When you’re looking for a way to climb the ranks in the cyber security world, it can be difficult. As a newer industry, there’s no cookie-cutter path to cyber security and qualified experts come from a variety of backgrounds.
However, one surefire way to prove yourself is through certifications which validate your skills in the eyes of an employer and let you get a foot in the door for that dream job. The EC-Council’s Certified Network Defender (CND) is one such certification, great for people who want to work on making sure an organization’s network is secure and maintained.
In this article, we’ll cover the CND certification, what it covers, how it works, and whether or not it’s the perfect move for your career.
Cyber Security Skills Gap and Certification
Before we move on to the CND, it’s important to understand why it’s relevant in this world. The answer? The cyber security skills gap. With more and more high profile hacks from Equifax to Uber, qualified professionals are in short supply.
That’s where IT cyber security certifications come in. For professionals who already know their way around a computer and are ready to help fight the bad guys, certifications give them a chance to prove those skills quickly and get to work.
But not all certifications are created equal. So where does the Certified Network Defender come in?
To get more specific, the CND is great for anyone who wants to focus on the operations and processes involved in network defense, rather than the tech. Their focus is on maintaining infrastructure in a system. A day in the life of a network defender could include testing a network for weaknesses, installing security programs, evaluating/monitoring networks, and more.
For info on when this certification could be the right choice for you, check out the infographic below from the EC-Council.
As for the process of getting certified itself, well, it’s not easy. The Certified Network Defender exam is over four hours and costs hundreds of dollars. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect . . .
What’s in it for you once you do get the CND? We’re glad you asked! This certification uniquely prepares you to work with networks or seek network administrator positions.
Some of the most common Certified Network Defender jobs include. . .
Network Security Administrators
Network Security Engineer
Network Defense Technicians
As for salary, the average Certified Network Defender salary is around $65,721* but could easily be much higher depending on your specialization. For a Defense Network Technician, salaries range between $70,000 and $76,000.
Meanwhile, a Network Security Engineer could make anywhere between $97,000 and $163,000 according to the Robert Half 2018 Technology & IT Salary Guide. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Certification Training at LeaderQuest
Our Certified Network Defender course is designed to help you quickly learn the skills needed to pass the exam and take on a new job role. This EC-Council Certified Network Defender (CND) cyber security training program was developed as a result of extensive market research and surveys to give students a detailed understanding and the hands-on ability to act in real-life situations involving network defense. Hands-on labs, based on major network security tools and techniques, give network administrators real-world experience on current network security technologies and operations.
This cyber security training is skills-based and lab intensive. It based on a job-task analysis and the cyber security education framework presented by the National Initiative of Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The course has been mapped to global job roles and responsibilities for system and network administrators.
Get Certified and Hired!
If you want to start an exciting, in-demand, well-compensated career in network defense, Certified Network Defender training can get you there. That’s why we’re here to help you get a cyber security certification that launches your career!
We offer high-impact IT certification training designed to help you learn the material, get certified, and be prepared to start a new job role with confidence. Getting you a great new job as quickly as possible is our ultimate goal. That’s why we offer 5-10 day classes, during the day or at night, online or on campus, which you can resit as many times as needed to make sure you absorb your new skills fast.
Train with an expert instructor at LeaderQuest and start your new career with the help of our Employment Development Manager (EDM), your personal career coach who comes equipped with a host of employer connections to help you get hired fast.
Don’t wait to get your Certified Network Defender (CND) and start a great future in cyber security. Reach out today!
When you’re standing on the precipice of a new career, taking the plunge can be scary. No one likes being stuck in a job they hate, but getting out takes hard work, grit, and a little luck. You might know that IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, but deciding to make it your new career isn’t easy.
Never fear! If you’re thinking about going into information technology, we’ve prepared a list of pros and cons so you can decide for yourself if the world of tech is right for you. This list builds on research from our 2016 article but includes more stats and more considerations for IT professional jobs.
