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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.

Cyber Security Doesn’t Have to be Spooky!

Are you interested in cyber criminals, what they do, and how they can be stopped?

A career in cyber security could be perfect for you! LeaderQuest offers accelerated training designed to help people with zero experience gain the skills and certifications they need to get hired in IT. Advanced cyber security positions will require more experience and training, but now is the perfect time to start.

If you’re interested in IT, click on the link below. We’ll contact you and walk you through a career assessment to see if IT is right for you!

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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.

Are you interested in joining the workforce and industry that actually combats online threats? From professional hackers, to infrastructure management, to entry level support positions, LeaderQuest can help you break into this industry in as swiftly as three months. This includes training, certifications, and employment services, all with goal of getting you a job as quickly as possible with the proper knowledge and skills to propel your future career for years to come.

The best part is that you can do this all around your schedule with a world class team at your back.

With an estimated shortage of 3.5 million cyber security positions by 2021, this industry offers unparalleled growth opportunity in combination with exceptional salaries. If you are thinking about a career change or are looking to start a career check out our Computer User Support Specialist program. It is designed specifically with entry level candidates in mind and helps you develop the skills that employers are looking for. Computer User Support specialists on average are making $52,810 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Want to talk to someone and see if a career in IT and Cyber Security is right for you? Click the button below and be contacted by a Career Advisor to discuss your future!

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Degrees vs. Certifications: Which is Better for an IT Career?

Degrees vs. Certifications: Which is Better for an IT Career?

When seeking to join the ever-growing field of information technology, two of the most common paths to competency are degrees and certifications. While both of these options can get you a job in IT, they are by no means created equal! In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the important differences between these two routes (as well as a couple of ways that you may not have to choose at all).


Time InvestedDegrees vs. Certificates: Time

College or Degree Program

In general, it takes about 4 years to earn a college degree. This is usually spread out over 8 semesters, with four courses per semester. This enables students to get a huge amount of information in their time at college and really process each individual class before moving on to additional learning materials. Especially determined students may be able to finish their major in 3 years (or less) if they take more than 4 classes per semester, or take classes during the summer.

In terms of time spent during the week, most courses are 3 credit hours. With four courses, that means about 12 hours per week spent in class. Additional time will of course be needed for homework, writing papers and exam-prep.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

Certification training at LeaderQuest is intensive and accelerated. We’ll take our Computer User Support Specialist program as an example, because it prepares students with enough certifications and knowledge to confidently enter the IT industry. This program includes training for four certifications: ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Network+. These courses take 5 days or 10 evenings each, except for A+ which is split into two courses. That gives us a total of 25 days of instruction, or 50 evenings.

For those taking the course during the day, instruction and labs comprise a 40-hour week. Each day is packed with instruction, hands-on labs, and time for questions and answers. Evening courses are spread out over twice as many days, with only 4 hours of instruction per evening. After instruction, students will need some time to review everything they’ve learned and take advantage of the additional materials offered by LeaderQuest. Most students complete their certification exams within the following month.


Cost of Training

College or Degree Program

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. Of course, this doesn’t include other costs such as room & board, transportation, supplies and so on.

A college degree offers value that is above and beyond what certifications offer, which makes it difficult to compare these two items accurately.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

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. That’s close to the cost of a single year at an in-state college or university! Included in the overall cost of tuition are the industry-recognized certification exam attempt(s).

The certifications included in our Computer User Support Specialist program do not offer the breadth and depth of knowledge that a Bachelor’s degree does, but they offer a more expedient path to employment in the Information Technology sector. As you’ll see in the next section, the tight focus of our training courses provides a huge benefit to their holders.


Focus of TrainingDegrees vs. Certificates: Focus

College or Degree Program

Most degree programs require students to take electives or general education credits to help ensure a well-rounded education. Even within their major, college graduates study a huge variety of topics, not all of which will be useful in their career after school. General education requirements can take as much as one to two years to complete before students can really focus on technology skills.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

Certifications instead offer focused training designed to confirm skills in very specific areas that employers have a high demand for. These programs do not require students to take courses in other subject areas. Students are able to jump right into technology courses, each of which has a clear application and certification to show 3rd-party skills verification.

For those looking to start a career in IT as soon as possible, certifications offer a much more direct path to employment because of their increased focus.


