What's the Gap Between SEC504 and SEC560?

  • What is the difference between SEC504 and SEC560?
  • Published by: André Hammer on Jan 30, 2024

Are you interested in cybersecurity and thinking about taking the SEC504 or SEC560 course? Both courses are important for understanding information security. However, there are differences between the two that may affect your decision.

In this article, we will explore the gap between SEC504 and SEC560. We'll provide objective information to help you make an informed choice about which course is the best fit for you.

Overview of SANS SEC504: Hacker Tools, Techniques, Exploits, and Incident Handling

SANS SEC504 and SEC560 focus on different areas.

SEC504 covers hacker tools, techniques, exploits, and incident handling. It teaches professionals about hacker tactics, tools, and intrusion detection.

SEC560, on the other hand, emphasizes network penetration testing and ethical hacking. It equips participants to conduct penetration tests, recognize vulnerabilities, and develop mitigation strategies.

Both courses teach valuable skills such as network security, forensics, incident response, and threat hunting.

Graduates of these courses are skilled in identifying security weaknesses, investigating security incidents, and implementing effective security measures. These skills are essential for safeguarding business information, protecting sensitive data, and mitigating cyber threats.

Overview of SANS SEC560: Network Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking

SEC560 is about developing skills in identifying, exploiting, and documenting vulnerabilities in network systems. SEC504, on the other hand, focuses more on the defensive side, covering incident handling and response. While SEC504 teaches how to detect and respond to cyber threats, SEC560 delves into the offensive approach, exploring the methodologies and tools used by hackers for ethical hacking and penetration testing.

Participants in SEC560 will gain hands-on skills in areas such as foot printing, scanning, enumeration, exploitation, and post-exploitation. They will also learn about best practices and methodologies for conducting ethical hacking and gain knowledge on the current state of the network penetration testing field.

What is the difference between SEC504 and SEC560?

Core Focus and Objectives


  • Focuses on understanding hacker tools, techniques, and incident handling.
  • Aims to enhance cybersecurity skills with an emphasis on incident handling and hacker techniques.
  • Provides a comprehensive understanding of hacker tools and incident handling.


  • Focuses on network penetration testing and ethical hacking.
  • Aims to develop expertise in network security and penetration testing.
  • Emphasizes network security and penetration testing for enhancing cybersecurity skills.

The courses have different objectives:

  • SEC504 aims to understand hacker tools and incident handling.
  • SEC560 aims to develop expertise in network penetration testing and ethical hacking.

These differences result in varying skill sets and knowledge outcomes for individuals taking these courses.

Target Audience

The SANS SEC504: Hacker Tools, Techniques, Exploits, and Incident Handling course is for information security professionals. They should have some experience in incident handling and want to expand their knowledge of hacker tools and techniques. It's also suitable for those responsible for detecting or defending against cyber attacks.

On the other hand, the SANS SEC560: Network Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking course is for individuals with a good understanding of networking principles and experience in network security. It's best suited for security consultants, penetration testers, or anyone looking to specialize in ethical hacking.

Both courses are relevant for those seeking career paths in penetration testing, ethical hacking, or incident response. Job roles such as security analyst, network security engineer, ethical hacker, or penetration tester would also benefit from the knowledge and skills gained from these courses.

Course Curriculum and Content

The professional skills taught in SEC504 and SEC560 differ. SEC504 focuses on incident handling and threat hunting, while SEC560 emphasises network penetration testing and ethical hacking.

SEC504 covers incident handling, detection, and response techniques. On the other hand, SEC560 provides a deep understanding of penetration testing and ethical hacking methodologies.

Professionals completing SEC504 gain expertise in threat hunting and digital forensics, while SEC560 equips students with the skills for penetration testing and ethical hacking assessments.

SEC504 offers practical examples of network traffic analysis and investigating security incidents, while SEC560 focuses on performing penetration tests and uncovering vulnerabilities.

Both courses include lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on labs for a well-rounded understanding and real-world application. The goal of both curricula is to prepare students to apply their knowledge effectively in practical scenarios, making them valuable assets to their organisations.

Skill Level and Prerequisites

SANS SEC504 is for people with a basic understanding of cybersecurity. It covers managing software and tools at the command line.

SANS SEC560 needs a solid understanding of networking. It also requires experience using offensive security tools.