Stress & Constant Complaints vs. Great Salary & Benefits Package
Let’s not beat around the bush about the hardest part of IT. You’re interacting with people whose patience has been ground down until they’re ready to throw their computers out the window. This is especially true for the Help Desk.
What’s more, for people employed in positions such as Systems Administrators, Network Engineers, or anything cyber security related, even a small screw up can mean big problems for a company and its data. With cyber security horror stories floating around, it’s bound to be high pressure.
Fortunately, with big risk comes big rewards in terms of IT professional salary. Even for entry-level Help Desk positions, the salary midpoint is around $38,000 and can go as high as $54,000, according to the Robert Half 2018 Technology & IT Salary Guide. Again, that’s just entry-level. Systems Administrators are in huge demand with starting salaries at $67,000 that can go as high as $113,000 while Network Engineers make anywhere from $90,000 to $150,000.
The real money is in cyber security which has an unprecedented need for new professionals. More and more, companies are prioritizing people who are willing to learn quickly. Many positions garner over $100,000 with the salary for a seasoned, specialized professional such as Data Security Analyst between $100,000 and $170,000.
As you can see, the pay scale for IT professionals is a huge draw. Employers use a number of other incentives and benefits to snag the top talent like signing bonuses, health insurance, generous vacation time, and professional development opportunities. Perks are also a big draw and can include flexible work schedules, social events, telecommuting, onsite/offsite gym access, a compressed schedule, and even free/subsidized meals.
Long Hours vs. Flexible Hours
Unfortunately, tech problems don’t work on a 9 am – 5 pm schedule. They can strike at 6 am or five minutes before you were planning to leave. This is definitely a job that asks much of its employees and that’s no different when it comes to their time.
Fortunately, companies understand that and deeply appreciate and value the time of their IT pros. They want you to be rested, de-stressed, and ready to deal with whatever the servers throw at you.
This sometimes means you can pick your own schedule, work on a compressed schedule, or even telecommute (work from home). This is great for anyone who hates getting stuck in traffic at the end of the 9-5 slog.
No One Understands Your Job vs. Unparalleled Job Security
IT comes with an almost endless number of specializations. Do you want to work on securing networks? Fighting cyber attacks? Or maybe you’re just interested in updating and maintaining systems? No matter what, there’s a field for you.
Unfortunately, that means that people at your company won’t always understand what your duties include. You could be a Systems Administrator, but still get asked to fix someone’s home computer. You’ll be the go-to tech expert, even about stuff that’s definitely not in your job description. What’s next? Fix their iPhone? Debug their Fitbit? Talk about scope creep.
On the flip side, being an IT pro comes with unparalleled job security. Of Business Insider’s list of 26 careers with the best job security, two were IT positions. This is especially true for cyber security. According to the nonprofit group ISACA, there will be a shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit group Cyberseek reports that 40,000 jobs for information security analysts go unfilled every year while employers are struggling to fill 200,000 other cyber-security related roles. You will be valued. You will be needed. Most importantly, you will be hard to replace and that’s a good feeling.
People Lie and Lie vs. Challenging and Exciting Work
How did your computer get a virus? Why do all these pop-up ads have the name of a website you shouldn’t be browsing at work? Why is there peanut butter and mustard smeared all over the keyboard? (And why are you eating peanut butter and mustard? That’s just weird.)
Personal snafus with the computer are embarrassing. No one wants to own up to that dumb thing they did. However, figuring out what’s wrong can be frustrating when people aren’t honest about how the computer got messed up.
What’s worse than your coworkers lying to you? Vendors lying to you. In this article from Tech Republic, they discuss the difficulty of debugging software from a third party when their support won’t admit that something’s wrong. (Our software? Buggy? Never!)
You can also expect to be lied to by vendors’ technical support departments. I have lost count of the number of support technicians over the years who have told me that a problem is not related to their software, but rather to the computer’s hardware or to the operating system. And of course I won’t even begin to talk about the number of vendors who have lied to me in an effort to make a sale.
