Tech

Popular Android apps fail basic security tests, putting privacy at risk

Instagram and Grindr stored images on their servers that were accessible without authentication, study finds

Instagram, Grindr, OkCupid and many other Android applications fail to take basic precautions to protect their users’ data, putting their privacy at risk, according to new study.

Data integration is often underestimated and poorly implemented, taking time and resources. Yet it
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The findings comes from the University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group (UNHcFREG), which earlier this year found vulnerabilities in the messaging applications WhatsApp and Viber.

This time, they expanded their analysis to a broader range of Android applications, looking for weaknesses that could put data at risk of interception. The group will release one video a day this week on their YouTube channel highlighting their findings, which they say could affect upwards of 1 billion users.

“What we really find is that app developers are pretty sloppy,” said Ibrahim Baggili, UNHcFREG’s director and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law, in a phone interview.

The researchers used traffic analysis tools such as Wireshark and NetworkMiner to see what data was exchanged when certain actions were performed. That revealed how and where applications were storing and transmitting data.

Facebook’s Instagram app, for example, still had images sitting on its servers that were unencrypted and accessible without authentication. They found the same problem in applications such as OoVoo, MessageMe, Tango, Grindr, HeyWire and TextPlus when photos were sent from one user to another.

Those services were storing the content with plain “http” links, which were then forwarded to the recipients. But the problem is that if “anybody gets access to this link, it means they can get access to the image that was sent. There’s no authentication,” Baggili said.

The services should either ensure the images are quickly deleted from their servers or that only authenticated users can get access, he said.

Many applications also didn’t encrypt chat logs on the device, including OoVoo, Kik, Nimbuzz and MeetMe. That poses a risk if someone loses their device, Baggili said.

“Anyone who gets access to your phone can dump the backup and see all the chat messages that were sent back and forth,” he said. Other applications didn’t encrypt the chat logs on the server, he added.

Another significant finding is how many of the applications either don’t use SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Security Layer) or insecurely use it, which involves using digital certificates to encrypt data traffic, Baggili said.

Hackers can intercept unencrypted traffic over Wi-Fi if the victim is in a public place, a so-called man-in-the-middle attack. SSL/TLS is considered a basic security precaution, even though in some circumstances it can be broken.

OkCupid’s application, used by about 3 million people, does not encrypt chats over SSL, Baggili said. Using a traffic sniffer, the researchers could see text that was sent as well as who it was sent to, according to one of the team’s demonstration videos.

Baggili said his team has contacted developers of the applications they’ve studied, but in many cases they haven’t been able to easily reach them. The team wrote to support-related email addresses but often didn’t receive responses, he said.

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Are breaches inevitable?

Security managers have to do a lot more to stay a step ahead of determined hackers

Is there a reason that data breaches have been happening at a rapid clip lately? And is there more that we, as security managers, should be doing to make sure that our own companies don’t join the ranks of the breached?

Home Depot is the latest company to make headlines for a potentially big data breach, and it just might be the biggest one yet. The current record holder is Target, and we’ve more recently seen the company that owns grocery store chains Supervalu, Albertsons, Acme Markets, Jewel-Osco and Shaw’s compromised by hackers. J.P. Morgan and four other major banks appear to have fallen victim to security breaches. UPS stores were also hit by hackers, and several hundred Norwegian companies were compromised. These victims have joined the ranks of Neiman-Marcus, Michael’s, Sally Beauty, P.F. Chang’s and Goodwill. What’s going on?
MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: Free security tools you should try

The motivation for attacks like these is usually financial. The attackers are stealing credit card and debit card numbers, along with personal information, which they then sell in underground markets. We don’t yet know whether this is the case with the banks that were hit; those attacks may have been politically motivated, or we may learn that fraudulent transactions were used to steal money. In any case, there seems to be a big jump in electronic data theft for profit. But the stolen information is only valuable for a few days, and its value diminishes rapidly by the hour. Some security researchers are saying that this loss of value is motivating today’s data thieves to move quickly. Another factor may be Microsoft’s termination of support for Windows XP, which could be prompting hackers to go for one last all-out heist to grab what they can while many systems are still vulnerable. Perhaps, knowing that all the vulnerabilities of Windows XP would soon vanish, our thieves had a fire sale.

But I suspect there is more to the story. Most big businesses use standard security procedures and technologies that have been around for years, if not decades. Many of these defenses have not kept up with current threats. Take antivirus, for example. Signature-based malware detection has long been ineffective against modern malware, yet most companies continue to rely on it as a key defense. We know from the details of some of the retail breaches that those who have implemented advanced heuristic malware detection have ignored the alarms set off by the point-of-sale malware (for reasons I cannot fathom). Patching will always be a game of catch-up, with the attackers having the upper hand. And password-based authentication will evidently be with us forever, much as I might rail against it. Attackers use all of these to get through their victims’ defenses.

The simple fact of the matter is that attackers will always have several vulnerabilities to choose from at any potential victim they want to target. And security managers, even those who are really good at their jobs, will never be able to close every single hole. And it only takes one.

