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7 Tips for Getting Into IT With Zero Experience

7 Tips for Getting Into IT With Zero Experience

Whether you’re working a dead-end job or transitioning out of the military, everybody has different reasons to make the transition into the IT industry. And the timing couldn’t be better! The industry is facing a massive shortage of workers, offers great pay, amazing benefits, and lots of employment opportunities.

If you don’t have much experience, but you’re looking to join this thriving industry, don’t worry!  You’re not the first. Check out our 7 tips for getting your foot in the door of the IT industry.

1. Re-examine and Apply Your Past Experience to the IT Industry

When you first make the decision to pursue a new career in IT, it’s important to take a hard look at your prior experience. It might seem like you

skills charthave none of the skills listed on job postings, but “soft skills” can be surprisingly important and many skills are transferable into IT roles.

For example, if you’re looking to start in a help desk position (a common entry-level IT role), things like communication, customer service, familiarity with Microsoft Office, and other common skills can be a huge boost to your resume. By carefully thinking about your past roles through the lens of the role you’d like to get, you may find a treasure trove of relevant experience.

Are a military veteran? Check out our blog  From The Military to Information Technology: The Perfect Fit and see why IT may be the perfect fit for you.

You’ll need to create a new resume with relevant experience listed and tailored specifically for the kinds of roles you’re trying to land. Employers are highly likely to take a look at your LinkedIn page during the application process. Using your new resume, you should revise your profile to make sure the two match up. You should also take time to write a new cover letter that explains your prior experience, how it’ll be useful in your new role, and why you’re interested in changing industries. This will help answer a lot of questions if your resume piques their interest.

2. Get Industry Certifications

Getting certified may be the fastest way to break into information technology. While a tech degree can take 1-4 years, certifications can be studied for and earned in just a few weeks. Entry level certifications like the  ITIL, CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+  found in our entry level Computer User Support program, can lay the foundation for roles in networking and cyber security later in your career.

By getting certified, you’ll show potential employers that you have the skills they need. This can go a long way towards making up for a lack of experience. For some roles, the right certifications will put you higher in the stack than applicants with limited experience and no certifications. Best of all, certifications can help open up more entry-level opportunities instead of just taking the first IT job that comes your way.

How do you get certified? The short answer is that you can choose between self-studying or in person, hands-on training, and then take a certification exam. For most individuals with little to no experience, the best option is to take a course taught by an expert with real-world experience so you can ask questions and really understand the topic in depth. Another great learning technique for beginners is taking a course that allows you put your hands on the actual technology you will be working within on the job, this allows you to get a feel for what a real job in IT will be like while simultaneously building your confidence. If you’re interested in a course like this, LeaderQuest’s A+ course offers hands-on computer builds taught by expert instructors with real-world experience.

3. Your Degree in Another Field May Be a Huge Asset

You may be tearing your hair out with regret, wondering why you used all that time in college on a degree that isn’t helping you with your quest for a lifelong career. But don’t be too hard on yourself! Many employers are more inclined to offer you a job because you were able to accomplish

the feat of earning a degree.

it graduate with certificationsInstead of focusing on how your degree may have cost you time and money, focus on the ways that your degree can be applied in moving your life forward into an IT career. For example, an IT worker with a literature degree will be more likely to take a creative approach to problem-solving and have superior writing and communication skills. A philosophy major has a deeper understanding of logic and a unique way of approaching challenges. By casting your degree as an asset, you’ll stand out from other applicants who only have computer or tech experience.

With the rapid evolution of IT, there is a huge demand for individuals from diverse backgrounds and their unique perspectives.

4. Be Open to Starting at the Bottom

It’s important to note that you may have to “start over” in IT. You may have been a manager or an advanced professional in your old industry, but you’re leaving it for a reason! Be prepared to start with a lower level position and work your way up. The experience you get working at the bottom of the ladder will be valuable as you grow into a more challenging position.

Don’t worry too much though, the earning potential you will have in IT is only limited by the work you put in. On the low-end, you are looking at starting out right around 40k in a help desk position, within 5 years in the industry and a couple of cyber security certifications you could be looking at around 65k minimum in a Cyber Security Analyst role. It really depends on your willingness to move forward and the extra learning time you put in to master your craft.

