EC-Council CEH

The CEH exam: Application process, rules and eligibility

July 9, 2019 by Daniel Brecht

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) exam process

The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), the owner and creator of the popular Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential, has helped ethical hacking gain mainstream recognition as a fundamental element of cybersecurity. Ethical hackers are individuals hired by an organization to hack into networks using penetration testing techniques in order to discover and report back on security vulnerabilities that may be exploited by cybercriminals. These individuals are also referred to as “white-hat hackers.”

CEHs play a pivotal role in the information technology sector. Companies, now more than ever, are increasing the demand for ethical hackers that can help keep their networks and data safe against the ever-evolving threats of the internet. This is definitely an incentive for IT professionals with the right mindset to follow a career path that can definitely be interesting, stimulating and financially rewarding. In fact, the average salary earned by a CEH is $71,331 per annum as of 2018.


Who should take the CEH exam?

According to EC-Council, “to catch a hacker, you need to think as one.” A CEH must apply the same knowledge and tools as malicious hackers, but in a lawful and legitimate manner. The CEH credential can help professionals pinpoint and refresh the know-how required to do just that.

According to the EC-Council, “The Certified Ethical Hacker certification will fortify the application knowledge of security officers, auditors, security professionals, site administrators, and anyone who is concerned about the integrity of the network infrastructure” all from a vendor-neutral perspective. The certification can help professionals stand out by proving they have the proper theoretical background, as well as the practical skills and experience needed to harden the IT framework of a company. A CEH should be able to apply effective tools and techniques to identify problem areas beyond what can be highlighted by scanning software.

Today, the certification is regarded as one of the most sought-out credentials for professionals. The U.S. Department of Defense has included it as a mandatory standard for Computer Network Defenders Service Providers (CND-SP) in Directive 8570, and it is also ANSI 17024 compliant.

How to apply for the CEH exam?

The EC-Council launched the Certified Ethical Hacker certification in 2003. The CEH covers core knowledge and is the first step for pros that want to make a career in ethical hacking. They can then move on to more advanced options through the Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester (ECSA/LPT) options that are also offered by the EC-Council.

In order to be considered for the credential, candidates need to have at least two years of work experience in the information security domain. To prove knowledge, they can attend an official EC-Council training either at an accredited training center or at an approved academic institution. As an alternative, candidates can go through an eligibility application process that entails the payment of a non-refundable $100 fee and the submission of a form. If the application is approved, the candidate has three months to purchase the test voucher from EC-Council online store or one of their authorized channels.

The application processing time takes between five and ten working days after verifiers on the application respond to EC-Council’s requests for information. Testers receive the eligibility code and the voucher code, which they can use to register and schedule the test at Pearson VUE and EC-Council test centers.

How many questions are on the CEH exam?

The exam itself is delivered fully online. It lasts 4 hours and entails 125 multiple-choice questions.

What topics are on the CEH exam?

Testers should prepare themselves on the following topics:

  • Ethics and legality
  • Footprinting and reconnaissance
  • Scanning networks
  • Enumeration
  • System hacking
  • Malware threats
  • Sniffers
  • Denial-of-service
  • Social engineering
  • Session hijacking
  • Hacking web servers
  • Hacking web applications
  • SQL injection
  • Hacking wireless networks
  • Hacking mobile platforms
  • Evading IDS, firewalls and honeypots
  • Cryptography
  • Cloud computing

And for version 10, the test now includes:

  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Malware analysis
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

These topics have become prevalent in response to rapid changes in technology.

How is the CEH exam scored?

The CEH exam comprises of seven different areas. Those different areas, along with their weighted scores and number of exam questions, are shown below:

1. Background: 4% weight, 6 items

  • Networking technologies (e.g. hardware, infrastructure)
  • Web technologies (e.g. web 2.0, Skype)
  • Systems technologies
  • Communication protocols
  • Malware operations
  • Mobile technologies
  • Telecommunications technologies
  • Backups and archiving (e.g. Local, network)

2. Analysis/Assessment: 13% weight, 19 items

  • Data analysis
  • Systems analysis
  • Risk assessments
  • Technical assessment methods

3. Security: 25% weight, 38 items

  • Systems security controls
  • Application/file server
  • Firewalls
  • Cryptography
  • Network security
  • Physical security
  • Threat modeling
  • Verification procedures (e.g. false positive/negative validation)
  • Social engineering (human factors manipulation)
  • Vulnerability scanners
  • Security policy implications
  • Privacy/confidentiality (with regard to engagement)
  • Biometrics
  • Wireless access technology (e.g. networking, RFID, bluetooth)
  • Trusted networks
  • Vulnerabilities

