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Career Services: A Bridge Between Students and Employers

Career Services: A Bridge Between Students and Employers

When you think about starting a new career or advancing your career, a couple things probably come to mind. Can I earn more money? Where is the best place to find a new job? Can anyone help me?

Depending on your situation you may or may not get the help you need in answering these questions. But why are these questions so hard in the first place?

Traditionally, those doing the hiring and those doing the teaching do not communicate effectively. Both are running businesses serving different markets. When a college helps you earn a degree, they aren’t concerned with what you can do with it or what kind of jobs are available. They leave that up to the student. At LeaderQuest, we do things a little differently.

Watch Stephen Wright, the Employment Development Manager for LeaderQuest Denver, talk about the Career Services Department, below.

The IT Employment Divide

Why is there such a divide when these two industries should be working together? The harsh reality for students attending four-year Bachelor’s or two-year Associate’s programs in Information Technology is that by the time they reach the end of their curriculum, much of the knowledge and skills developed in the early semesters become obsolete. This renders these students less desirable by employers looking for people with an understanding of the latest tools and techniques – particularly in practices that pertain to cyber intrusion detection, forensics, and ethical hacking. For some skills. the pace of change in the tech industry is making the two-year or four-year college journey less relevant. You can learn more about the differences in our blog Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future.

Institutions like LeaderQuest, that focus on accelerated IT skills training are bound by strict employment guidelines. What does this mean exactly? To maintain our status as a training company and to be able to accept certain kinds of funding, our graduates must exceed state set employment guidelines.

Faced with these regulations within the industry, we here at LeaderQuest had two options: we could train individuals and send them off to fend for themselves in the job market, or we could face the challenge head on and develop a complete training-to-employment system. We decided to go with the latter.

LeaderQuest IT Training

In order to tackle this challenge we first had to align our goals with the needs of the industry.  This was done by analyzing the IT industry and directly speaking with IT companies. We pinpointed what skills are in demand, what skills are most critical, and what exactly we can do to best prepare students for breaking into careers (or advancing their careers) in the IT industry.

This led to the development of our Computer User Support Specialist program for individuals looking to break into the industry and our curation of several other certifications courses that individuals can utilize to advance their careers. In addition to these developments, this also led us to the creation of one of our most unique and crucial assets, the LeaderQuest Career Services Department.

LeaderQuest Career Services Department

After ensuring that our training programs and certification selection were aligned with the industry’s needs, we then had to build the bridge between students and employers. This is the purpose of our Career Services Department. This department was created to foster a symbiotic relationship between the IT industry and LeaderQuest while providing students with the optimal resources to confidently apply to and interview for their future jobs.

The Career Services Department provides a comprehensive path from professional development to employment. The process begins on the first day of training when students are introduced to their campus’ Employment Development Manager (EDM), the EDM is in charge of leading students through the Career Services process. This process is broken down into 5 steps.

The Career Services Process in 5 Steps

Step 1: Initial Evaluation Meeting

You will meet with the EDM one-on-one in order to understand your specific situation. This includes understanding your goals, experience, and desired timeline. For example, some students may be looking to be employed immediately after their first certification and some students may wait to finish their personalized program before looking for employment. It all depends on the experience and goals outlined in this first meeting.

A frequently asked question that our Denver EDM recieves on the first day of class.

Step 2: Professional Development

You’ll then meet with your campus EDM for professional development. You’ll collaborate with the EDM to develop quality resumes and cover letters while pulling together a good list of references. Throughout this step, you’ll learn about valuable resume techniques and cover letter strategies that have been developed by the LeaderQuest staff, all with the goal giving you an advantage right off the bat. A pristine resume and cover letter is crucial for standing out in the job market.

Step 3: Applying for Jobs

Once your resume and cover letter are up to professional standards, it’s time to start applying for jobs. By this time you should have an idea of what area you want to work in and what kind of company you’re looking to work for.

The EDM will then reach into their pool of jobs and look for a match. This pool of jobs comes from multiple sources: LeaderQuest’s Employment Partner Network*, LeaderQuest’s LinkedIn Professionals groups*, and positions curated from traditional job websites. In addition to the EDM searching for specific positions, students will also be taught what to look for and how to apply for jobs themselves. The EDM is available for all questions and concerns throughout this process.