On the bright side, what makes this job difficult also makes it challenging and even fun. IT is all about solving problems and that’s reflected in job satisfaction. A whopping 61% of IT professionals in one poll said they feel appreciated by their bosses and coworkers. And, if you ever don’t feel appreciated, you know you can find somewhere that does appreciate you.
Overwhelming Amount of Choices vs. Mobility and Options
Whether you’re interested in working on hardware, software, networks, databases, cloud security, or more, there’s a niche for you. Picking your career path can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. You can get bogged down in a specialization before you realize that it’s not where you want to be. No one wants to be extra-qualified in something they hate.
Fortunately, that also means qualified professionals have many options and career mobility. Since there’s such a tremendous need, especially for cyber security, more employers are embracing nontraditional paths for employment. IT certifications, which qualify and verify your skills, are one of the best ways to show employers you’ve got the right stuff.
With the ever-widening cyber gap, employers are more likely to invest in someone who shows they’re willing to keep on top of the updates on their own time, even if they don’t have picture perfect experience on their resume. Quick learning and the passion for improvement are invaluable commodities.
And this specialization pays off. Again, the Robert Half Salary guide found that employers may increase salaries between five to ten percent for professionals with sought-after skills and certifications. If you’re interested in getting started quickly, especially with cyber security, IT is a no-brainer.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some people can’t handle the long hours, difficult work, and stress of interacting with people at their most frantic. However, if you’re interested in challenging and exciting work where you get to solve problems, you could have a long, well-paying IT career ahead of you with salary and benefits.
If you’re interested in becoming an IT pro, but don’t have the time or money for a four-year degree, IT certifications can be a great way to get into the field. At LeaderQuest, we offer 5-15 day courses that get you ready to pass the exam, get certified, and put those skills to use in the working world in no time. We focus on the It professional certifications that employers want the most, like Security+, CCNA and Certified Ethical Hacker.
We know that you have responsibilities. That’s why we offer classes during the day and at night. Whether you prefer to take classes on campus or online, you’ll be getting access to our expert instructors who will prepare you to kick butt on the exam and teach you to excel in your new IT professional career.
Ready to start your IT career? If you’d like to learn more about careers in IT, check out our 2019 IT Career Finder! Choosing an IT career can be a daunting task. You must balance personal experience and aptitude against the likely future of the role, both in terms of earnings and the number of IT job positions that will be available in coming years. We created this guide to help connect the dots between your skills and IT job descriptions and duties to help you find your path to becoming an IT professional!
Interested in a career in information technology or cyber security?
We can help you choose an IT career path! Join our mailing list, and we’ll send you our 2019 IT Careerfinder white paper, totally free!
Choosing an IT career can be a daunting task. You must balance personal experience and aptitude against the likely future of the role, both in terms of earnings and the number of IT job positions that will be available in coming years. If you’re considering an IT career or specifically, a career in cyber security, we have good news for you! Business is booming and there are more IT job postings for these occupations with every passing year.
If you’re wondering about jobs in information technology that might be perfect for you, download the guide below!
Sign up for our IT Career Training White Paper
What’s in the Careerfinder?
This white paper contains useful information on six IT careers in demand, including:
Computer User Support Specialists
Computer Network Support Specialists
Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Computer Network Architects
Information Security Analysts
Computer and Information Systems Managers
For each of these occupations, we can help answer important questions, like:
What do people in this role do every day?
Is this occupation expected to grow?
What salary do people in this occupation earn?
What skills are required for this occupation?
What certifications are required for this occupation?
Are you interested in IT certification?
LeaderQuest can help you get the IT certifications you need to get that promotion or career change you’ve been looking for! Speak with one of our IT career training consultants today and make the change you’ve been waiting for. We’re experts on careers in the IT industry, and we’d love to help you get hired.
Given this scarcity, it’s no surprise that the salaries for IT professionals are skyrocketing, but the size of that jump might be more than you expect. Salaries for software developers and information security analysts increased 17 percent and 18 percent respectively since 2013 while compensation for computer systems analysts rose a whopping 21 percent.
