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2019 IT Career Finder Free White Paper

2019 IT Career Finder Free White Paper

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.

The Most Lucrative IT Careers for 2019

The Most Lucrative IT Careers for 2019

It’s no secret that IT is exploding. Forbes has  predicted as many as 3.5 million unfilled positions in the cyber security industry by 2021.

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.

The most in-demand job roles include:

Highly Valued Technology Certifications

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.

IT Salaries for 2019

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.

Position Title

25th Percentile

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

95th Percentile

Help Desk Tier 1

$32,250

$38,750

$46,000

$55,000

Help Desk Tier 2

$38,250

$45,750

$54,750

$64,500

Help Desk Tier 3

$49,000

$58,500

$70,000

$82,750

Desktop Support Analyst

$51,000

$61,250

$73,250

$86,500

Systems Administrator

$68,000

$81,750

$97,750

$115,750

Manager

$82,000

$98,500

$117,750

$139,000

Systems Engineer

$86,250

$103,000

$123,250

$145,750

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.

Contact Us!

Networking/Telecommunications

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.

Position Title

25th Percentile

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

95th Percentile

NOC Technician

$52,250

$62,500

$77,000

$98,750

Telecommunications Specialist

$59,500

$71,500

$85,250

$100,750

Network Administrator

$74,750

$89,000

$106,750

$126,750

Telecommunications Manager

$79,750

$95,500

$114,500

$136,000

Network Engineer

$92,000

$108,750

$130,500

$154,250

Network Manager

$94,750

$113,500

$135,750

$162,000

Wireless Network Engineer

$102,000

$122,000

$146,250

$173,500

Network Architect

$114,00

$137,500

$164,500

$195,000

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.

Contact Us

Security

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.

Position Title

25th Percentile

50th Percentile

75th Percentile

95th Percentile

Network Security Administrator

$93,000

$111,500

$134,000

$158,750

Systems Security Administrator

$93,750

$112,250

$134,750

$159,750

Network Security Engineer

$98,500

$118,000

$141,750

$167,500

Data Security Analyst

$105,000

$125,250

$149,500

$178,250

Information Systems Security Manager

$116,000

$139,000

$167,250

$199,750

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.

Learn More!

Perks, Incentives, and More

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.

Importance of Certifications

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!

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2018: A Year of IT Training Success

2018: A Year of IT Training Success

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

Michael Fugett

Certifications: CompTIA A+Network+,

Security+CND, CEHCHFI, CISSP

Job: Senior Technical Infrastructure Analyst

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.

Read Michael’s full story here If I Can Do it, You Can Do It: Michael Fugett or watch him tell it in his own words below.


How a Single Mother Left the Call Center for an IT Career

Whitney Smith

Certifications: CompTIA A+, ITIL

Job: Tier 1 Application Support Engineer

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.

Read her full story here How IT Training Helped a Single Mom Become an IT Expert or watch her tell her story in her own words below.


Realizing Potential and Changing Careers with PMP Training

Gilbert Alvero Jr.

Certifications: CompTIA A+, ITILPMP

Job: Remote Desktop Assistant

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.

Read his full story here Realized Potential: Gilbert Avelo Jr.’s Success Story or watch him tell his story in his own words below.


Stepping Up to Support His Family With IT Training

Khozema Raja

Certifications: CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+

Job: IT Support Specialist

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.”

Read his full story here and see how our entry level program helped him move forward From Unemployed to Empowered: Khozema Raja or watch him tell his story in his own words below.


Amateur Techie Goes Professional with Certification Training

Ross Earnheart

Certifications: CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+

Job: Information Technology Specialist

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.

Read his full blog and learn how a career transition changed his life forever The Student Experience at LeaderQuest: Ross Earnheart or watch him tell his story in his own words below.


Improving Your Life Through IT Training

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!

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4 Ways to Harden Your Home Computer Security for Free!

4 Ways to Harden Your Home Computer Security for Free!

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:

  • ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus. It comes with a free, very robust firewall that is better than Windows Firewall. I have tested both against the GRC ShieldsUP! Website and ZoneAlarm always wins.
  • 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.

Install HTTPS 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.

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4 Cyber Security Horror Stories (That Are Totally Real)

4 Cyber Security Horror Stories (That Are Totally Real)

It’s that time of year again when people want to be scared by stories of ghosts, ghouls and monsters! These stories can give us chills, but what about the real horrors that wait for us out there on the internet?