The LeaderQuest Employment Partner Network spans from the private sector to government entities like the Department of Defense (DoD). These employers know the LeaderQuest curriculum, they know the quality of candidates we produce, and they have found success with hiring our students. This has created a mutually beneficial relationship between these employers and LeaderQuest where they supply us with jobs and we supply them with qualified candidates.
The LeaderQuest LinkedIn Professionals Groups are comprised of LeaderQuest’s alumni and current students from each campus. In these groups there are exclusive jobs not typically advertised on job boards, as well as valuable networking opportunities. This allows students to connect with the LeaderQuest community and establish themselves locally before even stepping foot in their first position. These groups also provide a platform for LeaderQuest IT professionals to discuss IT topics and share different opportunities.

Step 4: Interview Preparation

In this step, once interviews opportunities start to get generated, you’ll learn what it takes to execute a perfect interview. In addition to years of resume/cover letter writing, EDMs are experts at interviewing. They know what specific employers are looking for, what strategies will work best for each candidate, and they know how to coach the necessary interview skills.

“When we have an interview set up it’s go time,” Stephen Wright, EDM for the LeaderQuest Denver campus.

There’s basic coaching, like when to show up and how dress appropriately for the interview, and then there are the higher level skills that many students are unaware of. Some of these skills include (but not limited to): questions coaching; how to respond to and ask the right questions; mannerisms, body language and how to act appropriately; and one of the most important skills, closing: how to close the interview properly in order to secure a second interview or job offer.

In addition to skills coaching, the EDM will conduct mock interviews with you in order to help boost your interviewing confidence while ironing out any interview problems that may come up.

When this step is complete you will not only have the necessary skills and confidence to land a position, but will also have have a strong foundation to build from for continued professional development and success.

Step 5: Continued Support

Once you have interviewed and gotten a position, the job of the Career Services Department is not over. We would like to hear from alumni and continue to assist them throughout their careers. LeaderQuest alumni also have lifetime access to the LeaderQuest LinkedIn Professionals groups and all of the services offered by the Career Services Department, including their job pool.


Are you ready for an IT career?

The LeaderQuest Career Services department is here to aid students in their career aspirations, as well as continue the pursuit of cohesion between employers and graduates. The goal is to adapt as the job market advances and to innovate where necessary to give LeaderQuest graduates the highest level of service and the best chance of landing their dream job.

Whether you are looking to start a career in IT or advance your career, LeaderQuest’s Career Services is the perfect partner in helping you move forward.

If you are looking to break into the industry you may be interested in our entry level Computer User Support Specialist program which will give you a glimpse into each IT field allowing you to find out which sector best suits you while providing the skills crucial for entry-level IT jobs.

Looking to advance your career or break into cyber security? LeaderQuest has you covered there as well, with a wide variety of certifications from CompTIA, EC-Council, and the Project Management Institute. Our complete list of certifications and programs can be found here: Training Programs & Courses.

If you have decided you want to learn more about what LeaderQuest can offer you, please click the button below, fill out a contact form, and a LeaderQuest Career Adviser will contact you for a discussion about your future.

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Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

Like most things in life, getting certified comes at a cost. Yes, there is a financial cost associated with getting certified, as well as the time it takes to study for your certifications. But what about the opportunity cost? What else could you have done with that time, and how does getting certified compare? We’ve already covered some of these differences in a previous blog, but in this one we’ll be focusing on the timeline of return on your investment in education.

In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at the costs and opportunities for certification training as opposed to pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Part 1: Getting IT Training

First, we’ll take a look at the timeline for these training options.

Bachelor’s Degree

Typically, a bachelor’s degree requires four years of study to complete. In these four years, students will complete 120 semester credits or around 40 college courses.

While this is the longest of any of the four options, it’s also important to mention that a bachelor’s degree program aims to create well-rounded graduates who learn about history, language, math and literature in addition to their chosen area of study. Usually only 30 to 36 credits or 10 to 12 courses will be in a student’s major area of study.

According to LendEDU, for the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $9,970. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $39,880 for tuition.

LeaderQuest Training

At LeaderQuest, we recognize that highly employable graduates aren’t created overnight. While each IT certification is a powerful addition to a resume, a single certification is not typically enough to secure employment in the industry. That’s why our Computer User Support Specialist program includes four of the leading IT certifications for entry-level work: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, and ITIL Foundation.