If you want a “head start,” considering getting a degree or a few certifications. These credentials have the potential to help you out significantly. You can read about the differences between the two in our blog Degrees vs. Certifications: Which is Better for an IT Career?

Getting educated about your field of interest shows your commitment to your new industry and helps to give you an advantage over other applicants. It can also prepare you for more advanced positions down the line. With no experience, you still won’t be able to jump to the top of the ladder but with so many open positions all across the IT industry, the right credentials can help you quickly climb to higher paying and more specialized positions in IT.

5. Don’t Forget the Power of Networking

You may be surprised by how powerful your connections can be. When looking to fill a job role, most employers are more interested in hiring somebody based on a recommendation than interviewing a bunch of total strangers.

people networking over it certifications

Make sure to use social media and everyone in your address book to reach out to anybody you know who’s associated with the tech world. Simply putting a post out there letting your connections know that you are looking to get into tech may bring out an opportunity that you never knew about.

You can even just ask your friends or connections if they know anybody who’s looking to hire for the type of positions you want. The right connection can give you a huge head start over the competition, and might even spark a career passion that lasts the rest of your life.

6. Teach Yourself Relevant Tech Skills

When it comes to technology, there are a million different things to learn that can improve your resume. Anything from understanding Salesforce to knowing how to post on WordPress might be useful to your next employer. Utilizing YouTube and learning from countless free videos is a great way to learn new skills and reinforce old ones.

Follow your interests and teach yourself about software and hardware in your free time. You’ll be able to add these skills to your resume once you’re competent at them, and they just might make the difference between getting hired and getting looked over.

7. Look for Crossover Positions

While you might not have any direct experience, there are IT workers in every industry that use networks and computers ( pretty much every industry out there). If you have years of experience in car sales, for example, it might help to look for an IT position at a car dealership. Understanding half of the business can go a long way towards making you a valuable employee right from the start, even if your tech skills aren’t top notch. You’ll still have to start at the bottom, but it could be the perfect way to gain your first year or two of IT experience.

All in all, it is not impossible to start a career in IT with no experience, hence the word “start,” but many individuals are still skeptical of making the leap into IT. By arming yourself with the right tools and knowhow you can significantly increase your chances at starting a career in tech that will last a lifetime.

If you are looking for a partner in helping you move forward with an IT career, LeaderQuest specializes in assisting individuals to do just this. Throughout our 13 years of helping individuals transform their lives, we have curated the perfect formula that takes into consideration career changers and the needs of the IT industry. This formula leads to higher employment rates because we provide relevant training for jobs that are in demand.

Our unrivaled success is achieved by focusing on both training and employment outcomes.

We can help you open the door to an IT career!

Here at LeaderQuest, we know that making a decision like starting a new career is a difficult one and you should have someone to help guide you through this process. That’s why we employ experts in the field to aid you in this transition. Their purpose is to understand your whole situation in order to help you make the right decision. They do this by analyzing your previous experiences, learning about your unique situation, and understanding your personal goals. If IT industry is right for you, they will search for any grants that you may qualify for and set up a personalized IT certification program around your schedule.

Interested in learning more about what a meeting with a Career Training Consultant is like and what you will learn from a one-on-one Information session? Fill out the form below to learn more!

Request More Information About LeaderQuest Training

Test Taking Strategies and Study Strategies for Certification Exams

Test Taking Strategies and Study Strategies for Certification Exams

Oh, those certification (cert) exams! There’s so much content!

“Help! Is there any way to streamline the learning process in preparation for my next certification exam?”

The massive number of acronyms, new concepts, dozens of new definitions, performance skills to master, coupled with busy family and life responsibilities, can feel overwhelming to anyone. Information Technology (IT) study resources can be 500-1,500 pages. Content is often supplemented with learning labs, practice questions, graphs, diagrams, and other exam-related content.

Do test taking strategies or shortcuts exist? Are there any study strategies that can make this easier? Anything helps!

My name is Gary Bell. I have spent the last 13 years of my life teaching IT courses, and 15 years before that working in the IT industry. Over time, I have discovered test taking tips that I have incorporated into my own IT exam preparation. If you are open to either new or amended exam preparation strategies, see if these same strategies can work for you, too.