Like ghosts from horror movies, hackers and cyber criminals are out there constantly seeking a way to enter our (digital) world. They want to access your Facebook, your Instagram, your Paypal, your Amazon, your banking websites: everything. They might even use your information to try and hack your friends and family.

Scared yet?

Check out these 4 cyber security horror stories, below


Invasion of the Facebook Account Snatchers!

The Horror Story

You wake up on a weekday morning and see an email notification on your phone. It lets you know that your Facebook email has been changed to an old Hotmail address you haven’t used in years. The next email in your inbox informs you that your Facebook password has been changed.

You sit bolt upright in bed. This can’t be right! You try to log into Facebook, but your old password won’t work.

Okay, don’t panic. This can be fixed. You find that one of the notification emails has a link to secure the account if this change was unauthorized. Relieved, you click it, ready to get your account back. But the whole page is in Turkish, incomprehensible. You can’t make heads or tails of it, or find a way back into your account.

Pulling up your account by URL you find somebody else’s face on your profile, and somebody else’s name. Your account has been invaded, and somebody else has taken your place. They have access to all your messages, your friends, your photos and personal information about you stored in your account. Even other websites and apps that you use Facebook to access.

Somebody has stolen your digital life from you!

The Reality

This really happened to Jeff Bercovici, Inc.’s San Francisco bureau chief.

So how did the hacker get access to his Facebook profile? Through an old Hotmail address that Jeff hadn’t used in years. Hotmail will release old addresses to be re-registered if they haven’t been in use for two or more years.

This old email account was still connected to Jeff’s Facebook profile, and the hacker was able to use it to get in. He then changed the password and the primary email and took total control of the account. If Jeff wasn’t a tech journalist with connections at Facebook, it might have taken him a lot longer to get his account back.

What can you do to prevent this?

You should check your security settings on your Facebook account.

  • Check for any connected email addresses and remove old ones.
  • Make sure you have two-factor authentication enabled.
  • Lock down privacy settings to prevent people from using your Facebook account to gather information about you.

The Silence of the Phones

The Horror Story

You’ve had a great weekend up in the mountains, enjoying the clean air and beautiful weather. You phone hasn’t rung once, and you honestly haven’t missed it.

You pull into the driveway, and suddenly your phone blows up with messages, emails and notifications. It seems your bank card’s PIN has been changed and multiple withdrawals have been taken out of your accounts.

How was this possible? You set up two-factor authentication for all of these services, nobody should be able to access them without a code sent only to your phone.

You immediately call your bank, only to find that you have no cell service. You only got these messages because your home wifi connected. You can’t make or receive calls at all! Somebody has stolen your phone number. And with it, your bank information, your social media accounts, your email.

You see messages pop up from some of your friends, wondering why you’ve been asking for so much money…

The Reality

This is exactly what happened to Christine, who writes the Her Money Moves blog. She suspected that hackers somehow got to her money through her use of a mobile banking app, despite the fact that she never saved her password in the app.

It’s impossible to know how exactly they got access to her banking information, but they certainly took control of her phone number.

This kind of theft is becoming more and more common. With a few basic pieces of information, like the last four digits of your Social Security Number (perhaps from a website breach), somebody can impersonate you when calling your cell service provider. They might even go so far as to walk into a cell phone store and impersonate you, complete with a fake driver’s license.

Once they have your number attached to their phone, all of your two-factor authentication becomes meaningless.

What can you do to prevent this?

It might seem like there’s nothing you can do here, but there are a few important preventative measures you can take.

  • Call your cell phone company and set up a “verbal password” or PIN.
  • Make sure that this password is required for all account changes.
  • Make sure that web access to your account is highly secured and also uses two-factor authentication.
  • Once this is completed, try to hack yourself. Call you cell company from a friend’s phone and see if they’ll let you make changes without the pin.

210 Days Later

The Horror Story

You wake up one morning and find yourself locked out of your Instagram. Checking your feed, you can see that somebody has been deleting your photos, uploading other ones.

Somebody has stolen your Instagram account. You don’t want to care, but it’s an important part of your professional life. You had a verified account, surely it can’t be that hard to get it back.

