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Whether you are preparing for a career in Networking, Information Management, or Information Security, certification is one way to demonstrate your knowledge. We live in an increasingly complex and competitive world and many jobs go unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. Certification fills an important gap by preparing the workforce and by validating their skills. Certification validates computing excellence, in-depth knowledge, and real-world skills. It differentiates and elevates the individual from the crowd.  With a certified and skilled employee, that investment pays significant dividends. Technical certifications are distinguishing individuals. Companies in today’s advanced society will reap the benefits of your best investment, which is yourself.

When weighing in on personal firewall protection software, there are three important factors that should be considered prior to making a decision.   The first and most important is that the updates for the software must be continuous and be prompt to address the ever-changing hostile environment that users are accustomed to.  The second factor I would look at is load or how the software impacts the performance of my computer.  Many firewall software suites I’ve used in the past have severely hampered my performance to the point where I have even disabled the software to accomplish certain things on my system which defeats the purpose of having the software.  The last factor I take into account is how easy it is to manipulate and use the software.  When you download a software suite designed to protect you system, it needs to be “plug-n-play” type software that doesn’t require too much thought into installation and configuration.  This is especially important when you are recommending software to install to protect a family members computer.   That is unless you like to receive family tech support calls on those least opportune moments such as during one of your weekend football games.

You’ve just completed writing you information security policy and within that policy you place the “cut-and-paste” standard statement that indicates what the consequences are if the policy is violated.  This statement, which normally reads “Failure to comply with this policy will result in disciplinary action up to termination if severity of non-compliance dictates” is a very broad statement.  Such a broad statement can lead to those “grey areas” where employees don’t understand the boundaries specific repercussions for policy violation.  This is where more specific documented guidance would be beneficial to your organization and its employees.

Whenever you are dealing with the human aspect of an organization, it is best to look to you human resource department and if possible, your legal department to see what does and doesn’t violate your company rules as well as state and federal labor laws.  A good disciplinary policy always follows a hierarchy of severity.  This allows for personnel to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes without affecting their career.  Let’s face it, we are all not perfect and everyone makes a mistake once-in-awhile so establishing a policy where employees are dealt the most serious disciplinary action for their first offense is going to result in a hostile work environment.  My suggestion is to instead, have a policy where disciplinary action levels of severity increase and are dictated by offense and number offenses.  Here is an example of a hierarchal discipline structure:

  1. Letter counseling from management – provides feedback on what they have done wrong and how it violates policy.
  2. Letter of reprimand – Employee is warned and official notice is included in their personnel file.  Also, action will have a negative consequences when it comes to performance reviews and promotion
  3. Privileges revoked for a certain period of time provided that they are not critical to individual’s job function.  Also recommend remedial training to address policy infraction
  4. Suspension without pay – Used for multiple infractions and based on severity of violation.  Employees would be suspended for a period of time without pay.
  5. Termination – Self-explanatory Need to make sure all options have been utilized/documented and employee rights are not violated.  This is where HR and Legal would get involved

Of course, this is only an example of a hierarchy disciplinary action plan instead of the generic disciplinary statement typically seen within a security policy.  Each organization is going to be different and it is best to tailor a policy that fits your needs as well as the needs of management.

As a person functioning in some sort of IT capacity you probably already have a certification from an organization like CompTIA, CISCO, Red Hat, or Microsoft.  These field specific certs are an excellent way for you to “prove” that you are fluent within those areas and are an excellent tool for career advancement.  One certification that is not in that list of notable IT certifications but is gaining popularity within the field is project management certification.  Project management certification has been around for a long time but until recently, it has not been on the radar of any techie for career advancement and placement.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics for the U.S. Department of Labor, job outlook for information system managers who have project manager credentials is expected to grow by 18% compared to 14% for those project managers not operating in an IT environment. Also, out of the 15 advertisements for IT project manager jobs currently listed on DICE.com job board, 11 require or prefer some sort of project management certification. With the increase requirement for certification, many schools have started designing project management programs specifically for the information technology manager.  Although there are many training programs available, only those recognized by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P) are eligible to train for the coveted PMI certification.

So, if you want to expand your career beyond swapping parts, writing code, and/or configuring network devices; consider a certification in project management.  A project management certification is an excellent way to set yourself apart from your peers and expand your opportunities.

Cheers!

With the NFL and College football seasons quickly approaching, sports fans as well as cyber criminals are getting ready for a busy season.  This time of year, as fans, we tend to flock to various sports pages for updates on our teams and players.   Cunning cyber criminal also tend to take advantage of this through increase efforts of malware, phishing campaigns, and online scams targeting you as a fan.   For example, during the 2012 London Olympics a fraud website advertising itself on Facebook claimed to sell Olympic event tickets as event tickets are very popular. When this website was found to be fraudulent and analyzed, it turned out to be a phishing website that was created to collect personal information from unsuspecting victims.  To help prevent this from happening to you during this football season, there are two simple rules you can follow: Be vigilant and have a good defense system.

First, be vigilant by paying attention to the web pages, forums, and links providing you the information on your teams and players.  If you don’t know the source or are leery of the site you are visiting, retreat and visit only the sites provided by a trusted source such as ESPN or Fox Sports.  By sticking to this rule, you are much less likely to end up on the receiving end of a malicious site.  Also be vigilant about the emails you receive.  If you receive an email for free tickets or even free team gear and have never signed up for any contest, I’ll bet the sender has other things in mind for you.

The last rule to follow is to have a good defense.  One way of defending yourself is to have a reputable anti-virus program installed and updated for you protection against the threats that are circulating.  This isn’t foolproof, but hopefully it will provide you with another layer of protective security.

I wish you and your teams well this football season.  Play it safe both in and out of the cyber world and until next time… go Hawks!

-Rod