Preparing for an Exam

I have always suspected that some individuals are better test-takers than others. They seem to have secret ways to prepare for exams or a gift to perform well taking exams. I seem to fall in the category of “others.” Because of that and because of the volume of information to be studied, slowly and methodically over the years I have developed some personal strategies to assist in absorbing huge amounts of new information. Maybe they can help you, too. Below are my tips on how to prepare for a test and build up your test preparation skills.

Attitude and Emotion

Here’s a surprising strategy. Our attitude and our emotional ability to work with technologies may be key in IT career success.

Considering attitude, do you really want this IT position? Or do you feel you are compelled to accept a position because of the feeling, “I need to feed my family?”

Regarding emotional ability, do you have the “emotional stability to be more responsible, better able to focus on the task at hand and pay attention, be less impulsive with more self-control, and improve your scores on achievement tests” (Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, publisher, Bantum, 1997, p. 284)?

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman expounds on why emotional intelligence can matter more than IQ. Developing IT skills is hard enough. It takes time, practice, experience, and patience to become proficient with IT skills. If an individual faithfully desires to succeed in an IT career, then the journey will becomes much easier.

Before an exam, make sure that your attitude is in the right place and that you’re not in emotional turmoil. Don’t let recent life events distract you from focusing on the exam.

Exam Objectives

Match study material to exam objectives. Supplemental IT content is usually included because it may be related to the topic being discussed. However, if it is not listed in the exam objectives, consider absorbing that material later. Keep a copy of exam objectives handy for quick review, and let these objectives guide where you spend your study time. This is one of the most important test preparation strategies when it comes to spending your time wisely!

Bookend Preparation

Many exam objectives require becoming familiar with steps, or lists of courses of action. Most anyone can master memorization, or learning one list. Often there are many lists (or sequences of steps) that should be mastered before sitting for an exam.

Make it simple. Learn the “bookends” first. Here’s an example: for a six item (step) list, memorize the first and last steps first. These steps are usually very logical and easy to remember. For example, consider the following list of CompTIA’s A+ troubleshooting best practice steps that will appear in their revised and updated version of this certification due in 2019:

CompTIA A+ Best Practice Troubleshooting Steps

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Establish a theory of probable cause
  3. Test the theory
  4. Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution
  5. Verify full system functionality and, if applicable, implement preventive measures
  6. Document findings, actions, and outcomes

Troubleshooting usually begins with verification (identification) that a problem actually exists – the first step. Upon resolution, documenting activity associated with the problem and resolution must be recorded – the last step. Now you know two steps.

That leaves only four more to grasp. Try for two more. It should be fairly obvious that you should verify (test) your solution before you complete documentation (Step 5). And before you verify full system functionality, one must perform the fix (implement the solution) (Step 4).

Now, there are only two more to go. Do you think you could come up with a plan for the last two (Steps 2, 3)?

The more important I think the list content is relative to the objectives, the more apt I am to learn (memorize) all the steps. Less important lists, at least in my view, tend to just get the “bookend” treatment. By solidly knowing one or two or three steps in any type of list, often I can figure out a test question answer even if it’s about a step I did not pay much attention to.

This method also applies to the content within the steps. To be truly prepared for questions related to steps or lists, you must be prepared for the content within the steps. For example, if you were asked “Which step would a technician typically ask the user?” The answer is Step 1, because it is part of identifying and verifying a problem condition exists.

Short of learning every list in maximum detail, it is better to know 1-3 steps of a given list well, as opposed to, “I sort of remember that in the textbook, but I can’t quite remember the exact order or what was in the steps.”

Time Allocation Absorption (TAA)

Some material is essential to know not only for exam preparation but also to be able to function quickly and efficiently in the field (job performance). Looking up resources certainly works, but that activity can be slow and may indicate a tech is not ready for the task at hand.

I developed a method for my test prep which I call Time Allocation Absorption (TAA). A more simple description might be called Mini Index Card Method. This strategy allows more focus (time) to areas most needed. This works well for short word-and-description material I need to master, and is one of the best ways to study for an exam.

Two examples are IP port numbers and acronym identification. Here’s how it works. I create a small stack of index cards (any color) cut into two pieces (½ size of a standard index card). Using the port number example, I write the TCP/IP protocol on one side, and the associated default TCP/UDP port number(s) on the other side.