Style of Training

College or Degree Program

Many college courses focus more on theory and the history of a subject than on its current practice. Textbooks may have been written years ago but still be in use until a new edition is released. Courses will vary in how much focus they offer on hands-on training depending on the instructor and the availability of lab facilities.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

All of our courses include a mixture of lecture time and hands-on labs. Labs are different for each class. In A+, you’ll be taking apart and putting back together computer hardware. Network+ and Security+ are more software focused, with students configuring network components and checking the security of connected virtual systems.

We want to make sure that our students get the experience they need, working with real computer systems and programs. We understand that it’s important for our students to get certified, but we also want to make sure that they have mastered the skills they’ll need to excel in the workplace.


Getting Hired after TrainingStarting an IT Career

College or Degree Program

The completion of a degree marks a huge milestone in one’s career and shows that they have the dedication and determination needed to complete their program. Degrees are respected all over the world as a sign of accomplishment and knowledge, but they don’t signify the same kind of skills-verification that a certification does. This is because certifications focus on very specific bodies of knowledge, while two graduates with Computer Science Bachelor’s degrees may have very different skill sets.

Certification Courses at LeaderQuest

One thing that many colleges lack is follow-through with students who’ve graduated. Once you’re done, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to finding a job. At LeaderQuest, we make it our #1 priority to help you get hired in a job you’ll love. Each campus has a dedicated Career Services team that will work with you to optimize your resume, perfect your LinkedIn profile and practice interviewing. When you’re ready, we’ll connect you with our network of employer partners that are looking to hire entry-level It roles.

When applying to careers in the IT field, certifications can be a very persuasive credential. For example, if a company wants to hire a Network Engineer, knowing that a candidate has their Network+ and CCNA certifications may be valued over a degree that may or may not have covered the expertise they need. This is especially true of the IT careers in demand right now. If you look at a list of IT jobs, you’ll see certifications listed for almost every one of them. According to a survey conducted by CompTIA, 93% of hiring managers believe IT certifications are valuable in validating expertise. Not only that, but 80% of employers reward their staff for passing certification exams with an increase in salary or pay, public recognition, bonus or promotion!


Certifications vs. Degrees: Who is the Final Winner?

And the final winner is… *drumroll*

Really, we can’t say that one of these routes is superior to the other.

  • If you want a strong foundation and an unparalleled breadth of knowledge, a degree is the best path.
  • If you’re interested in quickly gaining skills and certifications that will get you employed in IT, certification training is a great option.

But did you know that at LeaderQuest you can do both?


With LeaderQuest, you don’t have to choose just one!

In January of 2018, the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) officially recommended 14 LeaderQuest courses for college credit. The American Council on Education (ACE), serves as the major coordinating body for the nation’s higher education institutions. Simply put, ACE CREDIT helps adults gain academic credit for courses and examinations taken outside traditional degree programs.

One can debate the merits of a degree or a particular certification endlessly, but there’s no doubt that having both a degree and the right certifications is a perfect recipe for career success! You can read more about which courses are approved and how many credits they’re recommended for on ACE’s website.

LeaderQuest also has formed a comprehensive partnership with Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) to create career-relevant, continuing education pathways for technology professionals. This partnership includes an agreement for credit articulation, as well as a 10% tuition discount at CSU-Global for LeaderQuest students! CSU-Global is an online university, and students can attend from anywhere.


Are you interested in starting an IT career?

If you’re ready to get started in IT, LeaderQuest is a great choice. Our intensive training will quickly teach you everything you need to know to get hired in IT. Many students are employed in IT within 3 months of starting classes at LeaderQuest. Our classes are taught by expert instructors who hold the certification you’re training for. LeaderQuest covers the cost of one certification attempt per class, we also have onsite testing centers to make sitting for the exam easy and stress-free. Once you’ve completed your certifications, our Career Services team will work with you to get your resume and LinkedIn profile polished, and then connect you with local employers that are part of our Employer Partner network. That’s what makes us the experts when it comes to helping students start IT careers.

To find out more about how we can help you start an IT career, click the link below and get in touch with us!