So if traditional information security practices are not enough, what else can we do? I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought lately, and I think part of the answer is to evolve our security technologies, just as the attackers evolve their techniques. That heuristic behavior-based malware detection technology I keep talking about is pretty cool, but is it still cutting-edge? It’s been around for three or four years. Is there anything newer out there? And how can we choose the right technologies that are going to be effective against emerging threats but still stand the test of time so their manufacturers will be around three years from now?

There are some new products starting to go to market, and venture capitalists are funding a lot of new security technology. I think we should all keep a close eye on them. I’m beginning to believe that in the cutthroat rivalry between attacker and defender, the best technology wins. The only way we can keep one step ahead of today’s hackers is to take two steps forward and advance our defensive capabilities to the point where we can reliably repel, or at least detect, today’s data thieves.


 

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Chromebook Pixel revisited: 18 months with Google’s luxury laptop

Is it crazy to pay $1300 for a Chromebook? Some reflections after a year and a half of living with Google’s luxurious Pixel.

When you stop and think about it, it’s kind of astonishing how far Chromebooks have come.

It was only last February, after all, that Google’s Chromebook Pixel came crashing into our lives and made us realize how good of an experience Chrome OS could provide.

At the time, the Pixel was light-years ahead of any other Chromebook in almost every possible way: From build quality to display and performance, the system was just in a league of its own. And its price reflected that status: The Pixel sold for a cool $1300, or $1450 if you wanted a higher-storage model with built-in LTE support.

Today, the Pixel remains the sole high-end device in the Chromebook world (and its price remains just as high). But the rest of the Chrome OS universe has evolved — and the gap between the Pixel and the next notch down isn’t quite as extreme as it used to be.

So how has the Pixel held up 18 months after its release, and does it still justify the lofty price? I’ve owned and used the Pixel since last spring and have evaluated almost every other Chromebook introduced since its debut.

Here are some scattered thoughts based on my experiences:

1. Hardware and design
As I said when I revisited the device a year ago, the Chromebook Pixel is hands-down the nicest computer I’ve ever used. The laptop is as luxurious as it gets, with a gorgeous design, premium materials, and top-notch build quality that screams “high-end” from edge to edge.
Chromebook Pixel Revisited

We’re finally starting to see some lower-end Chromebooks creep up in the realms of design and build quality — namely the original HP Chromebook 11 (though it’s simply too slow to recommend for most people) and the ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook (which is sturdy and well-built but not exactly sleek) — and that’s a very good thing. In fact, that’s a large part of what Google was ultimately trying to accomplish by creating the Pixel in the first place. Think about it.

While those devices may be a step up from the status quo, though, they’re not even close to the standard of premium quality the Pixel delivers. When it comes to hardware, the Pixel is first-class through and through while other products are varying levels of economy.

The Pixel’s backlit keyboard and etched-glass trackpad also remain unmatched in their premium nature. Typing and navigating is a completely different experience on this laptop than on any other Chromebook (and, for that matter, on almost any non-Chrome-OS laptop, too).

The same goes for the Pixel’s spectacular speakers. Other Chromebooks are okay, but none is anywhere near this outstanding.

2. Display
The display — man, oh man, the display. The Pixel’s 12.85-in. 2560-x-1700 IPS screen is like candy for your eyes. The vast majority of Chromebook screens (yes, even those that offer 1080p resolution) are still using junky TN panels and consequently look pretty awful. The two exceptions are the same systems mentioned above — the HP 11 and the ThinkPad Yoga 11e — but while those devices’ displays reign superior in the sub-$500 category, their low resolution is no match for the Pixel’s crystal-clear image quality.

I continue to appreciate the Pixel’s touchscreen capability to this day, too: While I certainly don’t put my fingers on the screen all the time, it’s really nice to have the ability to reach up and tap, scroll, or pinch when I feel the urge. For as much time as I spend using smartphones and tablets, it seems completely natural to be able to do that with a laptop as well. (Admit it: You’ve tried to touch a non-touchscreen laptop at some point. We all have.)
“Performance is where things get particularly interesting”

I will say this, though: The time I’ve spent recently with the Yoga 11e has definitely gotten me keen on the idea of a Chromebook being able to convert into a tablet-like setup. After using that device, I sometimes find myself wishing the Pixel’s display could tilt back further and provide that sort of slate-style experience.

3. Stamina and performance
At about five hours per charge, the Pixel’s battery life is passable but not exceptional — especially compared to the eight to 10 hours we’re seeing on some systems these days. As I’ve mused before, stamina is the Pixel’s Achilles’ heel.

Performance is where things get particularly interesting: When the Pixel first came out, its horsepower was unheard of for a Chrome OS device. I could actually use the system in my typical power-user way, with tons of windows and tabs running at the same time and no slowdowns or multitasking misery. Compared to the sluggish Chrome OS systems we’d seen up to that point, it felt like a full-fledged miracle.

The Pixel’s performance is no less impressive today, but what’s changed is that other Chrome OS systems have actually come close to catching up. These days, you can get solid performance in a Chromebook for around $200 with the various Haswell-based systems. The newer Core i3 devices give you a little more punch for around $300. Neither quite reaches the Pixel’s level of snappiness and speed, but in practical terms, they’re not too far behind.