So what does this mean for IT? In this examination of the Robert Half 2019 Technology & IT Salary Guide, we’ll be exploring areas of growth, examining average salaries, and reviewing other information that’s essential for anyone thinking of getting into IT.
Counteract Inexperience with Quick Learning
As the world shifts towards automation, the need for talented IT professionals is far outstripping the supply. That’s why companies have become willing to hire professionals with less experience but who are motivated to learn quickly.
With technology evolving faster than ever, employers are also looking for new hires who can stay on top of technology in their own time. That means passion is a big selling point.
On the flip side, those with skills and techniques related cloud technology, open source practices, mobile development, big data, cyber security, and other new technologies will definitely be given preference in hiring.
Expanding IT Industries
Though the need for IT is rising everywhere, the three industries with the biggest demand are healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing.
Healthcare — Big innovations are needed to improve patient care by modernizing healthcare operations.
Financial services — In the wake of the Equifax breach, this shouldn’t be surprising. Both big data and information security initiatives drive the need for pros in this industry.
Manufacturing — While manufacturing has been slow to adapt, things are changing quickly with the trend toward automation.
Software as a Service (SaaS) — This industry is growing quickly as more companies leave traditional software behind for tailored solutions with great support.
Certifications are always in high demand as a way for employers to verify the skills of a new hire. The skills and knowledge required to pass these exams give employers confidence that they’ve made the right hire.
In Robert Half’s extensive salary guide, they break down the numbers for what people in the 25th, 50th, 75th, and 95th percentile will make. Which percentile an individual falls into is decided by things like level of experience, special skills/expertise, job complexity, location, and other such factors.
When looking at these charts for yourself, it’s important to remember that the 50th percentile represents the midpoint. Those just getting started in the industry will be closer to (or below) the 25th percentile. Those with a lot of experience or credentials would fall in the 75th or 95th percentiles. For more information on using the salary guide, check out the video below.
When you examine the chart below, you can see that IT salaries top out with executive positions such as the Chief Information Officer ($171,750 – $293,000), Chief Technology Officer ($147,750 – $263,000), and Chief Security Officer ($148,000 – $270,000).
While that’s the highest of the high, it’s still worth noting that many of the salary ranges for IT roles easily reach over $100,000 including specialties and years of experience. Here are just a few high paying jobs in technical services, networking, and security.
Technical Services, Help Desk, & Technical Support
As you can see from the chart below, these positions represent the lower end of the salary range in IT. However, with the midpoint salary range for most positions around or over $50,000, it’s still much more than a living wage.
While salaries start in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, they quickly move to $50,000 – $60,000 as they get more and more specialized. This is especially true for systems administrators and systems engineers.
Help Desk Tier 1
Help Desk Tier 2
Help Desk Tier 3
Desktop Support Analyst
When you’re looking to get into IT for the first time, it’s important to have a base of knowledge to draw upon. Our Computer User Support Specialist program combines popular ITIL® and CompTIA training programs necessary to develop the skills you’ll need for entry-level IT.
If you’re looking to get started in IT with little to no experience. Learn more about us by clicking the link below.
Network Administrators are listed as one of the most in-demand positions for 2019, so it should be no surprise their salaries range from $74,000 to $126,000, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Many higher level network positions such as Network Engineers, Managers, or Wireless Network Engineers start around $90,000 to $100,000 and can go as high as the $150,000 to $160,000 range.
Wireless Network Engineer
If you’re interested in the networking positions, our Network Support Specialist Program teaches fundamentals, competencies, and qualifications that are necessary to start a career in networking. Through these classes, you’ll learn how to install, configure, run, verify, and troubleshoot medium-sized networks.
Interested in learning more? Click the link below.
Cyber security is rapidly expanding and in desperate need of more professionals to stay on top of security. The compensation for these roles reflects this high demand.
