CCIE Pursuit Blog

June 13, 2008

CertGuard: Certification Integrity?

Filed under: Cisco,Cisco Certification — cciepursuit @ 3:06 pm
Tags: , ,

–noun 1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. 

A few days ago I posted about an article on Network World’s site in which Robert Williams of CertGuard accused Ethan Banks of cheating on his CCIE written exam.  At that time I mentioned that I thought that Williams had stepped over the line and made accusations based on speculation rather than facts.  I wrote that I thought that Williams was not a “bad guy.”  After reading Williams’ comments and attempting to get him to address some of his speculative claims, it’s pretty obvious that Williams has an agenda that no amount of facts are going to deviate him from pursuing.  I believe (as do others) that Williams libeled Ethan in his article.  It can only hope that Ethan “lawyers up” and pursues legal recourse.

Ethan’s site is down.  His name and reputation have been sullied.  Both are losses to the CCIE community.

I’m not going to waste any more bandwidth addressing the points at which Williams left the realm of reason and drifted into reckless accusations.  One can read my original post as well as the comments on Williams’ article if they want.  What I do have an issue with is the fact that Network World allows Williams’ article to be hosted on their website.  If Williams were to post this garbage on his blog or site, it would receive little attention.  Because Williams’ piece is published on the website of the preeminent networking magazine it gives his words both an audience and a credibility which I don’t feel that this smear piece deserves. 

I’m not sure what the relationship is between Williams and Network World.  Network World gives us Michael Morris, Jeff Doyle, Wendell Odom, and Brad Reese.  For them to allow Williams to even be remotely associated with these outstanding writers gives Williams undue credibility.

I sent an email to Jim Duffy, the Managing Editor of Network World outlining Williams accusations and my concern that Network World allows these accusations space on their website.

I don’t know if my email will have any effect.  If you feel the same way that I do (or if you feel the opposite) and you have the time, email one or all of the following folks an email with your concerns:

Network World’s Contact Us page

Adam Gaffin
Executive Editor, Online • (508) 490-6433
Contact regarding online content development and online

Jim Duffy
Managing Editor • (716) 655-0103
Covers switching, routing and other network equipment
from Cisco, Nortel and others.

Bob Brown
Online Executive Editor, News • (508) 490-6407
Manages news staff and reporters.

This is the last that I will post about this matter.  I may have inadvertently hurt Ethan by pushing traffic at Williams’ posting.  If that is the case, then I apologize to Ethan.  My intentions were to point out an injustice, not to give more exposure to the article. 

For those who have not seen Ethan’s comment on this issue, I have reprinted them below along with my email to Jim Duffy.


UPDATE 6/5/2008 – The comment I made above has mislead some people to think I cheated my way through the CCIE written qualification exam.

First off, TestKing and others appear to offer a legitimate practice exams to help a person who is preparing for a certification test. If you don’t know what these companies are about, you can be easily fooled. Certainly, I was one of those. At a glance, TestKing’s website looks as good as Boson’s and other legitimate vendors. TestKing doesn’t tell you that they are selling you the actual test questions.

Second, since becoming aware of what TestKing is really about, I have discouraged the use of this material in several private e-mails to people that have asked me about them, and other similarly-minded vendors (like Pass4Sure).

Third, the specific TestKing study document I referred to here was not a representation what was on the actual written exam. If someone claims that I used TestKing to pass the CCIEwritten exam, they demonstrate both ignorance of my blog in general and my specific study methods which were well documented in my blog over several months.

Comment by Ethan Banks — June 5, 2008 @ 4:15 pm | Edit This


Hello Jim,

I apologize if you are not the correct person to contact.  My email is concerning the Robert Williams: Certification Integrity blog which is found under the Network World Community.  If there is a better contact available, please either forward this email on to them and/or respond with their contact information.

On June 5th of this year, Robert Williams published the following article/blog posting:

Certification Integrity: Should this CCIE have his certs stripped for cheating?