So for most folks, performance alone is no longer a reason to own the Pixel. It’s an important part of the Pixel, for sure, but if that’s the only thing you’re interested in, you’d do far better to save yourself the cash and get a lower-end Chromebook with decent internals.

To Pixel or not to Pixel?
What is a reason to own the Pixel, then? Simple: to enjoy a top-of-the-line Chrome OS experience with all the amenities you could ask for. The device’s hardware quality and design, keyboard and trackpad, speakers, and display add up to make a wonderful overall user experience no other Chromebook can match.

As for whether it’s worth the price, well, that’s a question only you can answer. Is a high-end car worth the premium over a reliable but less luxurious sedan? For someone like me, probably not. But for someone who’s passionate about cars, spends a lot of time in a vehicle and appreciates the elevated quality, it just might be.

The same concept applies here. The Pixel remains a fantastic luxury option for users sold on the Chrome OS concept — people like me who rely heavily on cloud storage and spend most of their time using Web-centric apps and services.

Like with any luxury item, the level of quality the Pixel provides certainly isn’t something anyone needs, but its premium nature is something a lot of folks will enjoy — and that’s as true today as it was last year.


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Climbing Aboard the 3rd Platform

Recent news from IBM and Microsoft highlight the upheavals underway as the technology industry rapidly transitions to new realities.

IBM announced that profits were up even as revenue was down as it continues to shift away from hardware business lines and tries “to convert the future of technology into an opportunity rather than a threat.” Microsoft announced its largest layoff ever as it continues to “become more agile and move faster” toward cloud and mobile hardware!

These upheavals are due to the forces propelling mobile, social, cloud and big data into what IDC labels the 3rd Platform, “the emerging platform for growth and innovation.”

“The 3rd Platform will deliver the next generation of competitive advantage apps and services that will significantly disrupt market leaders in virtually every industry,” IDC seer Frank Gens said, in laying out the firm’s predictions for 2014, late last year.

When long-time nemeses Apple and IBM climb into bed you know the ground is shaking!

With access to cloud infrastructure and other resources, new companies can be created almost overnight – the advantages of size that large, established companies used to rely on have greatly diminished. Everybody needs to be more agile, more flexible and willing to sacrifice proprietary advantages when customers demand adherence to open standards.

With so much change, no organization can afford to stand pat on the networking architecture of the past. Enterprises are driven to simultaneously improve business processes while reducing IT costs.

In order to move beyond the physical limitations of yesterday’s architecture so they can manage the complexity of the ever more connected world, many enterprises are modernizing data centers. Seeking to transform infrastructure into assets, they are turning to virtualization and cloud computing to drive up availability and transition IT to a services orientation.

They won’t get there with traditional Ethernet networks that rely on a rigid hierarchical approach that creates inefficient traffic patterns and purposely curtails the scalability. A newer category of flatter Ethernet networks called Ethernet fabrics combine the familiarity of Ethernet networks with the data center-hardened reliability and performance characteristics of fabric technologies such as Fibre Channel to provide organizations with elastic, highly automated, mission-critical networks to meet rapidly changing requirements.

Ethernet fabrics are specifically designed for the virtualized data center environments needed to transition to the 3rd Platform. Rather than focusing on management of discrete physical devices and physical ports, they logically eliminate the management of multiple switching layers and apply policies and manage traffic across many physical switches as if they were one.

Trying to forestall movement to the 3rd Platform is, at best, a defensive strategy that attempts to maintain a static position in an incredibly dynamic environment. It doesn’t make sense to become more stodgy while competitors are increasingly agile. As the situations at IBM and Microsoft attest, market advantages that once seemed insurmountable can quickly erode in the face of rapid transformation.


 

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Vision-correcting display nixes your need for eyeglasses

Your reading glasses will be so yesterday with UC Berkeley’s new technology

What would it be like if you didn’t need your eyeglasses to clearly see your laptop screen or a text message on your smartphone?

Scientists at the University of California Berkeley are working on computer screens that would adjust their images to accommodate individual user’s visual needs. Think of it as a display that wears the glasses so users don’t have to.

“For people with just near sightedness or far sightedness, life isn’t so bad,” said Fu-Chung Huang, the lead author of the research paper on the display project at Berkeley. “But as you get older, your lenses lose elasticity and you cannot read things close to you, like a cell phone or tablet. You need another pair of reading glasses, which can be quite inconvenient.
Scientists at the University of California Berkeley are developing a vision-correcting display that would mean users wouldn’t need their eyeglasses to see it clearly. (Video: UC Berkeley)

“With this technology, in the future, you just need to press a button and the display will accommodate to your vision,” he said in an email to Computerworld.

Users would input their vision prescription into their individual desktop, laptop or mobile device. Then when the user logs on with a password, the computer recognizes the user and automatically adjusts its display.

Researchers at Berkeley, working with scientists at MIT, are developing algorithms that will compensate for a user’s specific vision needs to adjust the image on a screen so the user can see it clearly without needing to wear corrective lenses. The software will create vision-correcting displays.