4. Tools/Systems/Programs: 32% weight, 40 items

  • Network/host-based intrusion
  • Network/wireless sniffers (e.g. WireShark, Airsnort)
  • Access control mechanisms (e.g. smart cards)
  • Cryptography techniques (e.g. IPsec, SSL, PGP)
  • Programming languages (e.g. C++, Java, C#, C)
  • Scripting languages (e.g., PHP, Javascript)
  • Boundary protection appliances
  • Network topologies
  • Subnetting
  • Port scanning (e.g. NMAP)
  • Domain name system (DNS)
  • Routers/modems/switches
  • Vulnerability scanner (e.g. Nessus, Retina)
  • Vulnerability management and protecting systems (e.g. Foundstone, Ecora)
  • Operating environments (e.g. Linux, Windows, Mac)
  • Antivirus systems and programs
  • Log analysis tools
  • Security models
  • Exploitation tools
  • Database structures

5. Procedures/Methodology: 20% weight, 25 items

  • Cryptography
  • Public key infrastructure (PKI)
  • Security architecture (SA)
  • Service oriented architecture
  • Information security incident
  • N-tier application design
  • TCP/IP networking (e.g. network routing)
  • Security testing methodology

6. Regulation/Policy: 4% weight, 5 items

  • Security policies
  • Compliance regulations (e.g. PCI)

7. Ethics: 2% weight, 3 items

  • Professional code of conduct
  • Appropriateness of hacking

What score do you need to pass the CEH exam?

Scoring for the CEH exam is interesting because there is no specific, preset passing score or percentage. The number of correct answers required depends on the difficulty of the questions delivered at that particular session.

Once the test is passed and all other conditions are met, the certification is granted and remains valid for three years. A further three years of validity can be obtained by earning 120 credits to maintain the certification. The person must renew their credential requiring them to submit proof of all earned credits via the EC-Council Delta portal, including attended webinars, conferences or training classes.

What are the EC-Council’s certification exam policies?

A number of policies have been devised by the EC-Council to keep the high standards requested for their certification program and to support their goals.

  • The Non-Disclosure agreement (NDA) prevents candidates from disclosing information on the test and questions.
  • Candidates are also required to adhere to a EC-Council Candidate Certification Agreement that bounds them to rules and regulations in regard to the use and achievement of all certifications held.
  • A Security and Integrity Policy governs what constitutes fraudulent behavior and cheating, as well as what are the consequences.
  • The retake policy allows candidates to buy another exam voucher without any wait time when not passing the test at the first attempt. Subsequent failures to pass the exam will require the candidate to wait 14 days in between re-takes up until a maximum of five times in 12 months. A sixth attempt requires a 12-month waiting period.
  • The extension policy allows candidates to extend the validity of their voucher past the normal 12-month period. A one-time extension is possible for three months at the cost of $35 if the voucher is still valid and unused.
  • The voucher policy regulates the use of exam vouchers that are non-refundable, non-transferable and non-exchangeable.
  • The accommodation policy allows candidates with certified disabilities to take the test despite difficulties in using standard equipment or because of other impediments.

CEH v10 exam preparation and training

The theory test was developed by subject matter experts in the ethical hacking field and geared towards identifying the knowledge and skills that help ethical hackers excel. CEH v10 adds several new modules to keep up with current cybersecurity trends, including vulnerability analysis, malware analysis and Internet of Things (IoT). Candidates getting ready for the test should review newer materials in order to be ready for the exam.

InfoSec Institute’s Ethical Hacking Boot Camp – CEH v10 Training is a very popular choice for cybersecurity experts who want to learn the art of hacking. In addition to the all-new CEH v10, students might also be interested in the Hacker Training Online course, which covers the techniques used by malicious or illegal (black hat) hackers with lectures and hands-on lab exercises. The CEH Practice Exam SkillSet (featuring quiz-type questions) is also available.

As for continuing education credits, there are many options including the EC-Council’s largest annual conference, Hacker Halted, which helps to raise international awareness towards increased education and ethics in IT security. This is a great opportunity for gaining continuing education credits and professional development, as established by EC-Council for CEH interested members.


The CEH can be a great credential to add to your skillset. As EC-Council puts it, “You walk out the door with ethical hacking skills that are highly in demand, as well as the internationally recognized Certified Ethical Hacker certification.”

Other certifications also address the need of professionals interested in ethical hacking, such as the GIAC® (Global Information Assurance Certification) Penetration Tester (GPEN). However, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is one of the most popular and respected options. The CEH is a baseline certification, and many infosec professionals go on to more advanced options and specialized careers. They can also consider a more in-depth approach through the Certified Ethical Hacker Practical, an expansion of the CEH certification, which is an extra and discretionary exam built on specifications by subject matter experts in the EH field and with a more hands-on approach.


Posted: July 9, 2019
Articles Author
Daniel Brecht
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Daniel Brecht has been writing for the Web since 2007. His interests include computers, mobile devices and cyber security standards. He has enjoyed writing on a variety of topics ranging from cloud computing to application development, web development and e-commerce. Brecht has several years of experience as an Information Technician in the military and as an education counselor. He holds a graduate Certificate in Information Assurance and a Master of Science in Information Technology.

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