Your Ultimate Guide to the ISACA CISM Certification

Your Ultimate Guide to the ISACA CISM Certification

Categories: Cyber Security|Published On: April 22, 2024|9.5 min read|
About the Author
Alan Yau - Cybersecurity Consultant and Trainer

Alan Yau

Seasoned Information Security specialist with expertise in Next Generation Security Operation Center, IT Cybersecurity Infrastructure Review, Penetration Testing, and more.
Trainocate X ISACA

Your Ultimate Guide to the
ISACA CISM Certification

Your Ultimate Guide to the ISACA CISM Certification

Why the ISACA CISM certification?

Why do information security professionals seek ISACA CISM certification? It’s not just about the accolade — it’s about mastering a comprehensive skill set for strategic security leadership.

Fun Fact: The demand for CISM has increased by 248% since 2018 (Source: ISACA)

From governance to incident response, this certification propels careers globally. We’ll walk you through what the CISM entails and how it can be your stepping stone to recognition in the cybersecurity field.

ISACA Element
ISACA Element
ISACA Element
ISACA Element

Key Takeaways

  • CISM, this ISACA certification is a top-tier, globally recognized credential essential for seasoned information security managers, focusing on designing, maintaining, and deploying security architectures and aligning them with business objectives.

  • CISM covers four critical domains – Information Security Governance, Information Security Risk Management, Information Security Program Development and Management, and Information Security Incident Management – each updated to reflect the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

  • Obtaining CISM certification requires a minimum of five years of information security work experience and passing a comprehensive exam, with ongoing professional education necessary to maintain the credential.

Understanding ISACA’s CISM Certification

ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is a highly recognized credential that focuses on honing skills for designing, maintaining, and deploying security architectures.

With over 88,000 CISM-certified professionals globally, this certification holds significant weight in the IT domain, positioning it among the top 20 highest-paying IT certifications in 2024.

In fact, according to Unichrone, CISM certified professionals in Malaysia has an average annual salary of RM182,000.

Designed for seasoned information security managers and individuals responsible for a company’s security posture, CISM requires at least five years of security job experience.

The certification has recently been updated to include the NIST cybersecurity framework and a deeper understanding of legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements in its Information Security Governance domain, reflecting the dynamic nature of the cybersecurity landscape.

Some Industry Trends You Should Know


of surveyed organizations believe that a majority of organizations underreport cyberattacks, often due to concerns over brand reputation, potential legal consequences, or even unawareness.


of surveyed organizations anticipate a surge in demand for technical cybersecurity contributors in the coming year.


of surveyed organizations reported an increase in cyberattacks this year compared to the last.

Source: ISACA battlecards

The Essence of Information Security Governance

In today’s data-driven business environment, safeguarding organizational assets is of paramount importance, thus making information security governance a critical aspect. This involves:

  • Creating a robust framework for security that aligns with organizational objectives
  • Governing security policies and strategies
  • Establishing monitoring processes to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the framework.

Effective information security governance goes beyond formulating strategies; it necessitates aligning these strategies with business objectives to contribute to the organization’s success.

CISM candidates are now expected to understand:

  • Strategic alignment
  • Value delivery
  • Resource management
  • Integration of various assurance functions into the governance process.

CISM’s Role in Strategic Management and Risk Oversight

CISM is the only credential focused on strategic enterprise IT security management.

The CISM curriculum prepares professionals for strategic management and risk oversight roles, critical for positions such as the Chief Information Security Officer.

This prestigious position requires overseeing governance structures, managing risks, and executing security program development, all of which are fundamental aspects of the CISM certification. These integrated skills equip CISM-certified professionals to handle the dynamic security challenges posed by emerging technologies like AI and blockchain.

CISM-certified professionals are recognized for their:

  • Vast knowledge and ability to effectively manage information security programs
  • Assurance to executive management of their expertise
  • Credibility and confidence in interactions with internal and external stakeholders, peers, and regulators
  • Enhanced value of the certification

This recognition adds credibility and confidence in interactions with internal and external stakeholders, peers, and regulators, further enhancing the value of the certification.

The CISM Domains: A Closer Look

The CISM Domains: A Closer Look

The CISM certification covers four main domains:

  • Information Security Governance
  • Information Security Risk Management
  • Information Security Program Development and Management
  • Information Security Incident Management

Each of these domains addresses a vital component of information security systems management, from strategic oversight to the granular details of incident response.

Recent updates to the CISM curriculum reflect shifts in industry emphasis, reducing weightage on governance and risk management while placing increased importance on security program development and incident management. This adaptability to the evolving cybersecurity landscape exemplifies the comprehensive and dynamic approach of the CISM certification.

Domain 1: Information Security Governance

Constructing and managing an organizational framework for security is a critical aspect of Information Security Governance. Here, security policies and strategies are designed and regulated to ensure the framework’s effectiveness and sustainability within the enterprise.

Establishing this information security governance framework is pivotal as it integrates with organizational objectives and encompasses governing security policies and a security strategy aligned with company goals.