The Computer User Support Specialist program takes five weeks to complete the courses (or 10 weeks if taken part-time in the evening). Students will need a few more weeks to study the material, take practice exams, and prepare themselves for their certification exams. Most students will need two months to complete all of their courses and get certified.

Our certification courses cost around $3,000 each (varies by course), with the total cost of our Computer User Support Specialist program coming in at $12,775.

Part 2: Getting Hired in IT

Once you have your certifications and training or degree, how hard is it to get hired in IT?

Bachelor’s Degree

With your bachelor’s degree in hand, you’ll find a large number of entry-level positions that you qualify for. Depending on the focus of your studies, you may be able to get a head start in the specific IT field you’re interested in. However, with more and more high school graduates attending college, the value of a college degree has begun to decrease.

While a degree will help you qualify for more jobs, it’s by no means a golden ticket. As you can see from this Quora thread, you’ll still need to look for internships during college, network with other IT professionals and employers, create a great resume and work on your online presence.

If you can’t show potential employers that you have the hard skills they are looking for, a degree may not mean much to them. They’ll want to know that you worked with the systems and hardware that they’re currently using. In fact, many of our graduates have combined a degree with certifications to help them compete in the job market. For more on this, check out the success story of Michael Cost who got an Information Assurance degree but still wasn’t able to find work until he added a Security+ certification to his resume.

LeaderQuest Training

Certifications like CompTIA Security+ are ideal for employers because they provide third party verification of the worker’s skills. For most IT jobs, skills are far more important than college degrees. Employers want to know that you’ll be able to configure a router, rebuild a computer or help secure the company’s systems. Because of this, the four certifications offered in the Computer User Support Specialist program are an ideal gateway to working in the tech world.

80% of our graduates are hired within six months of completing their studies and certifications. This is because our training is an ideal way to meet the increasing employer demand. According to CompTIA research, nearly 4 in 10 U.S. IT firms report having job openings and are actively recruiting candidates for technical positions. For those who wish to continue their education and expand into the cybersecurity market, they’ll have an even easier time getting hired. In fact, The Cybersecurity Jobs Report predicts there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.

The final component to our employment rate is one-on-one Career Service support. Each campus has a dedicated Career Services team, ready to help you optimize your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, and practice your interview skills. When you’re certified and ready, they’ll connect you with local employers that are looking to hire.

Part 3: Where Will You Be Five Years Later?

Bachelor’s Degree

After five years, a bachelor’s degree student would have only been in the working world for about a year, or possibly less given the time needed to secure employment. In an entry-level position like Information Technology Specialist, one could expect an average salary of $48,063. Working for one year in a role like this, the bachelor’s degree recipient would have incurred $39,880 for tuition and would just be able to start to pay that off.

LeaderQuest Training

Assuming two months to complete training and certification, and six months to find a job in the industry, a LeaderQuest graduate would have been working for four years and four months. Considering the average salary of $48,063 for an Information Technology Specialist, the LeaderQuest graduate could have already made as much as $208,271 in the same amount of time that the bachelor’s degree holder was just getting started in the working world! If you factor in the potential for promotions or pay raises, they might even be making more. And they’d be gaining valuable industry experience that can help them get ready for the next move in their career—instead of just starting it.

TimelineBachelor’s DegreeLeaderQuest Training
Year 1Studying, -$9,970Training, -$12,775

Working, +16,021

Year 2Studying, -$9,970Working, +48,063
Year 3Studying, -$9,970Working, +48,063
Year 4Studying, -$9,970Working, +48,063
Year 5Working, +48,063Working, +48,063
TOTALTotal: +9,183Total: +195,498

Looking at the table above, the benefits of accelerated training through LeaderQuest are obvious. Get trained, get into the field, and start earning experience and money!

College or LeaderQuest?

You don’t have to choose! The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) has recommended 14 LeaderQuest courses for college credit. ACE CREDIT® recommendation means you could get trained with entry-level certifications, quickly start a job in IT, and still have college credit if you decide to go back to school to specialize. Really, the only thing better than certifications or a degree is certifications and a degree!

LeaderQuest also has an articulation agreement with Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) which makes our Computer User Support Specialist program worth about as many credits as a semester of classes. In addition, LeaderQuest students can take advantage of a 10% tuition discount at CSU-Global. This means you can use the training and job relevant skills you learn at LeaderQuest in high demand career areas of information technology, cybersecurity, and project management, and apply it toward your continued education and career advancement with CSU-Global.