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If I Can Do it, You Can Do It: Michael Fugett

If I Can Do it, You Can Do It: Michael Fugett

“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

Divorced, homeless, and alone. This is the situation military veteran Michael Fugett found himself in upon returning to the civilian life in May of 2017. As discussed in our previous blogs, homelessness among veterans is rampant and Michael was one of many veterans that fell into this unfortunate situation. 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 since his struggles in moving forward continued to test his resilience.

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

Employers Want IT Certifications

Michael 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 instead of traditional education. They actually show the employer that you know what you are doing,” he said.   This couldn’t be more true, as the gap between available IT workers and the amount of available IT jobs widens, hiring managers are increasingly looking for candidates with certifications.

Traditional education typically educates individuals mostly on theory while certification training focuses on the practice and knowledge side of IT. Certification also offers a much more accelerated track. Individuals looking to enter the IT industry can typically be trained, certified, and hired within three months of entering our accelerated program, as opposed to the traditional four-year route offered by most universities.

Do Your Research

Michael had some IT responsibilities throughout his 8 years in the military on top of his transportation, logistics, and finance roles. His limited IT responsibilities ended up becoming the springboard for his future success. Knowing that IT is a growing industry, Michael, while homeless, decided to do some research and find out how he could better leverage his IT background in order to actually secure a position in IT, since he didn’t have any luck before.

His conclusion landed him exactly where he thought it would: certifications. So he did the smart thing and and looked into three separate training companies in his area, one of which was LeaderQuest. “The first one wasn’t able to give me what I wanted, the second one only focused on finances, completely ignored what my goals were, and the last one was LeaderQuest, the only one I could tell actually cared about me.” Here at LeaderQuest we know that we are not a one size fits all company, so we do recommend that you look around, do your research and speak to current and past LeaderQuest students. The more you know the more confident you will be in you decision.

We Understand You

“They had understood what I had been through in the past, they got me,” Michael said. People just like Michael, military and civilian alike, share the same hopes, dreams, and struggles. We know that when you come to us in seek of a brighter future through IT certifications and training that your situation is most likely not ideal.

It is important to remember that while we are a company, we are humans just like you whose passion lies in serving military veterans and anyone with the aspiration of moving their life forward. We believe in doing this together but at your pace. You may be working a full time job or you may be unemployed, in either situation we will customize an IT training plan that is feasible for you and that aligns with your goals.

We also know that life gets in the way of plans sometimes and that is why we offer our Learning Guarantee. If you happen to miss a couple training periods or simply did not understand the course, we will reset your plan and allow you to take the course over at absolutely no cost and no hassle to you. This guarantee reaffirms our promise that we will provide you with the highest level of training with the utmost integrity.

IT Trained, Certified, and Most Importantly HIRED

After finding out he had some G.I. benefits available to pay for his certifications, Michael hit the ground running. Without a job or a place to go, Michael spent the majority of his next couple weeks at LeaderQuest, day and night, studying, doing labs and learning from his instructors. At the same time, LeaderQuest’s Career Services team was hard at work to find him a position.

After he knocked out ITIL and A+, the first two certifications of his plan, to his amazement he started to receive phone calls for interviews. “My first job offers came directly from LeaderQuest’s Career Services. The first offer was for $15. I interviewed at another company and it went up to $24!” He accepted the second position which allowed him to gain experience and prepared him for his next role. LeaderQuest not only trains and certifies, but actively seeks job opportunities for students during the process. The goal is to align an opportunity with your timeline so when you are done or at least have a couple certifications under your belt, you can get to work and gain valuable experience as soon as possible.

Where is Michael Now after his IT Training and Certification Training?

After he settled into his first role he went back to LeaderQuest while working to finish out the rest of his plan where he earned the CompTIA Security+, Network +, EC-Council CEH, CND, and CHFI certifications. As he gains more and more experience he’s also planning on getting his  CCNA, CCENT, and CISSP certifications — all at LeaderQuest. We recently caught up with Michael to ask him how things are going. “If you add in my salary and incentives I am making well over six figures; it’s nice. To go from rags to riches is awesome!” Michael now lives in his own two bedroom apartment and is on his way to owning his own home! He currently works at a bank with the title of Assistant Vice President, and position title of Infrastructure Senior Technical Analyst. His success came from his persistence and hard work. He reached his goal of becoming a beacon of hope for anyone out there who might be doubting themselves or anyone who is afraid to take that next step.