Test Taking Strategies 1 Test Taking Strategies 1

Referencing exam objectives, I produce a card for every listed protocol or port number. I do the same for the acronyms. The acronym goes on one side, the full-word representation on the other.

Now here’s the learning method. In no particular order, I read the first protocol; recite to myself the associated port number, if I know it. If not, I flip the card and peek at the answer, spending a brief moment memorizing.

Next, I go to the second card and repeat the process. When satisfied, I go back to the first card and repeat the process for card #1 and #2. If I get both correct, then the process moves to card #3. If I get it correct or incorrect, I go back to #1, and repeat through the first three cards. If I miss one, I start over. If I get them all correct, I move to card #4. I repeat this process until the entire stack is completed.

Notice what is happening here. When I reach the final card in a 20 card stack, in theory, I have seen card #1 twenty times, card #2 nineteen times, card #3 eighteen times, etc. all the way to the end. I do not pretend that I have nailed down the beginning cards and skip them. What I am doing is reinforcing what I should have already learned.

Repetition accelerates learning.
The repetition process should begin to permanently etch port-number associations into my long-term memory. For content that needs a little work, just reshuffle the cards and place any unlearned content towards the front. For more information on this technique, check out this video demonstration.

Self-Assessment and the ABC Method

How do you know if you are exam-ready? Is it just a feeling, or is there an objective signal stating that you are ready? At some point the decision must be made. It’s time! How do you really know when?

Assessments! Assessments are your best friend!
The only way a student pilot will ever get to fly an airplane on his/her own is by the grace of an assessment by a licensed and experienced pilot instructor. For IT people, the same principle can apply. Assessments can greatly help determine your state of readiness.

Assessments (or practice tests) evaluate one’s ability to answer questions related to the content. Here are two methods to consider.

First, take as many practice tests from different authors (publishers) as possible, not just from one. Consider using at least three authors that offer multiple quizzes and tests. I typically use three to five authors. Why so many?

I have noticed with this method that there seems to be many questions that are strikingly similar comparing one author to another. To me, this is a clue that I had better be sure I am familiar with the question, the correct answer, and the wrong answers. Right or wrong, I assume that most of the question writers are also certified. Maybe they know something that I should too.

Watch out! IT industry questions can come is surprisingly different formats. Only studying one set of questions from one publisher could be a bit misleading if you are expecting similar exam questions. Exams could offer very different question formats. Exposing yourself to varying question formats can only be beneficial.

Second, consider the ABC method (my term). Use chapter quizzes and/or full-length practice exams. Hopefully they are provided with your study material. Next, on a sheet of notebook paper or using a word processor, create three to five columns and label them each A, B, C, to start (D and E are optional). Down the left hand side number the quizzes or tests you might be taking. If there are 11 quizzes, there will be 12 rows numbered from 1-11 and row 12 can be labeled Total (average %).

Test Taking Strategies 3Now take the first quiz (Row 1-A). I prefer taking this assessment before I read or study the content. I do not look up anything, or cheat myself, or pretend I know the answer. I want to record exactly what I know and do not know. I finish all the quizzes in the first column (A), and record my honest scores for each.

I study the content. Then I take the same quizzes for the B column, and never in the same day. (Even I can remember an answer if it was reviewed a few minutes ago.)

My goal is to keep repeating the above process until my scores are at a minimum of 90%. Hopefully, I can do this by the time I reach the C column. If not, I may have to expand the columns to D or E. Strive for 95% or higher. Repeat the process until all quizzes and practice exams are well in the >90% range. Once I reach that plateau, I schedule the exam.

Notice the log on the right that I used for a cert exam. Some content I had a better understanding than others in the beginning. One caution is I try to avoid (not pretend) I know an answer when I really do not.

I mentioned earlier that it is possible to prove that changing an answer creates more wrong answers than right answers. Well, in the process above, I noticed that when I change answers, I very often get it wrong. I have not actually logged that kind of data, so I cannot verify it even to myself. But I am totally convinced that changing an unsure answer is not in the best interest of getting the most answers correct.

Learn vs. Memorize

Exam preparation requires memorization, at least in the beginning. Some content may be worth memorizing just for an exam. But much content is well worth learning (committed to long-term memory) not only for a cert exam, but to be able to function when landing that next position. You never know what type of pre-employment assessment you might encounter. You definitely want to be prepared by retaining as much content as possible.