Are you ready to get started on an IT career today?

If you are, it might be time to talk to a Career Advisor and schedule a tour of one of our campuses. During the tour, you’ll get a free career consultation with one of our Career Training Consultants to help you determine if IT is a good fit for you, and what field you might like to work towards. They’ll also talk to you about funding, training timelines, employment rates, and anything else that’s on your mind.

Getting into the IT industry doesn’t have to be time consuming. LeaderQuest can make it easy to take the first steps on a new career path.

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Pursuing a Passion Through IT Training: Michael Cost

Pursuing a Passion Through IT Training: Michael Cost

Imagine this. You’ve been serving in the military overseas. You have been away from American society for years and now it’s time to come back. You have no idea what you want to do with your life. So like any reasonable person, you decide to so some research on what career path would suit you best.

Upon doing your research you see the same theme over and over: IT. “What is IT exactly?,” you ask yourself. You know it stands for Information Technology but what exactly is Information Technology?

Alright, now that you have searched google you probably would have stumbled onto an answer like this, “Information technology (IT) is the use of any computers, storage, networking and other physical devices, infrastructure and processes to create, process, store, secure and exchange all forms of electronic data.”

You still might not know what exactly it is but you think you might have an idea. You decide to look into it a little more and you find a layman’s definition, “I.T.  refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the Internet, or the people that work with these technologies.”

A light bulb suddenly goes off and you realize that IT is everywhere and is integrated into every part of your life! At this point you can now see why there are so many jobs in “IT” and why it is so popular.

The Road To An IT Career

These are the thoughts of veteran Michael Cost and many others career seekers navigating the sea of career possibilities. In Michael Cost’s case, this happened in 2013 upon returning home to the United States and separating from the military.

 

“I did a lot of research in regards to the job market and I naturally have a passion for technology and it all worked out!”

Michael’s success did not happen overnight though. He started by looking at what field he would be interested in and landed in Information Assurance or “Cyber Security.” Naturally his career compass pointed towards college. He landed at Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs and 3 years later ended up with an Information Assurance degree.

Watch Michael tell his inspiring story about training at LeaderQuest Colorado Springs in his own words, below.

IT Certification Training

To ensure that he landed his ideal job it was recommended to him to check out LeaderQuest. He took took that recommendation and also decided to look into other training companies but landed on LeaderQuest stating that it was, “Their professionalism in the school, classes, and recruiters that gave me a good feeling about attending LeaderQuest.”

“A LeaderQuest employee actually drove me around to different veteran organizations to try and help me out. Either he was looking to get me in the door as another number or he was looking to genuinely assist me. As I found out the whole time I was here, these people were really looking out for me; they wanted me to succeed.”

He entered the Security+ certification training program and this is what he had to say about it, “It felt like they want to teach you and send you out into the world to be better IT professionals.” Before he even finished the training he was receiving calls for interviews, on one of the final days of his training he had an interview in the morning and was hired by that afternoon.

“LeaderQuest exists to help us IT professionals in this position to where we can build our careers.”

And successful Michael was, after receiving his certification he was hired as a tier two IT technician at Colorado Computer Support. During his time there and upon learning about Michael’s certifications and education, his boss decided to put him and another colleague on a brand new project involving Cyber Security, Michael’s passion. “This is the career path I chose and it seems to be working out really really well.”

IT Career Advice

His advice to someone considering a career in IT, “If you are looking to get into the IT field it is really important that you research the specific field within IT that you want to pursue. I would tailor your training, classes, degree, whatever into the field that you feel the most passion for and in the end that is what will lead you to success.”

Maybe like Michael you are thinking about entering the IT industry but aren’t quite sure what field in IT will be best for you. Luckily, LeaderQuest has the solution for you. We created a Computer User Support Specialist program designed specifically for individuals looking to break into the IT industry. What is so special about this program? It was designed with the job market in mind, that means it was designed to land you an entry level job while also exposing you to multiple different fields of IT.

Do You Want to Start A Career In IT?