The researchers have been working on the technology for three years.
Computer screen
Researchers place a printed pinhole array mask, shown here, on top of an iPod touch as part of their prototype of a visually corrected display. (Image: Fu-Chung Huang)

A user who, for instance, needs reading glasses to see or read anything clearly on his laptop or tablet screens wouldn’t need to wear the eyeglasses if the displays adjust themselves for his vision needs.

If a user who needs one pair of glasses to see things at a distance and another pair for reading, would not need to put on reading glasses to read her emails or Facebook posts if the display could adjust itself for her near-vision needs.

The displays, according to Berkeley, also could be used for people whose vision cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contacts.

“This project started with the idea that Photoshop can do some image deblurring to the photo, so why can’t I correct the visual blur on the display instead of installing a Photoshop in the brain?” asked Huang, who now is a software engineer at Microsoft. “The early stage is quite hard, as everyone said it is impossible. I found out that it is indeed impossible on a “conventional 2D display.” I need to modify the optical components to make this happen.”

The university said that the hardware setup adds a printed pinhole screen sandwiched between two layers of clear plastic to an iPod display to enhance image sharpness. The tiny pinholes are 75 micrometers each and spaced 390 micrometers apart.

The algorithm, which was developed at Berkeley, works by altering the intensity of each direction of light that emanates from a single pixel in an image based upon a user’s specific visual impairment, the university reported. The light then passes through the pinhole array in a way that allows the user to see a sharp image.

Huang, who has not yet talked with computer monitor or smartphone and tablet manufacturers about the research, noted that the display technology could be developed into a thin screen protector.

“The current version is still quite fragile,” he added. “It requires precise calibration between the eye and the display and it took some time to find the sweet spot for my own eye. But remember that Amazon just announced the Fire Phone with the super fancy dynamic perspective to track your eye. This technology can solve my problem … so I’m pretty optimistic about the overall progress.”

However, he said that at this point in their work, the technology wouldn’t work on a shared display such as a television screen.

“In the future, we also hope to extend this application to multi-way correction on a shared display, so users with different visual problems can view the same screen and see a sharp image,” he said.


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Building a security awareness program on a shoestring budget

Awareness programs don’t have to be complicated, expensive ventures

Implementing a security awareness program seems rather straightforward, until you actually start to implement one – factoring in things like resources and the people (users) to be trained. At that point, it can seem complicated, costly, and unnecessary. However, the process doesn’t have to be a logistical and expensive nightmare, and it’s certainly worth it in the long run.

Organizations both large and small have implemented awareness programs for next to nothing, and while they’re not perfect, many of them are able to show measurable results. The key to these successes however, is based on understanding what it is that the organization is actually trying to accomplish.

While doing topical research for this story, CSO discovered a common thought among the experts and executives that were consulted, including some who spoke to us during two regional security conferences this summer (B-Sides Detroit and CircleCityCon).

Often, executives view security and business as two separate items, and while this point-of-view is changing, it takes effort to get some executives to commit to security and make it part of the business overall.

When this happens, tangible security needs such as license renewals, support and service contracts, firewalls and other appliances – all of those are things that executives understand. However, awareness training, to the executives at least, seems like an extended version of general security training, and there just isn’t money for something like that.

At the same time, there’s also a shakeup happening – thanks to a seemingly endless stream of data breaches this year that have placed several large companies in the headlines. The result of this shakeup is fear, and sometimes fear has a way of producing the budget needed to strengthen security. In some circles, this additional funding opens the door to the development of security awareness programs.

Is awareness training really needed?
Security awareness training is something that can cause a good deal of debate among experts. Some agree that it’s needed; others will call it a waste of time and resources.

Dave Aitel, in a column for CSO, expressed an opinion that such training wasn’t needed:

“Instead of spending time, money and human resources on trying to teach employees to be secure, companies should focus on securing the environment and segmenting the network. It’s a much better corporate IT philosophy that employees should be able to click on any link, open any attachment, without risk of harming the organization.

“Because they’re going to do so anyway, so you might as well plan for it. It’s the job of the CSO, CISO, or IT security manager to make sure that threats are stopped before reaching an employee—and if these measures fail, that the network is properly segmented to limit the infection’s spread.”

However, the other side to that argument comes from Ira Winkler:

“The question to ask is whether the losses prevented by awareness training are more than the cost of the awareness program. So for example, as every successful phishing attack has a cost associated with it, if you are reducing phishing attacks by 50 percent, you are mitigating 50 percent of the potential losses…

“The original opinion also says that a sophisticated security awareness program can prevent 90-95 percent of attacks. A 90-percent-plus reduction of loss will always be a good return on security investment, especially when the cost of typical security awareness programs is minimal?”

Awareness programs are not a replacement for solid security infrastructure and policies. Nor are they a replacement for response and incident handling. They can’t be. The only thing awareness does is increase the odds of recovery, and increase response times should an incident occur.