SEC504 teaches tactics and tools used by malicious hackers.

SEC560 focuses on offensive cybersecurity.

SEC504 is for incident handlers.

SEC560 is for those interested in penetration tests and ethical hacking.

The different skill levels show a distinction between the basics of cyber defense and the more advanced world of red team activities.

Both courses aim to build skills in offensive and defensive cybersecurity.

SEC560 needs a higher level of prior knowledge and experience.

In-Depth Look at SEC504

Incident Handling and Response

The training in incident handling and response in SEC504 focuses on detecting, responding to, and recovering from security incidents. This includes data breaches and cyber attacks.

The network penetration testing and ethical hacking in SEC560 deals with offensive security techniques and tools. These are used to test and strengthen an organization's security posture.

In SEC504, core skills and techniques covered in the incident handling and response section include incident detection, response planning, digital forensics, and malware analysis.

Professionals trained in these areas can pursue career paths in cybersecurity incident response, security operations, and digital forensics.

Real-world application scenarios for these individuals include leading incident response teams, conducting post-incident analysis, and ensuring that security incidents are identified and resolved efficiently to minimize impact on the organization.

Understanding Various Attack Vectors

Understanding the difference between SEC504 and SEC560 is in the attack vectors they cover.

SEC504 focuses on social engineering, web app security, and network attacks.

SEC560 goes deeper into endpoint and network attack vectors.

By understanding these, security professionals can improve incident handling and response by identifying and mitigating threats effectively.

In ethical hacking and penetration testing, tools for understanding attack vectors include malware analysis, network traffic analysis, and exploitation frameworks.

These skills are important for staying ahead of cyber attackers and protecting sensitive data and systems.

Tools and Techniques Covered

In SANS SEC504, you'll learn about penetration testing, evasion techniques, and data exfiltration. Tools like Metasploit and offensive use of PowerShell are covered, along with methods to bypass security controls.

Meanwhile, SEC560 focuses on network traffic analysis, packet crafting, and malware analysis. It explores tools for mapping a network, identifying vulnerabilities, and capturing forensic evidence.

SEC504 is more about offensive techniques for red team operations, while SEC560 focuses on defensive techniques for blue team operations. SEC504 covers techniques used by attackers, and SEC560 focuses on detecting and responding to attacks.

In-Depth Look at SEC560

Network Penetration Testing Methodology

Network penetration testing methodology is a systematic approach to check a network's security. It finds vulnerabilities and security weaknesses. This method is used in cybersecurity to simulate attacks and test existing security measures. The steps in this method include reconnaissance, scanning, gaining access, maintaining access, and covering tracks. This helps professionals mimic a hacker's behavior and find weaknesses.

They use tools like network scanning and vulnerability assessment toolsto identify and fix network vulnerabilities. For instance, these tools help find loopholes in network security and suggest ways to reduce those risks. In general, this method is a proactive way to make a network more secure and protect sensitive data from potential threats.

Ethical Hacking Techniques

The SANS SEC560 course covers ethical hacking techniques such as reconnaissance, scanning, enumeration, exploitation, and post-exploitation.

The SEC504 course focuses on teaching students about hacker tools, techniques, exploits, and incident handling.

After completing SEC560, professionals gain skills in network penetration testing, vulnerability identification, and ethical hacking methods.

Completing SEC504 equips individuals with the ability to identify and respond to security incidents, as well as the knowledge of various hacking techniques and exploits.

Both courses provide professionals with practical skills that are highly sought after in the cybersecurity industry.

Advanced Tools and Scripting

SEC504 and SEC560 both cover advanced tools and scripting. The main difference is their focus.

In SEC504, the emphasis is on advanced penetration testing and ethical hacking tools.

In SEC560, the focus is on the incident handling process involving advanced tools and scripting.

For example, SEC504 covers tools and techniques used for exploiting vulnerabilities, like Metasploit and Burp Suite.

SEC560 covers tools and scripting used for incident identification, containment, eradication, and recovery, such as Sysinternals Suite and PowerShell scripting.

These advanced tools and scripting in both courses are important for professionals in information security. They provide practical knowledge and skills needed to handle real-world application scenarios effectively, like responding to a security incident or performing a penetration test.