The domain now carries updated expectations for CISM candidates, including an understanding of:

  • Strategic alignment
  • Value delivery
  • Resource management
  • Integration of various assurance functions into the governance process

This ensures that not only are security strategies formulated, but they also align with and fully support the business objectives, ensuring that governance structures effectively contribute to the organization’s success.

Domain 2: Information Risk Management

Information Risk Management (IRM) encompasses practices for identifying, monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on information-related risks to protect organizational information assets and ensure continuity of operations.

IRM has been reorganized into two primary components: Information risk assessment, which covers risk analysis, and Information risk response, which involves developing strategies for managing those risks.

Recent developments in IRM involve:

  • Integration with DevOps and DevSecOps approaches
  • Creation of architectures for security program roadmaps
  • Increased emphasis on security awareness education and asset identification

These advancements reflect the evolving nature of information risk management and the need for CISM professionals to stay ahead of the curve.

Domain 3: Information Security Program Development and Management

The Information Security Program Development and Management domain prioritizes the safeguarding of information assets while ensuring alignment with organizational goals and reduction of legal liabilities. Key topics within this domain include Information Asset Classification, Information Systems Security Management, and the management of risks associated with Third-Party Service Providers.

Professionals in this domain must be skilled in creating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor and guide the security program’s design and management towards achieving desired outcomes. The CISM exam has undergone recent changes that have increased the weightage of the Information Security Program Development and Management domain, demonstrating its growing importance in the field.

Domain 4: Incident Management and Response

The Incident Management domain of the CISM curriculum includes:

  • Creating and managing security incident definitions
  • Incident severity hierarchies
  • Response plans
  • Investigation and documentation systems
  • Escalation and notification protocols
  • Post-incident evaluations
  • Integrating business continuity, disaster recovery, and incident response plans

Efficient, prompt responses are emphasized in the incident response plans, with procedures for rapid detection and effective response to ascertain root causes, while meeting statutory, regulatory, and organizational requirements.

Advantages of Hiring CISM-Certified Professionals

According to ISACA’s annual State of Cybersecurity 2023 survey report, it is found that 87% of professionals view credential-holders as the most qualified for open positions, and that 74% are more likely to hire a candidate with a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification over a non-certified candidate.

CISM-certified professionals are recognized for their vast knowledge and ability to effectively manage information security programs, providing assurance to executive management of their expertise.

These professionals, known as information security professionals, also excel in aligning security measures with business objectives, ensuring organizations benefit from strategic security management and policy compliance.

Therefore, hiring a CISM-certified professional equips an organization with a skillful strategist who can navigate the complex world of information security and align it with business goals.

Stepping Stones to CISM Certification

To be eligible for CISM certification, although passing the exam is the first step, a candidate must have at least five years of work experience in the field of information security, with three of those years in information security management roles covering at least three job practice areas. The CISM certification process includes passing the exam and submitting a CISM Certification Application with the necessary processing fee.

Certified individuals must adhere to ISACA’s ‘Code of Professional Ethics’ and engage in continuing professional education to maintain their CISM credential. This commitment to professional ethics and continuous learning ensures that CISM-certified professionals stay updated with the latest trends and practices in information security management.

Preparing for the CISM Exam

ISACA offers multiple resources for CISM exam preparation, including group training, self-paced training, and an online community for peer support. A robust study plan, using quality materials like those from a reliable and accredited online platform, and 3-6 months of preparation are recommended for passing the CISM exam.

The CISM certification exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, uses a grading scale of 200 to 800, and requires a passing score of 450 or higher. It is available via computer-based testing centers globally, making it accessible to IT professionals around the world.

Maintaining CISM Certification

The dynamic nature of cybersecurity necessitates continuous upskilling, hence CISM certification requires ongoing education for staying current with industry practices, including participating in CISM training. Certified professionals must accrue a minimum of 20 contact hours of continuing professional education (CPE) annually and at least 120 contact hours over a 3-year period.

CISM certification is valid for three years and must be renewed before expiry to avoid lapsing of certification. To maintain certification, ISACA members must pay an annual maintenance fee of $45, while non-members must pay $85.

This continuous learning and upkeep of the certification ensures that CISM-certified professionals stay ahead in the ever-evolving field of information security.

CISM Awards & Recognitions

  • Ranked #3 in the Global Knowledge’s 2023 Highest Paying IT Certifications.
  • Ranked Among the Highest Paying IT Certifications in the Foote Partners LLC IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index Q1 2022 Research Update. (Source: ISACA)
  • placed CISM on their list of the 15 most valuable certifications for 2023.
  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has accredited the CISM certification program under ISO/IEC 17024:2012. (Source: ISACA)

Get your CISM training with Trainocate Malaysia Today.

Now we know how valuable the CISM certification is for one’s cybersecurity career, it’s time for you to take the training with an ISACA authorized training partner like Trainocate Malaysia.

By enrolling in Trainocate’s CISM program, you’ll gain access to expert instructors with comprehensive knowledge of the latest cybersecurity practices and industry standards.

Don’t miss this opportunity to elevate your cybersecurity skills and propel your career forward. Become a certified CISM professional today.