fbpx
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 2019-2020 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $5,220. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $41,760 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 $13,875 for five courses. 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 attempts.

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 Training

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash.

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 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!

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 of 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 that focus on accelerated IT skills training, like LeaderQuest, 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 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.

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 to 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 (PMI®). 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.

PMI, PMP, CAPM, and PMBOK are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.

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 collegeboard.org, for the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $9,410. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $37,640 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 three 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 $13,875.

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 $37,60 for tuition and would just be able to start to pay that off.

LeaderQuest Training

Assuming three months to complete training and certification, and five 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 $194,398 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.

Timeline Bachelor’s Degree LeaderQuest Training
Year 1 Studying, -$9,410 Training, -$13,875

Working, +16,021

Year 2 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 3 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 4 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 5 Working, +48,063 Working, +48,063
TOTAL Total: +10,423 Total: +194,398

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 Adviser 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.

Ready to Learn More?

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!

GET STARTED