The Computer User Support Specialist program is made of of 4 different certifications courses. The first certification  is called ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), designed to help you align IT services with the needs of a business and provides a practical understanding of key concepts, principles, processes, and functions to enable successful IT Service Management. The second certification is the A+ certification where you learn how to identify, install, maintain, configure, and troubleshoot hardware, system components, and more. The third certification, Network+, is where you learn the foundation-level skills needed to install, operate, manage, maintain, and troubleshoot corporate networks. The last certification in the program is the Security+, during this training you learn a number of IT security skills in multiple different areas ranging from networks, computers, internet connected, all the way to mobile phones.

The program as a whole will give you a glimpse into each IT field allowing you to find out what area you would like to learn more about in the future. Interested in learning more about our Computer User Support Specialist program? Click the button below and fill out a contact form to be contacted by a Career Advisor to see if starting a career in IT is right for you!

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Realized Potential: Gilbert Avelo Jr.’s Success Story

Realized Potential: Gilbert Avelo Jr.’s Success Story

What do you do when you’ve already have a business degree and an associates degree in engineering but still aren’t in the position you would like to be in? Worse, you’re stuck working a manual labor job in a warehouse… That’s the position Gilbert Avelo found himself in before being contacted by LeaderQuest.

“I was stuck in a rut, I was stuck in a position where I didn’t know where my life was going.”

Current Process vs. New Process

It’s not hard to see why this problem is so widespread. The current process of training for employment typically involves years of college, accumulating an enormous amount of debt and no clear avenue for success. What if there was another way? A way that requires a fraction of the time, significantly less money, and has a clear direction. That direction is Information Technology (IT),cyber security, and project management. With a combined 600,000 open positions in the U.S. These three major fields are facing a massive shortage in workers.

Why is there such a shortage of workers? Not enough individuals have the skills to fill these positions and not enough people know how to obtain the necessary skills.

Watch Gilbert tell his inspiring story about training at LeaderQuest below:

Problem Solved

LeaderQuest has solved this problem! We can help you get trained, industry certified, and also hired into one of these booming industries. The best part is that you may already have a decent amount of skills both earned in college and by working in the real world that can be translated into these industries.

LeaderQuest will work with you to find out what your goals are, professionally and personally, in order to formulate a training plan tailored for you. We want to enable you to leave the job you hate and move into a career you can manage and be proud of.

This is the training solution that we proposed to Gilbert in Spring of 2017. In July of 2018 we caught up with Gilbert and this is what he had to say.

“If I could say one thing to the staff here at LeaderQuest, I would say thank you very much. You took this 37 year old man from being unsure in what he wanted to do in life to actually taking a step forward and getting me in the right direction.”

IT Training At LeaderQuest

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.  He took the Computer User Support program here at LeaderQuest which involves training for the ITIL, A+, Network +, and Security+ certifications along with our project management training for the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP)  certification.

His specific program was designed to give him a strong foundation of IT and cyber security skills and fortify his business knowledge with the PMP certification. This combination was designed specifically in order to introduce him to the different sectors of IT and to strengthen his overall appeal to employers. He explained to us the integral role the LeaderQuest staff had in helping him succeed, ”The whole staff is really invested, they want to you succeed, they want to see everyone succeed.”

Career Services

During his training program he worked closely with not only the training staff but also the Career Services staff which guided him along the employment process. They helped him perfect his resume, cover letter, interview skills, and job hunting strategy to land as many interviews as possible. Navigating the job market can be confusing and stressful, but when you work with the LeaderQuest staff we make this process a simple as possible. We provide you with the latest tools and guidance to give you the confidence and skills necessary to land the job of your dreams.

Following Through

For Gilbert, he followed his program and it worked!  After his time at LeaderQuest he said, “I had 5 interviews and ended up getting hired at a company called Automotive Broadcast Network in which I do remote desktop assistance, I am getting my foot in the door while practicing IT and customer service.” He plans to gain as much experience as possible in order to keep moving up. Eventually he wants to come back to LeaderQuest and earn his CEH and CND certifications.

“If there is one thing I can say about LeaderQuest, I would say that they open up a whole array of possibilities that you one day didn’t have that you now have.”

It really is that simple. With so much demand for skilled employees  in the IT industry, there is a perfect position out there for you. The key is taking the next step in your interest and speaking to a LeaderQuest Career Adviser. If you’re interested, please fill out the contact form by clicking the “Get Started” button below. As always we advise to do your research, learn more about the industry, and when you get a chance stop by your local LeaderQuest campus and take a tour. We wish you the best of luck in the search for your next career. Feel free to reach out to hello@leaderquest.net if you have any questions.

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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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