But the company is run by ghosts. Nobody responds to your support requests. You try their website, but the “help center” is useless. Every article leads back to an article you’ve seen before, a form you’ve already tried. You wander this maze of “help” pages endlessly, submitting forms and getting no response.

And through all of this, nobody will talk to you. Not one single human has reached out to you about your issue. Days turn into weeks, and you try everything again. Weeks stretch into months. Still no response. You try every help form again, and again, and again.

Finally you realize that you are alone. Nobody is ever going to help you get your account back. The only replies you can expect are from robots: cold, uncaring, and unable to help you.

The Reality

Rachel Tsoumbakos detailed the arduous process of trying to get her account back in this blog. She submitted form after form, tried every support address she could locate, and nobody would help her.

Her blog chronicles months on end of trying to get her account back, as well as the process that finally helped her get access. Eventually, in the depths of the “lack of help” center as she calls it, she found this link: https://help.instagram.com/368191326593075 (but you may need to access it from your phone, not a PC).

She was contacted by what seemed to be a person but was probably just a bot, asking for a picture of her holding a hand written sign including a code they’d sent her. It took a few tries, and she found that writing in thick black marker was what did the trick.

After 7 months of waiting, she was finally granted access to her account again.

What can you do to prevent this?

First, do everything you can do lock your account down. The best way to deal with this is to prevent yourself from getting hacked in the first place. See our instructions for Facebook above, which include:

  • Check for any connected email addresses and remove old ones.
  • Make sure you have two-factor authentication enabled.
  • Lock down privacy settings to prevent people from using your Instagram account to gather information about you.

If you’ve already been hacked, here are a few Instagram resources:


The Purge

The Horror Story

After countless hours spent grinding enemies, you have amassed a Runescape collection rivaled by none. Some would say it’s just a game, but for you this is your life. After two years devoted to the game you’ve earned friends, fame and lots of money!

So when you see an ad for an app that will finally let you play Runescape on your phone, you can’t believe how lucky you are! This is just what you’ve been looking for. You click through, and are directed to what you think is the legitimate Runescape website to fill in some information.

They ask for your username and password, so you enter those first. You’re so excited that you don’t even bother to make sure you connection to the site is secure. When the next screen asks for your in-game bank PIN, you find it a little odd, but you can’t wait to get going so you enter it anyway. You authenticate your account, ready to be able to play your favorite game any time.

The next morning, the reality of your mistake becomes clear. You log in to find your bank account and character have been completely cleaned out. All 19 million dust runes, 4.2 million Marrentill herbs, 347,000 cballs, over 7,000 bandos pages, 106,000 potato seeds, 20,000 dwarf seeds… everything is gone. And all because you fell for their scam.

The Reality

You might think that after such a blow, quitting the game would be the only sensible answer. Instead, this experience helped reddit user zedin27 to enjoy the game all over again. Kudos to zedin27 for being an indefatigable optimist!

So how did it happen? This was a fairly complex phishing attack, using an ad as the entry point instead of an email or Facebook message. If zedin27 had been careful to check the page’s URL and make sure the site was secure, he would have noticed something amiss. As we covered in our blog on 7 Cyber Security Tips for Anyone Who Uses the Internet, pages designed to mimic real websites are easy to spot if you’re on the lookout.

What can you do to prevent this?

Phishing attacks are everywhere. Here are a few ways to protect yourself.

  • Be suspicious of links and attachments. Make sure the sender or website is who you really think it is.
  • When filling in forms, check for HTTPS in your browser. Usually you should see a lock icon if the site is secure. This is especially important for any financial sites or transactions.
  • Check the URL to make sure it’s really the site you think it is.
  • If something seems “phishy,” don’t follow any links provided. Open a new browser page and go directly to the site in question. This will prevent you from going to a faked version of a site you use often.

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7 Cyber Security Tips for Anyone Who Uses the Internet

7 Cyber Security Tips for Anyone Who Uses the Internet

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which was created to bring awareness to the growing cyber security threats that plague modern society. Since the evolution of the internet, almost every bit of information about us is strewn across the web, from our social curiosities, to our financial situations, all the way to our health records. Whether you like it or not you are being tracked, mapped, and monetized every time you use the internet (unless you are using a VPN which will be discussed below). With every click of your mouse and every stroke of your keyboard a virtual “you” is being stored. So with all of this information about you frolicking around the internet, what keeps you safe? Personal and commercial cyber security.