While training employees to act as monitors for Phishing attacks or emails with malicious attachments is helpful, that doesn’t mean such campaigns won’t be successful. However it does mean that the security team may know about the problem sooner, and that could be the difference between preventing a disaster – or suffering through one.
Getting started:

One of the main steps to building a good security awareness program is to separate it from security training. Security awareness is not the same as security training when it comes to employees.

Security training serves to offer a structured set of rules, which is what most auditors will look for when assessing compliance. Security awareness, on the other hand, aims to modify behavior. If done right, the company’s employees will become an extension of the existing security program. However, while security training can be done annually, awareness programs are a continuous process.

A living proof of concept:
Amanda Berlin works in security for a medium-sized healthcare organization in the Midwest. Over the last few months, she has created an effective awareness program almost out of thin air.

Her organization didn’t have the resources to pay for external awareness development and training, but it was needed, so they had to go it alone. It’s taken some time, but her efforts have resulted in a program that benefits the company, keeps the staff engaged in security related topics, and has little to no impact to the bottom line.

“So we knew the weakest element in our security were people,” Berlin said in an interview with CSO.

“That’s probably the weakest part of any organization. You can have IDS / IPS, massive email filtering, but stuff is still going to get through and [criminals] are still going pretext.”

As mentioned, user education can go a long way to keeping outsiders off the network, but it isn’t a silver bullet.

In the past, prior to implementing the awareness program, Berlin’s organization had to deal with various socially-based attacks. Yet, those were mostly random phone calls and faxes (fake domain renewal bills for example), so need for a scaled awareness program wasn’t made abundantly clear until the company had a penetration test performed.

“We had a [penetration test] with some Phishing included, and that was what got them domain admin access. Right away, within fifteen minutes, somebody clicked and gave out their credentials, and they [the red team] were in from the outside.”

It was an eye-opening experience. Other than the expected security training, related to HIPAA and other regulatory requirements, nobody in her organization had given a thought to implementing user awareness training against Phishing or similar attacks.

However, the main takeaway from that initial penetration test was that if the human element had been hardened, or at least better prepared, then the other defenses on the network would have had a better chance of keeping the attackers out.

Training out of thin air and OSINT:

For Berlin, the process of building an awareness program from scratch started with a series of conversations with her boss and the organization’s education department.

The idea was to develop materials that would benefit any user. However, they had to keep the materials basic, so that the information was easily understood and the technical aspects were obtainable to anyone, no matter their personal skill set.

“[We used] things that would be really helpful for any end user, like ‘Don’t click on stuff’ emails. We didn’t get too far into it, but we used that and put it out there,” Berlin explained.

After the material was shared during formal and informal staff meetings, it was time to test the employees and see what they’ve learned.

The first month her program ran, the targets were selected by way of available OSINT, or open source intelligence. By targeting company email addresses that were already publicly available, Berlin was starting with the same pool of potential victims that an actual criminal could, which helped her set the tone for the program’s development.

Using the Social Engineer Toolkit, or SET, she created an initial campaign that consisted of an obviously suspicious email, and a simple link to a webpage she created to collect credentials.

“It was just a plain two, three line, HTML email. I wanted to try and make it as blatantly obvious that I wasn’t a legitimate source. I wanted to see how good their [personal] filter was,” Berlin, recalling the first email that was sent to users, explained.

The first set of emails were sent from a Gmail account created for the exercise. They contained no identifiable information, and used a basic HTML link to a local IP as the trap. Out of the initial run of a few hundred emails, Berlin said that she managed to get nearly 60 percent of the targets to enter their credentials.

The powers that be viewed the results as proof positive that something should be done about this gap in security, but the program needed to be tuned, and there needed to be a way to track the results. The process took a few months, but eventually Berlin was ready to launch her program officially.

Rewarding those who help:

While the initial test proved that an awareness program was needed, the question of who should be doing the training was the first hurdle. In fact, research showed that there were plenty of vendors available to come in and run an awareness program. However, the cost of hiring someone form the outside was steep, and would put additional pressure on an already taxed budget.

Instead, Berlin explained, the company opted to manage things internally. Moreover, some of the money that would have gone to an external training firm ($1,000) was allocated in order to establish a reward scheme for employees.

“So every time somebody reports a Phishing email, whether it be form me or the outside, they need to forward it to the help desk or call and let us know, so we can actually see the email. If it’s a legitimate one, we’ll go through the steps to actually block it; otherwise we’ll let them know they’ve been entered into the drawing.”

The program allows employees to report legitimate Phishing emails, as well as emails that are sent as part of the ongoing awareness training. In addition, other suspicious electronic activity may also count, such as emails with attachments that the employee didn’t expect, but that is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Another interesting aspect to the program is the encouragement to report people who are attempting to access the employee’s system that haven’t been authorized to do so.

The incentive scheme itself is simple and geared towards the staff’s personal interests. There is a monthly drawing for a $20 gift card, followed by a quarterly drawing for a $50 gift card to either Bass Pro Shops or Red Lobster. There is also a yearly grand prize worth $400 in the form of an Amazon gift card.

The financial motivation has helped things tremendously, Berlin noted, as the number of reports focused on legitimate Phishing attacks has “skyrocketed.” Even better, the stigma associated with reporting a potential problem, or admitting that an attack was successful, has plummeted to nothing.