Advice from Michael

While talking to Michael it was clear that he wanted to help more people achieve what he has, so here are a couple of his top tips.

  1. “Do your research.”
  2. “Come in and see what it is like for yourself.”
  3. “Talk to other students, listen to the good as well as the bad so you can make a good decision for yourself.”
  4. “It may seem hard at first, but if you put in the effort you will see how rewarding it can be.”
  5. “Take advantage of all the resources available to you.”

Are You Ready To Move Your Life Forward With IT Training?

No matter what your situation, LeaderQuest will do its best to help you move forward. From the first steps of seeing if an IT career is right for you, to training, and ultimately to getting hired. We recommend that individuals looking to break into the industry take our entry-level Computer User Support Specialist program. We also offer advanced level courses for professionals looking to advance their careers in either IT, cyber security, networking or project management. If Information Technology sounds like an industry that you would like to look into, please do your research, talk to people in the industry, and schedule a tour at you local LeaderQuest campus today!

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5 Powerful Reasons to Join the Tech Industry Now!

5 Powerful Reasons to Join the Tech Industry Now!

Have you been considering a career change? Nobody likes working a dead-end job with no chances for promotion or advancement, but it may not be your boss’s fault. Some industries, like manufacturing, have been stagnating in recent years as emerging markets generate more and more output. Other jobs, like customer service or food service positions just don’t offer lower level employees an easy way to climb the ladder. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A career in IT can provide great job security and advancement opportunities.

There’s never been a better time to make the switch to working in IT. Check out our five powerful reasons to join the tech industry, below!

1. The Average Annual Tech-Sector Wage is $112,890

Sure, Silicon Valley skews this stat a little bit high, but even if you leave California out of the equation the average wage is still $102,800! Entry-level positions won’t command this kind of salary, but it shows the salary potential for experienced workers in the industry. At an entry-level role like Computer Support Specialist, you can expect a median salary of $52,810 (BLS, 2017).

While many tech workers are salaried, there is a growing “gig economy” in the tech sector. For tech occupations the median hourly wage was $38.90, not bad! Gig workers can’t take advantage of benefits like health care, but they still command high wages.

2. Tech Unemployment is at a Rock Bottom 2.3%

For context, that’s nearly 70% less than the national unemployment rate of 3.9%. Nearly every industry has a need for tech workers, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. As more and more businesses go digital, get online or otherwise adopt 21st century technology to run better, there is a huge need for tech workers. If you’ve got tech skills and you’re not working, it shouldn’t be hard to find a job.

3. Huge Growth Potential of 11-12% by 2026

Considering that we’re in what historians call the “Information Age,” this should come as no surprise. Our economy’s focus has shifted from production of goods to the management of data and digital assets, and it shows in the kinds of jobs being added to the economy. The BLS reported growth rates of 11% for Computer Support Specialists, and 12% for Computer and Information Systems Managers from 2016-2026. Compare this to the national average of 7% growth and it’s not hard to see that tech is on the rise! In 2016 alone, the tech industry added 200,000 new jobs to the economy.

While mining and manufacturing continue to decline in their share of the economy and the number of jobs they create, the tech industry is going in the opposite direction. Of course, not every sector of the tech industry is growing at the same rate. Since 2010, the IT services and custom software services category powered job growth, accounting for 67 percent of job gains.

4. Predicted Shortage of Over One Million IT and Cyber Security Positions in the U.S. by 2026

If you think that the need for workers in this sector is powerful now, wait until you see what the future has in stock! According to CompTIA Cyberstates, “When factoring in the need to replace retiring or career-change workers, the total potential tech workforce need will exceed 1.2 million through 2026.“

Part of this need is driven by the expanding role of tech in other industries, but the increasing need for cyber security is also a huge factor. As fast as tech has grown over the last twenty years, we are only just beginning to understand the need for strong security measures for our networks and data. With every passing year, protecting our voting systems, financial infrastructure, and communications networks becomes more and more important. The US government has made its commitment to cyber security clear with Directive 8570/8140, and American businesses are making their commitment clear with more job roles and increased spending on security.