In cyber security, even the jobs in the 25th percentile start around $90,000. With rising concerns about data from the Equifax breaches and others, it makes sense that Network Security Engineers, Data Security Analysts, and Information Systems Security Managers most often make between $115,000 and $160,000.
Network Security Administrator
Systems Security Administrator
Network Security Engineer
Data Security Analyst
Information Systems Security Manager
With the gap between cyber skills growing wider by the day, the industry provides professionals with unparalleled job security and a world of opportunities. Whether you’re interested in working on securing networks, keeping data safe, or even getting inside the mind of a hacker, cyber provides a variety of great, high-paying options.
Interested in learning more about how our programs can help you build a career path toward cyber security? Click the button below.
Most IT positions include generous benefits packages. Here are the most common benefits broken down by the percentage of companies that offer them:
Medical Insurance (88%)
Paid Time Off (80%)
Dental Insurance (71%)
Vision Insurance (60%)
Disability Insurance (58%)
Life insurance (53%)
Employee Assistance Programs (39%)
Employers also consider a number of other incentives to snag top talent including signing bonuses, health insurance, generous vacation time, and professional development opportunities.
As for perks, places often offer flexible work schedules, social events, the option of telecommuting, onsite gym or access to a gym offsite, a compressed schedule, or free/subsidized meals.
In addition, employers offer 14 days paid vacation for the first five years of employment and nine paid holidays including floating holidays. Employers also match 3-4 percent of employees’ 401(k) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions on average.
Ultimately, the difference in salary comes down to specialization. For IT pros, that means skills and certifications. Both increase the marketability of a professional. Employers may increase salaries between five to ten percent for professionals with sought-after skills and abilities.
Some of the most popular certifications, as identified by the Robert Half guide, include CISSP, CCNA, CompTIA A+, and PMP®. However, certifications show more than proving a skillset. They also signal to employers that a professional is committed to keeping their skills up to date at all times. With the ever-widening cyber security gap, certifications and willingness to keep on top of the latest updates are becoming more and more of a commodity.
Certifications can mean the difference between thousands of dollars in salary. That’s why, at LeaderQuest, we balance by-the-book training that helps people pass their exams with real-world, hands-on experience. This ensures our students can take their learning beyond the classroom and be fully prepared for a brand new career.
We understand the pressures of working full-time while still wanting to advance education and earning potential That’s why we offer classes during the day, at night, on campus, or online to meet any schedule and learning style.
Ultimately, a certification is a great, cost-effective way to get into the lucrative IT field for the fraction of the cost of a university. With the continuing upward trend in salaries, the IT industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
If you’re interested in building a successful career in IT, contact us and we’ll get you set up with one of our expert career advisers.
Contact us today and unlock your career’s full potential!
In 2018, we saw many individuals come and go through the doors here at LeaderQuest for IT Training throughout our five campuses in Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, and San Antonio. We are proud of everyone’s success and celebrate the diversity of our hard working students. We celebrate them not only for passing their exams and overcoming adversity but also for starting careers and contributing to society through the use of their new found IT skills.
Our students showed the world that no matter your background, race, gender, or income, if you are willing to put in the work to change your life then you can make it happen. From homeless veterans to single mothers to those looking to change careers, LeaderQuest has partnered with with thousands of individuals throughout the country to help them realize a revitalized American Dream and create futures they can be proud of.
As the IT industry grows, so do the opportunities it presents with a predicted 3.5 million open IT positions by 2021. A couple reasons preventing people from joining the industry are that they simply don’t know how to do it or they’re afraid to take that next step. There are no words we can write to help people make this life changing decision, but the words of our graduates can shed light on their experiences at LeaderQuest in order to help others make this important decision.
From Homeless Veteran to a Career in Cyber Security
When the odds are stacked against you it is easy to give up. The key to not giving up is getting a glimpse of a brighter future and the hope that comes with it. One of the individuals who found hope and made their dream into a reality was military veteran Michael Fugett who now is earning over six figures and has become an inspiration to everyone around him.