In the end, the advanced tools and scripting in SEC504 and SEC560 contribute to diverse career paths in information security and enable professionals to address evolving challenges in the field with confidence.

What is the difference between SEC504 and SEC560?

Certification Outcomes

Completing SANS SEC504 and SANS SEC560 can lead to:

  • A deep understanding of hacker tools, techniques, and incident handling for SEC504.
  • Network penetration testing and ethical hacking for SEC560.
  • Various career paths in cybersecurity, like incident responder, penetration tester, security analyst, or security consultant.

These certifications offer real-world skills, including:

  • Identifying and responding to security incidents.
  • Performing penetration testing and ethical hacking.
  • Proficiency in using security tools and techniques.

Roles and Career Paths

After completing SANS SEC504 and SEC560 courses, individuals often pursue roles as cybersecurity analysts, penetration testers, security engineers, or incident responders.

SEC504 focuses on threat hunting, incident response, and network defense, leading to roles in security operations centres and incident response teams. This is suitable for careers in security operations, incident response, and network defense.

On the other hand, SEC560 emphasizes offensive cybersecurity techniques like penetration testing and ethical hacking, preparing individuals for roles as penetration testers and security consultants. This aligns more with careers in offensive security and penetration testing.

Each course offers a unique set of skills that cater to different career paths within the cybersecurity field.

Real-World Application Scenarios

Professionals who have completed SEC504 and SEC560 have gained skills and knowledge that directly apply to real-world scenarios.

For example, those in incident handling roles can use their SEC504 training to respond to and mitigate security incidents effectively. Similarly, individuals involved in penetration testing and ethical hacking can use the concepts and techniques learned in SEC560 to identify vulnerabilities and improve security posture.

These certifications play an important role in shaping the career paths of individuals, as the real-world application scenarios are closely linked to certification outcomes. By applying the knowledge gained from SEC504 and SEC560 in their respective roles, professionals can demonstrate their expertise in handling security incidents and identifying potential threats. This ultimately helps advance their careers in the cybersecurity field.

Professional Skills Gained from Each Course

Skills from SEC504

SEC504 and SEC560 are courses that focus on cybersecurity.

SEC504 teaches students about effective cybersecurity principles and practices. It covers threat intelligence, incident response, security analytics, and how to detect and respond to cybersecurity threats. The course focuses on defensive security strategies and developing a strong security posture.

SEC560 delves into penetration testing, ethical hacking, and red teaming. It teaches students how to identify, exploit, and remediate system vulnerabilities, providing offensive security skills used to test and refine defensive strategies.

Both courses are important in cybersecurity.

SEC504 lays the groundwork for understanding threats and vulnerabilities.

SEC560 builds on this knowledge by providing hands-on experience in identifying and mitigating risks.

Skills from SEC560

The SEC560 course focuses on network security assessment and penetration testing. It helps professionals understand vulnerabilities and conduct effective penetration tests. On the other hand, SEC504 equips professionals with incident handling and response skills, covering detection, containment, eradication, and recovery from security incidents.

The difference in skills gained from these courses is significant. SEC560 focuses on proactive security measures, while SEC504 emphasises reactive strategies. The course structure also differs, with SEC504 being more lecture-based and SEC560 incorporating hands-on lab exercises and simulations.

Course Structure and Delivery Format

Length and Intensity of Courses

The length and intensity of the SEC504 and SEC560 courses differ in both the duration of the training and the level of depth involved. The SEC504 course typically spans over six days, with each day comprising eight hours of intensive learning. On the other hand, the SEC560 course extends over five days, with the same amount of rigorous instruction daily.

The practical and hands-on exercises in both courses contribute significantly to the intensity, as they offer real-world scenarios and challenges for the participants to overcome. Traditional instructor-led training also provides a more interactive and in-depth experience compared to the self-study alternative. In contrast, self-study options typically offer a more flexible schedule but may require more independent learning and discipline. The hands-on exercises and labs in both courses result in a more comprehensive understanding of the material and a more immersive learning experience.

These differences in course length and intensity result in varying levels of expertise and skill development for individuals pursuing the SEC504 and SEC560 courses.