Cyber security awareness is aimed at strengthening the weakest link in the security chain: humans. No matter commercial or personal, one single human error can jeopardize important data and lead to catastrophic results. Does catastrophic seem too intense of a word to you? Jeopardizing your personal information can ruin almost every aspect of your life, from your financial security to social security. Once on the internet or the “dark web” your information can never be fully withdrawn, remaining forever and simply sold to the highest bidder or leaked to the lowest scumbag who aims to drain your accounts and steal your identity. This problem can be exponentially worse when an employee of a company falls victim to a cyber attack which leaks not just one person’s information but thousands of people’s information at once, such as the Equifax hack last year which exposed the Social Security Numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases drivers’ license numbers of 143 million consumers.

It’s not all doom and gloom though! Fortunately not all who roam the internet are here to steal your information, some are here to protect you from the cyber security threats of the world.  We’d like to share not only the 7 best tips to protect you on the web but also the reasons and technicalities behind each tip. We’ll give you an overview of each tip and how to utilize them as  threats evolve.

Tip #1: Never Forget You’re a Target

Be aware that you will always will be a target for hackers.

This is extremely important to understand because far too often people don’t see themselves as targets which leads to unsuspecting victims and people letting down their guard. You must always stay vigilant in order to protect yourself and your information.

How serious is this problem? Here are a couple alarming statistics that you may have been unaware of.

  1. Since 2013 there are 3,809,448 records stolen from data breaches every day, which translates to, 158,727 per hour, 2,645 per minute and 44 every second of every day.
  2. In 2017 alone, nearly 158 million social security numbers were exposed from various breaches.
  3. The global cost of cybercrime has now reached as much as $600 billion.
  4. Unfilled cyber security jobs worldwide will reach 3.5 million by 2021.(Interested in becoming part of the solution?  Check out our blog about starting a career in IT with certifications here.)

Tip #2: Create Strong Passwords

Your first line of defense is creating strong, memorable passwords. In other words, passwords that are hard for humans and COMPUTERS to guess but also easy for you to remember.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to use a “passphrase,” demonstrated in the comic below from xkcd.

The quote, “Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess,” could not be more true.

The simplest way to make a highly secure password is come up with an uncommon phrase that is unique to you and, like the comic shows, add a memorable twist. This twist can be an odd response, capital letter, or unexpected number, whatever you choose, be sure that it is also easy to remember.

For example: Say you really like fig newtons, your phrase can be “fig newtons taste figgy.” As goofy as that sounds it would actually take hundreds of years to crack and scores a 100% on strength.

You can use tools like OnlineDomainTools to see how strong your password is.

Tip #3: Manage Your Passwords

Once you have created a strong password the next part of your defense is password management.

Password management is being able to manage user passwords from one centralized location (not all on a sticky note). I will lay out three different strategies for password management. Password management is not a one size fits all, so choose the one that makes sense for you. The goal is to make the password management task as simple and secure for you and your specific situation.

Option A: Use a Password Management Site

One option is to use a password management site like LastPass. Sites like this allow you to store all of your passwords in one central location that can be accessed by a single password or as recommended a “passphrase.” This master password is to be stored in only one place: your brain.

LastPass passwords will be stored as keys on each site that you register in your password bank. Once you store your passwords you will then download a browser extension for the management service you chose. This allows the manager to auto populate your password on sites automatically and away from the prying eyes of hackers.

Pro Mini Tip: For ultimate password security you can use a site like Secure Password Generator to create rand

om, strong, and unique passwords for every site you use, store them in the password manager, and only use the “passphrase” password for the manager.

Option B: Use a Secure Spreadsheet

If a password manager isn’t your style, you can create your own password bank on Google Docs on a spreadsheet. This is actually a very secure way to store your passwords because Google can require two-factor authentication when logging in from a new device. This two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds another layer of security to your login by requiring another verification step on top of a password. For example: you may receive a text with a pass code that you would then enter on the website.

Similar to the recommendation above, use the password generator for all the sites except Google, where you’d use a hard to crack “passphrase” password.

Pro Mini Tip: Store your spreadsheet with

a name other than “Passwords.”