“Now I go out into a community, I go volunteer, I go help others, and people look at me like a beacon of hope. Look at you making it, look at you striving, but for me, I know none of this happens if I would have never come to LeaderQuest.” – Michael Fugett
Unfortunately, Michael’s story didn’t start off so wonderfully. Military veteran Michael Fugett found himself divorced, homeless, and alone upon returning to civilian life in May of 2017. Michael told us, “Life itself felt like it was kicking me down.”
At this point in his life Michael had two options: he could give into the grasp of depression and homelessness and fade into the background, or he could make the arduous journey of moving forward. “It was tough, but it created a drive within me where I knew I was going to succeed,” Michael expressed. This type of drive is not easy to achieve, especially as his struggles in moving forward continued to test his resilience.
Michael had some IT responsibilities throughout his 8 years in the military on top of his transportation, logistics, and finance roles. He knew he wanted to work in IT, but it just wasn’t working out. “I just kept applying, but all of the jobs wanted certifications,” he said. He started to do his research and looked into three separate training companies in his area, one of which was LeaderQuest. “They had understood what I had been through in the past, they got me,” Michael told us.
Struggling alone is hard enough but being a single parent can add even more difficulties to any situation, especially if you are trying to move forward. The great Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” This couldn’t be more true for Jacksonville student Whitney Smith who took advantage of the opportunity to train for the IT industry and turned a difficult situation into her fuel for moving forward. She made a decision that changed her and her son’s lives forever and all it took was a little courage.
Whitney had done everything right to create a bright future for her and her son. In 2013, she was medically discharged from the military and decided to use part of her GI Bill® to get a degree in event management. She was able to land a job in event management at an expo center, but after two years decided that she wanted to move with her son to Jacksonville to be closer to her family. That’s when her life and career started to move in an unexpected direction.
Unable to land a job as an event coordinator in Jacksonville, Whitney ended up taking a job at a call center. “It was definitely not what I wanted to do. I was making less money than people who had way less credentials than I had,” she told us. Whitney’s situation is not uncommon, according to the U.S.Bureau of Census, “Just 27 percent of college grads had a job that was closely related to their major.” She had the education and the experience but a lack of jobs in her field left her career crippled, all while having a child to support!
Faced with the looming reality of her situation and few options at the time, she did what she had to do and worked the call center for two long years. Day in and day out, Whitney grinded to support herself and her child. Unsatisfied with her life path at the time, she decided to seek other opportunities and that is when LeaderQuest came into view and changed everything.
In between a rock and a hard place is not where anyone wants to find themself, but sometimes that’s exactly where you are and you don’t know how you got there. Gilbert Alvero Jr. had two degrees and yet found himself not utilizing either of them, working a manual labor job.
“I was stuck in a rut, I was stuck in a position where I didn’t know where my life was going.”
Starting over was not an option for him. He needed employment that was not only in demand but also utilized his previous experience. Fortunately that’s exactly our goal here at LeaderQuest: to extract your relevant experience, find an area in IT that will suit you, help you learn the necessary skills for the job, and ultimately help you find employment.
Gilbert accepted the challenge of training with LeaderQuest and was able to achieve something that he didn’t know was possible: he started a new career in six weeks. He’s now working in a new field that pays well and allows him to utilize his many other skills.
Stability is sometimes an illusion. The job landscape is ever shifting and you are at its mercy. Khozema Raja worked in the commercial real estate industry for 15 years, making good money, almost feeling invincible, until the world gave him a wake up call and he found himself jobless with a child on the way.
Khozema was faced with a difficult situation. “I really needed to step up and take care of my family,” he told us. He could either go get a low-paying non-career job or go to the unemployment office and see what options there might be out there for him. He decided to go with the latter and there he was introduced to the idea of joining the IT industry. The best part was that he qualified for funding that would allow him to get his training paid for wherever he decided to go.
“I’ve always liked being around computers and my father worked at IBM, so I was like, why don’t I actually try to make a career out of it?”