Instructor-Led Training vs Self-Study Options

When deciding between SANS SEC504 and SEC560 training, it's important to compare instructor-led training and self-study. Instructor-led training allows real-time interaction with an experienced professional for immediate clarification and personalized feedback. But it can be more expensive and have a fixed schedule. Self-study lets individuals learn at their own pace, potentially at a lower cost and with flexibility. However, it lacks in-person guidance and group collaboration.

Instructor-led training offers more extensive hands-on exercises and troubleshooting assistance, enhancing the learning experience. Self-study still provides exercises but may not have the same level of support. In terms of cost, instructor-led training involves additional expenses such as travel and accommodation, while self-study may only require purchasing course materials. These factors should be carefully considered when choosing the best approach for SANS SEC504 and SEC560 training.

Hands-On Exercises and Labs

The SEC504 course has hands-on exercises with scenario-based labs. These focus on identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in a network. Participants use techniques to detect and mitigate threats in a simulated environment.

In contrast, the SEC560 course includes hands-on labs for conducting forensic investigations. It involves using digital evidence to track and analyze cyber attacks.

Both courses' hands-on exercises provide practical experience and exposure to real-world scenarios. They help participants enhance their skills in network security and incident response.

These exercises aid in developing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Participants apply their knowledge to resolve complex cybersecurity issues.

Participants gain a deeper understanding of cybersecurity concepts through these hands-on experiences. This prepares them better to handle cybersecurity incidents in their professional roles.

Investment and Return on Training

Cost Comparison

There might be different costs for training in SANS SEC504 and SEC560 courses. Usually, the return on investment for SEC504 is better. But, we should also think about extra costs like training materials and certification exams. One course might have a higher training fee, but it could cover all the materials and exams. Another course might need extra fees for these.

It's crucial to calculate the total cost of each course, including any potential extra expenses, to pick the most cost-effective option.

Wrapping up

SEC504 and SEC560 differ in their focus and content.

SEC504 focuses on hacker tools and techniques, covering offensive and defensive strategies. It provides a broader understanding of hacking tools.

On the other hand, SEC560 specifically focuses on network penetration testing and ethical hacking. It delves deeper into this area.

Readynez offers a 5-day GCIH Course and Certification Program, providing you with all the learning and support you need to successfully prepare for the SEC504 exam and certification. The GCIH course, and all our other GIAC courses, are also included in our unique Unlimited Security Training offer, where you can attend the GCIH and 60+ other Security courses for just €249 per month, the most flexible and affordable way to get your Security Certifications. 


What is the difference in content between SEC504 and SEC560?

SEC504 focuses on hacker tools and techniques, while SEC560 focuses on network penetration testing and ethical hacking. For example, SEC504 covers topics like Metasploit and PowerShell Empire, while SEC560 covers subjects such as network scanning and exploitation.

What skills and knowledge will I gain from SEC504 that I won't get from SEC560?

You will gain in-depth knowledge of threat hunting and incident response in SEC504, which you won't get from SEC560. This includes skills in analyzing network traffic, identifying and responding to security incidents, and conducting effective threat hunting activities.

How do the focus areas of SEC504 and SEC560 differ?

SEC504 focuses on incident handling and response, while SEC560 focuses on network penetration testing and ethical hacking. For example, SEC504 teaches how to respond to security incidents, while SEC560 teaches how to conduct penetration tests and ethical hacking exercises.

What are the prerequisites for SEC504 and SEC560, and how do they compare?

Prerequisites for SEC504 include understanding of basic security concepts and familiarity with TCP/IP networking. SEC560 requires hands-on experience with Kali Linux. SEC504 focuses on defensive techniques, while SEC560 focuses on offensive techniques.

In what professional contexts would SEC504 be more beneficial than SEC560, and vice versa?

SEC504 would be more beneficial in contexts where organizations need to focus on detecting and responding to cyber threats, such as in incident response teams. SEC560 would be more beneficial in contexts where organizations need to focus on building and improving their offensive security capabilities, such as in penetration testing teams.

Two people monitoring systems for security breaches

Unlimited Security Training

Get Unlimited access to ALL the LIVE Instructor-led Security courses you want - all for the price of less than one course. 

  • 60+ LIVE Instructor-led courses
  • Money-back Guarantee
  • Access to 50+ seasoned instructors
  • Trained 50,000+ IT Pro's



Price: {{item.ItemPriceExVatFormatted}} {{item.Currency}}