While rewards are important, for Berlin’s organization, tracking and measuring progress is the main concern. After only a short time of operation, the stats from her program are impressive. The number of successful attacks in the training program have continued to fall steadily since the program officially started.

In January: 985 emails were sent to employees; and out of those, 53 percent of the targets actually clicked the Phishing link. Of those who clicked the link, 36 percent of them entered credentials and 11 percent of all the targets reported the attack.

In February: 893 emails were sent out, resulting in a click rate of 47 percent. Again, of those that clicked, 11 percent of them gave out credentials and 11 percent reported it.

The test in March didn’t go as well. There were 1,095 emails were sent, but only three percent of the targets clicked the link. Of those that clicked, none of them entered credentials. In fact, everyone who clicked the link in March also reported the email.

“In March I think the reason that I had such a low rate of participation in general was due to the all around subject/theme of the Phish,” Berlin said, when asked about the stats.

“We had a large push for the March of Dimes that month and it seems like every other email was about another donation opportunity, or bake sale of some sort. We think that the majority of them were just deleted along with the rest of them, or filtered out as noise.”

April was another interesting month. There was no opportunity to enter credentials this time around, as the goal was to target clicks. Anyone who clicked on the email was directed to a “You’ve been hacked!” message.

During this test, two percent of the 1,111 emails sent resulted in a click, and 25 percent of those who got the message reported it.

While Berlin’s awareness program clearly has changed user behavior, as well as improved the overall security posture for her organization, that doesn’t mean that it’s foolproof. There’s plenty of room to grow, and the program itself is in a constant state of tuning.

For example, there are plans to improve tracking, and make the process easier to manage. Currently, the tracking process is manual, so the goal is to have it completely automated. There are also plans to increase the program to include mobile devices directly, as many of the providers within the organization rely on tablets in their day-to-day routine.

Awareness is only part of the battle:
Security awareness programs are only one piece of a larger security puzzle. By the time a Phishing email reaches a user, parts of the security chain have failed (anti-Spam) and the weakest-link in the chain now has an active role in defense.

If the users are trained, or to use a stronger term, conditioned to spot random abnormalities, there is a greater chance that a passive Phishing attack will fail. But no one is perfect, and targeted Phishing attacks will succeed eventually.

This is why users should be encouraged to report not only the attempt, but any failures as well – without the fear of punishment. This engagement will help lower the time it takes to address the incident, and in some cases, it could actually prevent an incident from exploding into a monumental disaster.

Users are often snickered at for trading their passwords for candy during social engineering experiments. However, this willingness to do a task that takes little effort in exchange for something of value works both ways.

The user who will trade access for sugar is also someone that can be trained to spot attacks for gift cards, and financially, that’s affordable when compared to the cost of mitigating a data breach.


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Windows XP: No IE9 for you

Microsoft becomes first major browser maker to drop support for world’s most popular OS

Microsoft’s new browser, Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), will not run on Windows XP, now or when the software eventually ships, the company confirmed Tuesday.

The move makes Microsoft the first major browser developer to drop support for XP, the world’s most popular operating system, in a future release.

Although Microsoft excluded Windows XP from the list for the IE9 developer preview, it sidestepped the question about which versions of Windows the final browser would support. In an IE9 FAQ, for example, Microsoft responded, “It’s too early to talk about features of the Internet Explorer 9 Beta” to the query, “Will Internet Explorer 9 run on Windows XP?”
dialog box
This dialog box pops up during attempts to install IE9 Platform Preview on Windows XP.

That caused some users to demand a straight answer. “Please tell whether the final version will run on Windows XP SP3 or not,” said someone identified as “eXPerience” in a comment to a blog post by Dean Hachamovich, Microsoft’s general manager for the IE team. “If not, please be clear about it. Really, enough is enough of keeping users in the lurch about Windows XP support.”

Others bashed Microsoft on the assumption that IE9 would never run on XP. “Dropping Windows XP support is one of the worst decisions ever taken by [the] IE team, probably even worse than disbanding the IE team back in the IE6 days,” claimed an anonymous commenter.

Microsoft had offered up broad hints that IE9 was not in Windows XP’s future, however. Tuesday, a company spokeswoman said the new browser needs a “modern operating system,” a phrase that hasn’t been paired with Window XP for years. “Internet Explorer 9 requires the modern graphics and security underpinnings that have come since 2001,” she added, clearly referring to XP, which appeared that year.

Windows XP’s inability to run the Platform Preview or the final browser stems from, IE9’s graphics hardware acceleration, which relies on the Direct2D and DirectWrite DirectX APIs (applications programming interfaces). Support for those APIs is built into Windows 7, and was added to Vista and Windows Server 2008 last October, but cannot be extended to Windows XP.

Some users worried that by halting browser development for Windows XP, Microsoft would repeat a current problem, getting customers to ditch IE6 for a newer version. “Those who choose to stay with XP will be forced to [then] stay forever on IE8, which will become the new IE6,” said a user named Danny Gibbons in a comment on Hachamovich’s blog.