5. Tech Workers are Needed in Nearly Every Industry

According to the Cyberstates 2017 report, over half (56%) of technology professionals are employed at companies not in the tech industry. Nearly every modern company needs to use computers, the internet, data storage and more. To manage and secure these devices and networks, companies from nearly every industry are hiring IT positions.

This is great news for workers with tech skills because it means that you can move anywhere and know you’ll be able to find a great job. It also helps ensure excellent job security, because there are so many jobs for tech workers in so many different industries.

Are You Interested in Information Technology?

Making the transition to a tech career could be easier than you think. While a degree in Computer Science or a similar discipline can be very helpful, skills are more important than diplomas for most hiring managers. IT certifications can prove your skills and offer a faster route to skills competency and entry level positions.

LeaderQuest offers accelerated training courses that can give you the skills and hands-on experience you need to pass your certification exams and excel at a new job. Our courses generally take 5 days or 10 nights and are taught by industry-expert instructors that can answer your questions and help you work through the material. With a mix of lecture and lab, you’ll gain the confidence you need to secure a new position and start a brand new career in a thriving industry,

If you’re interested in learning more about accelerated IT training, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We’ll schedule a time for you to meet with one of our expert Career Training Counselors and see if a career in IT could be right for you.

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How IT Training Helped a Single Mom Become an IT Expert

How IT Training Helped a Single Mom Become an IT Expert

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 her and 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 her and her child. Unsatisfied with her life path at the time, she decided to seek other opportunities.

Watch Whitney tell her story about training at LeaderQuest Jacksonville in her own words, below.

Opportunity of a Lifetime with LeaderQuest IT Training

Whitney had her resume online for a bit but did not receive any offers worth looking into until a Career Adviser here at LeaderQuest reached out to her about IT and Cyber Security Training. “I was looking for a career change in order to make a better life for me and my son. I have always loved technology so I decided to check it out!”

Whitney, like many people, had never considered this career path before, nor was she aware of the major shortage of IT (information technology) or cyber security workers here in the United States. Some major reasons for this shortage are that not enough people know about IT careers, they don’t think they would qualify for a career in IT, or they just don’t know how to get started in an IT career.

Entry Level IT vs. College

Unlike a traditional career path, credentials for an entry level job in IT can be obtained fairly quickly, often in three months or less, compared to a traditional college education that typically takes up to four years. Our most popular program is the Computer User Support Specialist, where candidates can typically get certified and find employment within three to four months, even while working a full time job.

Even more compelling is the average salary of four year college graduates vs. entry level IT positions here in the United States. According to to a new survey by the consulting firm Korn Ferry, the average salary for a college graduate is $50,390. Compare this to the average salary of an “entry level” IT Computer User Support Specialist position at $52,000 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Considering that IT training requires just a few months vs. up to four years for traditional college, the value of certification training is obvious.

New Career Without a 4 Year Degree? Is That Possible?

“They gave me the option to do something else without having to go get a four year degree. I just didn’t have the time to start completely over again.”

After doing a little research, Whitney decided to come in and meet with a Career Training Consultant and see if a career in IT was right for her. “After learning about the industry demand and LeaderQuest’s sped up courses, it was a no-brainer.” Whitney entered the Computer User Support Specialist program that day and was able to use the remaining part of her GI Bill® with a little bit of Vocational Rehab funding to completely cover the cost.

The Computer User Support Specialist training program consists of four different certifications that take either 5 days or 10 nights each plus some off-time studying. The four certifications contained in this program are CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and the ITIL certification, all of which are internationally recognized.

The program as a whole is specifically designed for helping career starters and career changers just like Whitney who need to be trained quickly for an in-demand job. The program provides a rock-solid foundation for careers in IT support, networking, and cyber security. The knowledge gained from this program spans from computer and network components all the way to cyber security concepts. This allows individuals to experience IT from multiple perspectives in order to find the path that most interests them. This array of certifications is especially attractive to employers.

Hands-On Experience with CompTIA A+

Our training programs are specially designed to give you hands-on experience. Whitney shared with us that his was one aspect of the training that she really enjoyed. “It was hands on. If you had a question, we were in the back opening up computers, handling motherboards, and actually updating them.” LeaderQuest’s goal is to give you the necessary knowledge and experience in order to make the transition into a new career as smoothly as possible without an extensive amount of on the job training.