He was advised to go to LeaderQuest’s campus and take a tour with a Career Training Consultant whose job it is to help people understand what a career in IT entails and ultimately if it is the right move for them. “It was a no-brainer to enter the IT industry. I didn’t even hesitate when I decided to go with LeaderQuest. They made me feel like family as soon as I walked in.”
Navigating the job market is a daunting task and one a lot of people avoid until it is absolutely necessary. Getting comfortable is something that we’re all susceptible to. It isn’t until you decide to move forward that things will start to improve. Ross Earnhart had always loved technology but his life had never steered him in its direction, until he decided that it was time for a change.
“Years ago I remember I bought my first computer and had a problem so I had to call this guy. He replaced my hard drive. He was probably there twenty minutes and I had to pay him $170! At that point I realized that I wanted to know computers inside and out, and this is where my passion for IT started.”
After his time in the military, he didn’t immediately seek an IT career. “I got a job through a friend and kind of just fell into the workforce. I didn’t know that resources like this were out there.” It wasn’t until long after that initial job that he finally decided to visit his local unemployment office and see what kinds of options were available. That’s when he was referred to LeaderQuest.
If there is anything that 2018 showed us, it’s that if you put your mind to it you can change your life and it all starts with a decision and a conversation, a your decision that a change is necessary and a conversation with a Career Training Consultant here at LeaderQuest to see if our training is right for you. No matter your situation we are here to help you with the right advice and the right plan to assist you in moving forward.
We hope that you are inspired by the stories of our alumni and realize that you to can be part of the LeaderQuest family and the rapidly growing IT industry if you just make the decision to give it a try. If you or anyone you know is interested in a career change or are looking to start a new career, please contact us by clicking the button below, filling out the contact form, and having a conversation with a Career Training Consultant about IT Training. Best of luck and we are looking forward to hearing from you!
As an IT instructor who teaches a CompTIA Security+ course, I am often asked by students how they can keep their computer systems safe from attack for the lowest cost possible. The short answer, unfortunately, is that you can’t. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? I think so, but there is hope!
Three things to keep in mind before we begin.
It’s not all on you.
The first thing I usually tell people in response to that question is that you aren’t responsible for keeping your system completely safe from attacks. The safest system you can get would be one that you never turn on and, in fact, never leaves the store! Not very useful, right? So please understand that making your computer impervious to all attacks is impossible. Our goal should be lower the attack surface, or the profile, of the target system so that it is as hard to breach as possible.
Be aware of new threats.
The second thing I tell people is that you need to keep up with the latest threats to security and then research ways to mitigate those threats. Due diligence goes a long way toward helping us understand the why and the what. With that being said, please do your own research before implementing any of the suggestions that I make below. These suggestions have worked for me in the past and continue to provide value to me. They may not work for you. Additionally, neither LeaderQuest nor I are responsible for damage that may be done to any system where the suggestions are implemented. You have been warned!
Manage your costs.
The third thing that I mention to my students concerns the cost of implementing the suggested solutions to some of our security problems. I typically emphasize free tools since my students are often in class between jobs. Cost is a major factor in their decisions and I have done a lot of research over the years to find the best free products. Once I find a potential solution, I will download, install, and test it to see what might happen when it is installed (the typical gotchas that crop up from time-to-time). My research is not exhaustive and the cost for free tools can sometimes exceed their value, especially when you have to reinstall Windows because a program messed things up.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at how to secure our systems. Below you will find several practical tips that if followed will let you sleep better at night. Are you ready? Here goes!
1. Keep your system up-to-date.
I know, I know, you’ve heard that one before. Well, so have many others, and yet it still bears repeating. See the Atlanta ransomware attack. You should let your operating system check for updates automatically and apply them when available. For Microsoft operating systems, the second Tuesday of the month is Patch Tuesday. Hint, hint!
2. Keep your software up-to-date, as well.
Everything that you install should be updated. Most software will have a feature that either automatically updates the software, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, or alerts you when an update is available, such as Java and Adobe Reader.