Tough, said Sheri McLeish, Forrester Research’s browser analyst. “This is the stick to get off XP,” she said. Windows XP users will solve the browser problem themselves when they upgrade, as most eventually will, to Windows 7. “What are they going to do, go to Linux or run XP forever?” she asked.

Still, IE9’s inability to run on Windows XP will prevent it from becoming widespread until the nearly-nine-year-old OS loses significant share to Windows 7. According to Web metrics company NetApplications’ most recent data, if IE9 was released today, it would be able to run on just over a quarter — 27% — of all Windows machines.

No other major browser maker has announced plans to stop supporting Windows XP, but several have dropped other operating systems or platforms. Last month, for instance, Mozilla said it would not support Apple’s Mac OS X 10.4, known as “Tiger,” in future upgrades to Firefox. Google’s Chrome for the Mac, meanwhile, only runs on Intel-based Macs, not on the older PowerPC-based machines that were discontinued in 2006.

The IE9 Platform Preview can be downloaded from Microsoft’s site. It requires Windows 7, Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 or Windows 2008 R2.


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17 obscure Windows tools and tricks too powerful to overlook

Windows is chock full of handy-dandy power tools, but most of them are hidden from everyday view. These are the ones you need to know about.

Peering deep inside Windows
The beauty of Windows lies in its flexibility and depth. In fact, Windows is so deep and flexible that many of us never touch its more powerful tools, whether from unawareness or sheer forgetfulness. But beneath Internet Explorer and the Start button hides a universe of tools and tricks that are positively brimming with potential.

With that in mind, let’s brush the cobwebs off some classic Windows power tips that you’re likely to have forgotten about. Dig in, enjoy, and don’t forget to bookmark this article. You don’t want these tips and tricks to fade from memory once again.

GodMode
Let’s get the party started by dragging some of Windows’ hidden customization options into the light. GodMode is a developer tool that collates the operating system’s far-flung customization options into a single location, an Easter Egg that makes it far easier to exert your will over Windows.

Just right-click the Windows desktop and select New > Folder. Name it GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} —you can actually switch out “GodMode” for any other name, but the period and all the jumble afterwards have to be exact. If you did it right, the folder icon will switch to the Control Panel icon. Start exploring, and dive into this tutorial for even deeper GodMode tricks.

Problem Steps Recorder
This little-known tool creates an HTML slideshow of your actions, recording your moves step-by-step so that you can show your IT admin or resident PC geek exactly what you’re doing when you run into a problem. It’s a huge boon during especially tricky troubleshooting situations.

To open the Problem Steps Recorder, simply search for psr in the Windows 7 Start menu or Windows 8’s Start screen. The tool should pop right up and is very straightforward to use.

Windows Reliability Monitor
Your PC may be behaving badly, even if it doesn’t appear so outwardly. But fear not: Windows Reliability Monitor is a tattle-tale who isn’t afraid to spill the beans. It shows all problems that Windows has encountered in a chronological chart, which you can sort and click through for more information on a day-by-day and case-by-case basis. The tool’s especially handy while you’re tracking down trouble programs that could be the cause of weird crashes.

To open the Reliability Monitor, open the Control Panel and head to System and Security > Review your computer’s status and resolve issues (under Action Center) > Maintenance > View reliability history (under “Check for solutions to problem reports”). Presto!

Get a power efficiency report
Windows can give you a detailed report on your laptop’s power efficiency, if you know where to look for it. Search for Command Prompt via the Start menu (Win7) or Start screen (Win8), then right-click on the Command Prompt result and select Run as administrator. Then enter powercfg -energy -output FolderEnergy_Report.html into the Command Prompt, replacing “Folder” with a file path to the folder of your choice.

Windows will analyze things for a while, then spit out the Energy Report in your desired location, which you’ll be able to read in a browser. It can be a bit technical, but it also includes suggestions for optimizing your notebook’s power performance.

Shake and shrink
Here’s a fun yet handy trick: Click and hold the title bar of the program you’re working in, then shake it back and forth rapidly. All other open windows will minimize to the task bar, leaving your desktop nice and clutter-free. Sure, you can do the same by pressing Windows key + Home, but where’s the fun in that?

Encrypt your files
Encrypting your data is a great way to make sure your files stay safe even if your PC is stolen or hacked. Microsoft’s BitLocker—built into Windows Vista or 7 Ultimate, Windows Vista or 7 Enterprise, and Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise—can encrypt your entire drive.

BitLocker has some specialized hardware requirements as well as some notable caveats to be aware of, however—most notably, you don’t want to lose the recovery key that lets you decrypt all your data. You can read all about those crucial tidbits and how to set up BitLocker in PCWorld’s beginner’s guide to BitLocker.

Calibrate your display
Third-party display calibration software can cost an arm and a leg, but fortunately, Windows includes a calibration tool that can meet the demands of all but the most demanding graphics professionals. It’s tucked into a corner of the Control Panel that doesn’t see action often.

Head into the Control Panel again, then select Display. You want the Calibrate color option in the left-hand options pane. Diving into the tool is beyond the scope of this article, but you can find full step-by-step details on using Windows’ calibration tool in this guide.