In Whitney’s words: “They prepare you for the world outside of the training room, which is really important.” We couldn’t agree more. Not only do we give you the training you need to excel, we also offer support in your job search.

Career Services

We not only work on the training side of things, we also want to make sure that your professional profile is complete which is why our Career Services team will work with you throughout your time at LeaderQuest to give you the best chance possible at employment. We were able to help Whitney significantly improve her resume and optimize her LinkedIn profile. “My resume was now on point, and my LinkedIn, which I found out I surely wasn’t using correctly. They helped me understand its significance and how to take advantage of it, which helped out a lot.”

Our Career Services team focuses on more than just the resume and LinkedIn, they also help candidates out with cover letters, interview prep, and actually connecting them with jobs. We have multiple employment partners in each our our markets to help connect graduates with quality jobs straight from training.

While we do have the ability to connect people with employment, in Whitney’s case she was recruited before she even finish the program. “After 3 weeks I was contacted by a recruiter, went in for an interview, and they pretty much offered me a job on the spot because I did so well.” Whitney was hired by HDI Group as a Tier 1 IT Support Specialist. She’s currently works there as she gains the experience to get her dream job in cyber security.

LeaderQuest is committed to not only training out students, but making sure they get the help they need to find a great job after training. “The overall support and help here really helps you move forward,” Whitney told us.

Women in Cyber Security

Whitney’s dream to work in cyber security is shared by many, but there are far fewer women thinking about and working in this field than men. According to a recent Harris Poll, 9 out of 10 women have never even considered a career in cyber security and 3 out of 4 cyber security jobs currently in the U.S. are filled by men.

We asked Whitney about the challenges of being a woman in the tech world. “Women are always being tested on their abilities, especially being an African American women, it’s just known that it’s going to happen, so we have to be better than and smarter than the average person just to have the slightest chance to get ahead.”

This intimidation is a large part of why women have trouble advancing in the workplace, especially in new industries like cyber security. But don’t worry, if you’re a woman and considering a career in cyber security, you are not alone!

The Cyber Security Industry Needs More Whitneys

“Tech is becoming such a large part of all of our lives that we won’t be seeing such large barriers in the future as long as us women here already continue to break them down,” Whitney said.

According to CompTIA, Cyber States 2017,  there is a predicted shortage of over one million IT and cyber security positions in the U.S. by 2020. With so much room for new blood, women could be the the answer to this cyber security job shortage. Currently there are multiple efforts to get women into cyber security and these efforts are led like women like Whitney who have the drive and tenacity to break down barriers and try new things. If you’re considering cyber security and need some inspiration, check out our 10 Inspiring Quotes from Women in Cyber Security and Tech.

The Future of IT and Cyber Security

Women like Whitey will lead the the future in cyber security innovation on both the shortage side and the technological side. As more and more people get sick of their current jobs and want to switch to IT, we regularly get the question, “How do I make this transition into IT?”

We made the answer simple.

  1. Speak to a LeaderQuest representative and find out if a career in IT is right for you.
  2. Get trained by our world-class instructors and pass your certification exams.
  3. Work with our Career Services team to get connected to positions in your area, as well as interview training, LinkedIn optimization, and resume/cover letter writing.

With this simple approach, LeaderQuest’s concise and efficient training has developed a solution for individuals looking for a new direction. LeaderQuest is proud to work with people like Whitney to pave the way for future generations of IT and Cyber security workers. We made Whitney’s hope of a better future become true, and she told us, “Thank you LeaderQuest, thank you for making this a reality.” Could you be next?

Here are a couple closing words of advice from Whitney:

  • “To anyone looking to change careers or to start a career just come in and meet with someone to talk about your future.”
  • “Take advantage of everything LeaderQuest has to offer.”
  • “For the average person this might intimidate you but you can do it!”

Whitney Smith went from being a miserable call center rep to an IT professional in months, all while being a single mother. She also inspired a new dream within herself to become a cyber security expert. The problem that Whitney found herself in is common among many Americans, fortunately at LeaderQuest she found a 21st century solution that worked for her.

If you’re interested in a brighter future like Whitney’s, click below and fill out the form to be contacted by a Career Adviser for a quick evaluation conversation to see if we can help you turn your dreams into reality!

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