Option C: Use a USB Security Key

If you don’t want to fiddle with password management sites or password generators, a USB key like Google’s

 

Titan Security Key is for you.It adds another layer of security to whatever site you are logging into, creating a MFA (Multi-factor authentication) which is much more secure. Not only is it much more secure but you actually need to have the key with you for access. Note: Not all websites let you use these keys.

Pro Mini Tip: Get a backup key. Once you lose a key it’s toast, so have a backup.

Tip #4: Beware of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are when the attacker tries to get you to take an action that will jeopardize your information. They may get you to click on a fake website to steal you logins credentials or get you to download malicious software through an email attachment or website.

If you ever click on a link that takes you directly to a login page make sure and check the URL. It’s important to understand what to look for in a URL to make sure you are on the correct site.  

You want to make sure the domain name is correct and followed by the top-level domain and then followed by the file path. If there are any additions to the original domain name, you are on the wrong page and should close it immediately. See the examples below.

 

 

In the image below you can see that this is the authentic. It has facebook.com, followed by the top-level domain, directly followed by a file path.

In this other image you can see that twitter website has been forged. Even though twitter.com is the real domain name for Twitter, the actual ending domain for this phish is all09.info.

The phishing pages may look legitimate but it is always safer close everything out, open a new window, type in the URL that is confirmed to be legitimate, and then log in.

You can test your skills at spotting a phishing websites here.

Some other warning signs that you might be on a phishing page are: misspelled words, old landing pages and unfamiliar looking pages.

Pro mini tip: When entering private information, make sure that the URL starts with HTTPS. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and the “s” stands for secure. When the “s” is present that means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.

Tip #5: Be Careful on Public Networks

Not all networks are created equal, especially public networks. The information going to and from your device can be easily intercepted by others using the network. Find out more about public networks and their risks in this short video from the FTC.

Sometimes public networks are your only choice, especially while traveling. If you need to log on to a public network be sure to avoid banking websites and other websites that contain extremely sensitive information. Or, if you have to use a public network, secure your information by using a VPN as discussed in the next tip.

Tip #6: Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is a service that lets you access the web privately and safely. It does this by routing your connection through a VPN server that protects your identity and location, and encrypts transferred data.

The destination website sees that the information is coming from a VPN and shows the VPN’s location, not the user’s IP address and location. VPNs use encryption protocols and secure tunneling techniques to encapsulate all online data transfers. They also involve integrity checks that ensure that no data is lost and that the connection has not been hijacked.

How do you implement a VPN? It’s actually very simple. There are multiple providers and just like any business there are pros and cons for each. Luckily there is a website that has tested the top VPNs and ranked them based on various factors; you can see the list here.

Tip #7: Utilize Antivirus Software

Make sure that you have an antivirus program and that it is up to date.

Antivirus software is a program or set of programs that are designed to prevent, detect, and remove viruses, and malicious software like worms, trojans, adware, and more. These terms can me consolidated under the term “malware.”

Similar to phishing, malware is something that you want to do everything you can to avoid. Malware can steal your information, delete your information, hold your information for ransom, track everything you do on your device, and even hijack your webcam; all of this without you even knowing.

How do you know if your device is infected with malware? Besides having an antivirus program that detects malware, here are some common signs that your device might be infected.

  1. Unfamiliar icons displayed on your desktop
  2. Frequent computer crashes
  3. Internet traffic increases without any user action
  4. Popup ads start showing up everywhere
  5. Your browser keeps redirecting you
  6. Ransom demands
  7. System tools are disabled
  8. Unsolicited messages and posts start showing up on your social media/email
  9. Files start disappearing
  10. Your computer storage fills up without you adding any additional files

The reasons for these warning signs range from the malware using your computer to solicit ad money, to hijacking your computer’s resources, to phishing your information, all the way to directly requesting ransom money from you to get your information back.

With over 350,000 new malicious programs (malware) detected every day, it is important to have an up to date antivirus program. Antivirus companies are constantly updating software to combat the growing number of malware threats so you don’t have to.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, cyber security, both personal and commercial, can be boiled down into preemptive and proactive decisions in order to protect your information as best as possible. These 7 tips were designed to give you a leg up on current threats and hopefully help prepare you for future threats. In any case it is important to remain vigilant while connected to the world wide web and implement as many as these safety techniques as possible. As the web evolves so will the threats that challenge its very integrity. The more individuals that are educated on basic cyber security techniques the better chance we have at protecting this vital tool on which we rely on every day.

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