In this posting (and in his comments on this posting) Williams references the following comment by Ethan Banks (  and

/I reviewed some of the older TestKing material during my final review, although it wasn’t a major focus. The good news is that the TK stuff has a lot of the concepts you need to know. But if you’re looking for actual questions that will show up on the exam, I didn’t see that in any of the TK material I looked at.
Comment by Ethan Banks — August 2, 2007 @ 7:19 pm /

From this comment Mr. Williams accuses Mr. Banks of using “a well known cheating tool” (TestKing materials) to “memorize stolen exam questions to help him obtain his CCIE”.  He further accuses Mr. Banks of “promoting the use of those braindumps in front of potentially millions of Cisco exam candidates.”

Ethan Banks is (was?) a very popular CCIE blogger who chronicled his progress over the past year and a half while attaining the Cisco CCIE certification.  He recently passed the legendarily difficult CCIE lab on his first attempt.  In the very limited scope of CCIE bloggers (of whom I am one), he is well known.

From the comment referenced above I believe that Mr. Williams can – at most – claim that Mr. Banks used (I assume that is what “reviewed” means in this case) a product from TestKing.  I agree with Mr. Williams on that point.  His accusations beyond that seem to be built simply on his own speculations and are both damaging and unprofessional.

According to Mr. Williams, TestKing is a well known vendor of braindumps (which – from reading Mr. Williams postings – are collections of actual certification exam questions and answers).  While Mr. Williams may believe that this is a well known fact, he does not explain why he believes that Mr. Banks did (or should) believe the same thing about TestKing.

Mr. Williams goes futher than that and states that Mr. Banks used the TestKing material to “memorize stolen exam questions to help him obtain his CCIE.” This statement is directly contradicted by Mr. Banks; statement that none of the TestKing material that he reviewed contained actual questions.  What is it that Mr. Williams believes that Mr. Banks memorized and how did it help him to pass his CCIE written exam?  If Mr. Banks memorized questions that did not appear on his exam then didn’t he handicap himself by wasting time and “human RAM” to commit to memory information that did not help him on the exam?

Finally, Mr. Williams claims that Mr. Banks promoted the use of TestKing materials.  I did a search of Mr. Banks’ blog (while it was still online) and there were two postings that mentioned TeskKing.  Neither posting endorsed the use of TestKing products.  One explicitly dismissed TestKing materials as being worthless (to be fair, that posting occurred after Mr. Williams’ posting).  If one looks at the comment that Mr. Williams refers to in his article, I suppose that one could interpret Mr. Banks’ statement as a very weak (“…the TK stuff has a lot of the concepts you need to know.”) endorsement of the TestKing material.  Since the focus of Mr. Williams’ article is braindumps, it should be noted that as Mr. Banks’ statement is effectively a negative review of the TestKing material as a braindump.  He states that the material that he reviewed did not contain any actual exam questions.  To me that sounds like he’s saying “this material is good review but it’s not a braindump.”

The reason that I am writing to you about this issue is because Mr. Williams’ article and comments appear on the Network World website.  I do not know what relationship Network World has with CertGuard or Mr. Williams.  By publishing Mr. Williams’ article and comments on the Network World website, they have gained a credibility and audience that he could not achieve on his own.  My problem with this is that Mr. Williams has made what seem to me to be libelous statements about Mr. Banks.  I also believe that his reaction to comments on the article have been very aggressive and unprofessional. [Again, to be fair, some of the comments were aggressive and unprofessional as well].  I am disappointed that an institution as highly regarded as Network World is hosting these accusations.  I know that bloggers (if that is what Mr. Williams’ role is with Network World) are often excused from following standards and practices of journalists.  In this case though I think that Mr. Williams stepped over the line.  He seems to have made no effort to contact Mr. Banks for clarification/comments and his statements are illogical and may be libelous.  I do not know if Mr. Banks cheated on his CCIE written exam, but after reading Mr. Williams’ article and comments, it’s clear that Mr. Williams does not know this either.  This has not, unfortunately, stopped him from accusing Mr. Banks of exactly that.