Be careful here, but I do tend to classify some content as retainable just for the exam. Then I magically seem to forget it.

Buckle-down Method

Certification exams are not necessarily easy. I do not recommend “shortcuts” as a primary strategy. Every exam subject deserves our best efforts: the buckle-down method. It’s the real “shortcut” for long-term success.

Sitting for an Exam

Common Exam Tips

This is just a reminder of common strategies that can apply on most any exam:

  • Prepare for exam day. Get a good night’s rest, make time to have breakfast and get to the exam on time.
  • Read the question, every word. Watch for words like is or is not, always or sometimes.
  • Learn to identify distracters and to ignore them, as they have nothing to do with the question.
  • Eliminate the obvious wrong answers first, then consider what’s remaining.
  • Consider reading the answers first, then the question.
  • If allowed, start by writing out a brain dump of important info you’ve memorized on a scratch sheet.
  • Be aware of time spent on each question and don’t let a tough one take up too much of your time. Come back to it if needed.
  • Use all of the time available to you. If you finish the exam, go back over your answers to look for any mistakes.
  • Take deep breaths and stay calm. Panicking will not do you an favors!

While I cannot verify that these strategies are solid, I have spoken to individuals who swear by them.

Don’t Change Answers

The first strategy requires no study effort. None. Only “question awareness”. Avoid changing an exam answer in which you are unsure, also known as – guessing. Leave your first intuition (answer) alone, and move on.

When I first started graduate school, my professor explained this concept to my class. She explained that changing an answer can result in a 45 percent chance of getting the question correct. Leaving your first answer “as is” produces a 53 percent chance of getting the question right.

Using those numbers, a test-taker could get eight more questions answered correctly on a 100 question exam. That could easily mean the difference between pass or fail.

CompTIA, an IT industry certification provider, also supports this strategy. In their course material (IT Fundamentals) testing suggestion section, they state, “Studies indicate that when students change their answers they usually change them to the wrong answer.”

I have used this strategy ever since I first learned of it. Is there any way to prove that it works? Maybe. That will be addressed later in this writing.

Skip the Hard Ones

From personal experience, other cert takers, and suggestions provided by industry exam providers, consider skipping the harder questions, and return to them later.

Some certification exams present performance-based questions. They seem to appear towards the beginning of exams. The recommendation is that if you cannot work out a satisfactory answer quickly, mark it for review (if your exam allows it). Continue and answer the rest of the questions that might be more quickly answered. Also consider marking any other question (i.e., multiple-choice) for “review” if you find yourself spending excess time on them as well.

After completing the last question, return to the questions you have marked for review. In most cases you will have more than enough time to complete all questions. Each question counts the same on most tests, so the strategy is to get the highest number of questions correct, not necessarily the hardest.

This method works! In 2002, I spent too much time on the first five questions of a Network+ exam. Suddenly, I realized I was almost out of time to answer the remaining 85 questions. In a sweating panic, I blasted through the rest of the questions. The result was good. But the journey (pressure) of getting there was miserable. I learned the hard way. You don’t have to.

Summary

Never allow a single exam to define your career. Regardless of if you pass or fail an exam, your next charge is to press on. If you pass, do not relax, take the next cert in sequence, attend the next webinar, seminar, or training class, but ABL (always be learning). If you fall short on an exam, identify what needs to improve, and go back and succeed.

Never allow a single certification exam to define your career.

Perhaps by applying these test taking strategies and study strategies for exam preparation, you will feel more confident about your career progress.

Much success,

Gary Bell

7 Cyber Security Tips for Anyone Who Uses the Internet

7 Cyber Security Tips for Anyone Who Uses the Internet

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

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

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

Tip #1: Never Forget You’re a Target

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

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

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

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

Tip #2: Create Strong Passwords

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Manage Your Passwords

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

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

Option A: Use a Password Management Site

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

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

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

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

Option B: Use a Secure Spreadsheet

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

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

Pro Mini Tip: Store your spreadsheet with

a name other than “Passwords.”

Option C: Use a USB Security Key

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

 

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

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

Tip #4: Beware of Phishing Attacks

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #5: Be Careful on Public Networks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #7: Utilize Antivirus Software

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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