3. Install, and keep up-to-date, an anti-malware suite.
I know that Microsoft Windows comes with anti-malware software installed (Windows Defender), but you really should look at it as a built in stop-gap until you can find something else. While I understand that anti-malware software can be expensive, costing as much as $50 per year, it is well worth the investment. If you are looking for a less-expensive option, consider downloading and installing the following:
Malwarebytes has a free scanner that you can use to scan your computer. Please understand that it is not an active defensive program but one you will need to use manually.
Cybereason has an application you can download and use for free that will monitor your computer, and when it detects a program trying to encrypt your hard drive, it will try to stop it. It is free for anyone to use. That might help with the type of attacks that have plagued Atlanta and Colorado.
Keep in mind that anti-malware software is not perfect and won’t pick up one hundred percent of malware infections, especially those that have the software hasn’t encountered before. It is possible that your computer could still become infected, which is why we try to keep it updated.
4. Secure your browser.
The last suggestion that I will offer is going to cover one of the primary ways that malware gets on your computer without you knowing it: your browser!
Use either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. I am partial to Firefox since they seem to have a deeper focus on security. Either way, they both offer the ability to add extensions that can help increase your online security.
InstallHTTPS Everywhere to your browser. This extension automatically searches for an HTTPS server at the address you type into your browsers’ address bar. Why is it important? Well, simply put, when you type in a web address, you don’t typically start it with HTTP or HTTPS, you use just the domain name (such as www.leaderquestonline.com). Since we don’t start it with HTTP or HTTPS, we usually end up at the unsecured site instead of the secured one that might be available. If present, HTTPS Everywhere uses the secured site address. If it isn’t present, then HTTPS Everywhere will let you use the unsecured site instead.
In case you didn’t know, HTTPS is an encrypted web server (using Transport Layer Security or TLS). That way, anyone eavesdropping on you will not be able to read things like your username and password. Pretty cool, huh? The makers of the software, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), are very concerned about your privacy, so please check their site out.
Next, install EFF’s Privacy Badger.It will help you block spying ads and trackers on the web. If you want to see just how extensive tracking can be on the web, consider installing Firefox Lightbeam by Mozilla. It will show the links and give you great insight into the true connectedness of our online world. It can be quite the eye-opener!
Install the NoScript Suite extension. This extension can greatly diminish the possibility of what is known as “drive-by malware infections” compromising your system, and it is available for Firefox and Chrome (in a lite version). It does take some getting used to, as it blocks scripts from running in the background which will cause a lot of websites not to work the way you might expect. Since we can’t tell if a website has been compromised by a third-party, having all scripts disabled initially will prevent an embedded malicious script from running in the background. Once you learn how to turn on the videos and other content you want to see using the tool, you will find that your computer is not only safer, but websites will often load faster.
Lastly, use a password manager extension. I use LastPass. Two things to bear in mind when using it: it can auto-populate your username and password, and it can provide you with highly random, unique passwords. Auto-populating the information helps us avoid keystroke logging viruses that can capture the keyboard inputs as we type. The random secure passwords it provides helps us avoid reusing passwords across sites and makes them harder to guess should someone capture them. If you purchase the premium edition of LastPass and have a Yubikey hardware token, you can integrate them. That will significantly increase the security of your passwords.
And that’s it!
While we can’t expect perfect security, the suggestions that I’ve made above can help you quickly and easily reduce your vulnerability to attack. Bear in mind that these are only suggestions and that there are many wonderful alternatives to most of these products, both free and for a fee, so find the ones that work best for you.
If you love playing with computer software or hardware, or if you’re interested in how computer systems and networks can be secured, a career in cyber security might be right for you! LeaderQuest offers IT training, including cyber security, networking and project management. If you’re interested in joining the thriving IT industry, we can help! LeaderQuest offers courses for beginners and IT pros alike. Click below to learn more.
James’ passion is helping people connect with technology in meaningful ways. That passion drives him to learn technology deeply and well so that he can present that information to others. At our Denver campus, James teaches CompTIA courses including A+,Network+ and Security+.