Today I discovered that Mr. Banks had removed taken his site down “for personal reasons.”  I do not know if this is due to Mr. Williams’ article, but the timing is suspect.  Please review Mr. Williams’ article and postings and verify that they are accurate and/or that they meet the standards of Network World.

Thank you for your time,


*I run a CCIE blog pseudonymously at  If you require my actual name I will provide that to you.




  1. Well written. I hope all of this blows over soon and Ethan puts up his web site again. This whole situation has made me feel ill.

    Comment by Daniel — June 13, 2008 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

  2. […] just read the latest posting from CCIE Pursuit on the matter that has recently been surrounding Ethan Banks. If I’m reading it correctly, it […]

    Pingback by Baby, You Can Route My World! » Blog Archive — June 13, 2008 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

  3. I agree. I do miss his website. I wonder if Keith Tokash is going to start blogging on another site? At least until Ethan’s site rises from the dead…

    Keith – If you read this, let us know. IMHO, your posts were just as enjoyable as Ethan’s!


    Comment by ccie.mike — June 13, 2008 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  4. Ethan had recently been having problems with his web-hosting service. Perhaps it’s just wonky server syndrome? But like you said, the optics don’t look right.

    Comment by Chuck — June 13, 2008 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  5. Certguard…. I suggest you get legal counsel.
    Submitted by ccie.mike (not verified) on Sat, 06/14/2008 – 2:44am.

    I quoted this link the other night and read it briefly to define libel and defamation. Tonight I actually read /absorbed the whole webpage, the history behind these laws and the general framework used to define this certain area of law.

    When you read the webpage, which I suggest everyone does, put it into context with what Robert Williams /Certguard has done to Ethan Banks. It sure as hell looks like Mr. Williams better hope his little company has some competent legal backup.

    I do not see how this company is going to get out of this unscathed. Ethan, you have some serious legal ammunition here. Against both Certguard AND Network World for publishing it. You have been publicly ousted by a Corporation (Certguard) for their own personal gain. You ARE a public figure and the “FACTS” they expressed were done in a PUBLIC forum to cause HARM to you, personally.

    Unsubstantiated facts by supposed “Experts” with whom have power to the unknowing who take their statements as fact due to their worldwide published web blog on NW’s forum /blog. I have a feeling you are well aware of this… but I had to make it known.

    I would contact a big firm, like Mclane Law in Manchester to unleash their legal team of jackals on these scumbags. (I mention them due to the fact they are the biggest firm in our state and I have contacts there.)

    Let me know if I can be of any help.

    Good luck, man.

    Wait.. I am not done – I am so pissed off about what this company has done to you. I may come off as taking this as personal and freaky… but you know what? This is personal. I will be a CCIE soon and I KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO GET THIS.

    I am a married man of 33 with with 5 children, another one on the way, and I struggle to work, take care of my family and study for this SERIOUS EXAM THAT CAN TAKE YOU FROM $60K PER YEAR TO OVER $100K.

    This guy is so lucky he did not choose me to use as his sacrificial lamb. If this whole debacle was pointed at me, I would take it as a slap to the face of each and everyone one of my children and wife for all the time they sacrifice letting me pursue my dream of becoming a CCIE. I do not even want to go any further as I am sure you feel the same way.

    If someone can do this to you and discredit you… it could happen to anyone. Testking is a resource, albeit a quesitonable one. As far as I am concerned, until Cisco makes a public statement about Testking, or Braindumps for that matter, all is fair in this game. Bullshit on that. They need to be made to pay for this.



