam. We will explore the changes made to each domain of knowledge, including their respective weights, and take a brief look at the resources you want to help prepare for the CISSP exam.


Below is the new lineup of domains for knowledge for the CISSP exam for 2021. In most cases, professionals will not see many differences between the 2018 and 2021 exams. For the most part, the content and name of each subsection in the domains have simply been streamlined, although the concepts covered stayed the same. There are some differences worth noting.

Old domains Weight Domains as of May 1, 2021 Weight
Domain 1
Security and risk management 15% Security and risk management 15%
Domain 2
Asset security 10% Asset security 10%
Domain 3
Security architecture and engineering 13% Security architecture and engineering 13%
Domain 4
Communication and network security 14% Communication and network security 13%
Domain 5
Identity and access management (IAM) 13% Identity and access management (IAM) 13%
Domain 6
Security assessment and testing 12% Security assessment and testing 12%
Domain 7
Security operations 13% Security operations 13%
Domain 8
Software development security 10% Software development security 11%

In addition to two of the domain weights changing, many subdomain names were updated to more accurately describe the topics, according to (ISC)². The more significant changes to the CISSP subdomains are called out below.

Domain 1.0: Security and risk management

1.1 Understand, adhere to and promote professional ethics

1.2 Understand and apply security concepts (This is a new section.)

1.3 Evaluate and apply security governance principles

1.4 Determine compliance and other requirements

1.5 Understand legal and regulatory issues that pertain to information security in a holistic context

1.6 Understand requirements for investigation types (administrative, criminal, civil, regulatory and industry standards)

1.7 Develop, document and implement security policy, standards, procedures and guidelines

1.8 Identify, analyze and prioritize business continuity (BC) requirements

1.9 Contribute to and enforce personnel security policies and procedure

1.10 Understand and apply risk management concepts

1.11 Understand and apply threat modeling concepts and methodologies

1.12 Apply supply chain risk management (SCRM) concepts (This represents a shift from supply chain risk-based management techniques to SCRM.)

1.13 Establish and maintain a security awareness, education and training program

The weight of this domain is 15% which was the same percentage in the last version.

Domain 2.0: Asset security

2.1 Identify and classify information and assets

2.2 Establish information and asset handling requirements

2.3 Provision resources securely (There has been a shift from privacy to resource security.)

2.4 Manage data lifecycle

2.5 Ensure appropriate asset retention (end-of-life (EOL), end-of-support (EOS))

2.6 Determine data security controls and compliance requirements (DRM, CASB and DLP) (Mildly increased focus on compliance requirements.)

The weight of this domain is 10% and has not changed.

Domain 3.0: Security architecture and engineering

3.1 Research, implement and manage engineering processes using secure design principles (New concepts are covered: threat modeling, defense in depth, least privilege, failing securely, secure defaults, separation of duties, trust but verify, privacy by design and shared responsibility.)

3.2 Understand the fundamental concepts of security models

3.3 Select controls based upon systems security requirements

3.4 Understand security capabilities of information systems (IS)

3.5 Assess and mitigate the vulnerabilities of security architectures, designs and solution elements

3.6 Select and determine cryptographic solutions (This is a new section.)

3.7 Understand methods of cryptanalytic attacks

3.8 Apply security principles to site and facility design

3.9 Design site and facility security controls

This domain has dropped two sections since the last exam (apply security principles and implement site/facility security controls) and the weight remains 13%.

Domain 4.0 Communication and network security

4.1 Assess and implement secure design principles in network architectures (New material is covered, including micro-segmentation, wireless networks and content distribution networks (CDN).)

4.2 Secure network components

4.3 Implement secure communication channels according to design

The weight of this material has dropped from 14% to 13%.

Domain 5.0 Identity and access management (IAM)

5.1 Control physical and logical access to assets

5.2 Manage identification and authentication of people, devices and services (New concepts are covered such as single sign-on and just-in-time.)

5.3 Federated identity with a third-party service

5.4 Implement and manage authorization mechanisms

5.5 Manage the identity and access provisioning lifecycle

5.6 Implement authentication systems (This is a new section.)

This domain’s respective weight remains 13%.

Domain 6.0 Security assessment and testing

6.1 Design and validate assessment, test and audit strategies

6.2 Conduct security control testing

6.3 Collect security process data (technical and administrative)

6.4 Analyze test output and generate a report

6.5 Conduct or facilitate security audits

This domain has not been changed with a weight of 12%.

Domain 7.0 Security operations

7.1 Understand and comply with investigations

7.2 Conduct logging and monitoring activities

7.3 Perform configuration management (CM)

7.4 Apply foundational security operations concepts

7.5 Apply resource protection

7.6 Conduct incident management

7.7 Operate and maintain detective and preventive measures

7.8 Implement and support patch and vulnerability management

7.9 Understand and participate in change management processes

7.10 Implement recovery strategies

7.11 Implement disaster recovery (DR) processes

7.12 Test disaster recovery plans (DRP)

7.13 Participate in business continuity (BC) planning and exercises

7.14 Implement and manage physical security

7.15 Address personnel safety and security concerns

The change in this domain was the removal of one of the secure provisioning resources sections. The weight of this domain remains 13%.

Domain 8.0 Software development security

8.1 Understand and integrate security in the software development life cycle (SDLC)

8.2 Identify and apply security controls in software development ecosystems (New concepts are covered, including programming languages, toolsets, runtime, integrated development environment, continuous delivery automation and response, continuous integration, application security testing and dynamic application security testing.)

8.3 Assess the effectiveness of software security

8.4 Assess security impact of acquired software

8.5 Define and apply secure coding guidelines and standards

The respective weight of this domain has increased from 10% to 11%.


Below is a list of recommended references for preparing for the CISSP exam:

Prepare for the new material

The CISSP CBK has been revamped for 2021 and includes only a minor amount of changes ranging from new material covered in some of the domains to certain sections being dropped entirely. This is partially reflected in the changes made to exam material coverage only being one percentage point either way for certain domains. Aside from these changes, the English language version of CISSP is now in the CAT format, but that is a whole other article.



  1. CISSP Domain Refresh. (ISC)² 
  2. CISSP 2018 vs CISSP 2021. InfoSecTrain.
Posted: March 22, 2021
Articles Author
Greg Belding
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Greg is a Veteran IT Professional working in the Healthcare field. He enjoys Information Security, creating Information Defensive Strategy, and writing – both as a Cybersecurity Blogger as well as for fun.

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