    Comment by ccie.mike — June 14, 2008 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  6. So it seems that passing any Cisco certification is some kind of ultimate goal. Not the real world knowledge which comes with time and experience but passing the certification. I have met many useless CCIE people, almost none of them could use real Cisco hardware, but still none of them was cheating. They have gained proper knowledge to pass that test and nothing more.

    On the other hand I know few CCNA, CCNP and certification-less people with plenty of real world knowledge which helped me a lot.


    Comment by Michal M. — June 14, 2008 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  7. Hehe ccie.mike sounds alot like my brother separated at birth except I have only one child with one on the way at age 33! Good work with all your comments as well!

    Comment by Carl Yost Jr — June 14, 2008 @ 5:33 am | Reply

  8. Hey Michal – Riiiight.

    Comment by Larry — June 14, 2008 @ 9:31 am | Reply

  9. I think you guys need to cut Williams a little bit of slack. While I don’t agree with all of the positions that CertGuard takes, they are in the trenches every day trying keep our certifications worth more than the paper they are written on. As far as I understand, the use of brain-dumps that supply the actual test questions is not allowed. I can’t see how it would be. Ethan admitted to using these on his blog, so I don’t think that you can call Williams’ comments unsubstantiated. But there were better ways to go about investigating this.

    Now it looks like Ethan had no knowledge that he shouldn’t have been using the TestKing materials. I have a hard time believing that he needed them to pass the test. And his blog pretty much shows that he was going about preparing for the test by learning the material and not just trying to memorize test question. So I would hope that Cisco wouldn’t just blindly take any certs away from him for unknowingly making a mistake. It’s something that could happen to anyone. Especially a few years ago when there really wasn’t a good source (like CertGurad) to find out which sites to avoid.

    Hopefully this all turns out OK for Ethan and for the CCIE community. But it’s a good reminder to really scrutinize where you get your study materials from. With all of the work that it takes to earn certifications, you really want to make sure that you do what you can to protect yourself.

    Comment by Jeff — June 14, 2008 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  10. Thankyou for this excellent piece.

    At the moment it seems possible that Certguard are trying to drum up business by raising their profile with a cheap shot at a high profile person (who has earned his profile by hard work).

    A nice juicy high profile scandal would be just the thing to provide self-promotion for their business.

    If so, I would hope that the exam and training vendors would not want align themselves with a company that shows so little morals, high handed tactics and unprofessional behaviour.

    I am particularly concerned by their seemingly self appointed role as defender of exam integrity in return for pay (see point 1 of their mission statement).

    Their only positive feature is that they have a blog at Network World (which anyone can get just for asking) other than that, they appear to have published no significant clients or partners (see their Web site).

    I also note that Microsoft is no longer supplying CertGuard with information – see and note that no results appear for 2008.

    On this information, I believe that CertGuard are acting in their own interest, by promoting themselves at someone else’s expense.


    Comment by Greg Ferro — June 14, 2008 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  11. […] about some guy you’ve never heard of before slamming Ethan Banks for cheating on his exam. CCIEPursuit summed it up nicely, as did Matt […]

    Pingback by | Blog: The Whole Ethan Thing…. » — June 14, 2008 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

  12. CCIEPursuit – please unicast me on this issue. I don’t have an e-mail for you.

    Comment by Ethan Banks — June 16, 2008 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  13. The real problem is that as the braindump sites get more and more complete, there is a kind of “minutae inflation” that affects the exam makeup. The CCIE Written used to be a good exam with lots of good, tough, technology oriented questions, generally challenging the test taker to describe the bits on the wire. Now it seems to have 40% or so of questions concert Cisco product placement and software solutions. These exams are almost impossible to do well on without some sort or pre-knowledge of their contents.

    I don’t have any suggestions on how this can be fixed for the current generation of test takers.


    Comment by Erich Trowbridge — June 17, 2008 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

  14. And one more thing which I forgot earlier. I met three or four people which present themself as CCIEs but have they certification expired. But I guess not many bosses check their validity ;).

    Comment by Michal M. — June 17, 2008 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

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