Make Windows play nice with high-DPI displays
Super-high-resolution displays are becoming the norm these days, with a slew of laptops, tablets, and monitors packing eye candy far in excess of the common 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, Windows still suffers from scaling issues with pixel-packed displays, often making text appear small or blurry.

The easiest way to fix this is by tinkering with Windows’ global scaling options, which you can find by opening the Control Panel and heading to Display > Custom Sizing Options. Here, you can change scaling by a percentage or via a tool that resembles a ruler. The Display page also offers scaling options for text alone. You may need to do more manual tinkering in individual programs to get everything just right—this article can help.

Schedule tasks to automate your digital life
Task Scheduler does exactly what you’d think: It helps you set schedules for running specific Windows applications, such as backups or a maintenance tool like CCleaner. Task Scheduler also lets you create complex scripts of tasks, which can run in order and at particular times. You can find it by searching for Task Scheduler via the Start menu or Windows 8 Start screen, then selecting Schedule tasks when the option appears.

Be warned: This powerful tool is designed for power users, complete with an obscure interface. You can get a feel for creating basic tasks by reading up on the Check Disk and Disk Cleanup sections of this task automation guide, while this superb How-to Geek piece by frequent PCWorld contributor Chris Hoffman really delves into nitty-gritty advanced tasks.

Tweak the programs that start at boot
Many of the programs you install run at startup by default, and that’s bound to eat up your memory and slow down the boot process over time. Fortunately, Windows includes tools that lets you manually select which programs are allowed to boot up alongside the operating system.

Windows 8 makes it easy with a helpful Startup tab in the Task Manager. You have to jump through more hoops in previous versions of the OS. Press Win + R to bring up the Run command, then search for msconfig and open the Startup tab in the window that opens. Don’t kill anything if you’re not sure what it does, but feel free to get rid of common offenders like Steam or iTunes.

Force Windows to show all your drives
Windows’ File Explorer won’t show any drives that are completely empty by default, which can be a hassle when you’re fiddling with SD cards or flash drives. You can force the issue, though.

First, open File Explorer. In Windows 7, press Alt to bring up the top menu, then head to Tools > Folder Options > View. Under Advanced Settings, uncheck the box next to “Hide empty drives in the Computer folder” and hit OK. In Windows 8, open File Explorer’s View tab and open Options > Change folder and search options. Here, look for the same option under Advanced Settings. This list of advanced view settings also lets you opt to show hidden files and folders.

Handy hotkeys
Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, here are some lesser-known gems. You can find a comprehensive list here.
-Win + (left or right arrow) to pin current window to respective screen edge
-Win + m to minimize all desktop windows
-Win + R to open the run command
-Win + X to open Windows 8’s powerful Quick Access Menu
-Alt + Tab to switch between open programs
-Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager

I heard you like Windows in your Windows
Sometimes, your standard Windows installation just doesn’t cut it. Virtual machines—which allow you to run sandboxed, virtualized instances of operating systems in a standard window in Windows—are great for when you need to use a separate OS for software security, compatibility, or testing reasons.

The Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 8 support Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine manager, though you have to install it. Open the Control Panel and head to Programs > Turn Windows Features on or off, then check the Hyper-V box and click OK. Reboot after the install. Check out this guide to learn how to use Hyper-V, or the free VirtualBox tool if you want to run virtual machines on the standard version of Windows 8 (or any previous version of Windows).

Shut up User Account Control
The User Account Control baked into Windows 7, 8, and Vista—the box that pops up asking you express permission to allow certain programs and processes to run—is ostensibly there to protect everyday users from security threats, but it’s more annoyance than assistance for seasoned users. Tweak its settings or turn it off completely by heading to Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > User Accounts > Change User Account Control Settings. You’ll be glad you did.

Tailor your taskbar
The basic Windows taskbar works well enough, but it offers a wealth of customization options for power users. Simply right-click on it and select Properties, then spend some time digging around: You’re able to adjust the taskbar’s position, auto-hide it if desired, tinker with what appears in the Notification Area, add additional toolbars, and more. Ian Paul detailed a few of the most useful tweaks in a Hassle-Free PC column.

Windows 8’s Quick Access Menu
Windows 8 may have killed the Start menu, but it didn’t leave power users wanting completely: Right-clicking in the lower-left corner of the operating system, whether you’re on the desktop or the Live Tile’d Start screen, reveals a long menu technically dubbed the Quick Access Menu, but I call it the power user’s delight.

The Quick Access Menu provides—you guessed it—quick access to a slew of helpful power tools, including the Command Prompt, Network Connections, Device Manager, Event Viewer, and the Computer Management interface. Don’t miss this easy-to-overlook gem.

Restore lost options to Windows 8
Windows 8 and 8.1 shook up Microsoft’s classic OS, but it removed some helpful legacy desktop options—most notably, the Start menu and, in Windows 8.1, Library quick-links in File Explorer.

Microsoft plans to bring the Start menu back to Windows 8, but for now, you’ll have to resort to using a third-party Start menu replacement tool if you miss your menu. Returning Libraries to Windows 8.1 is easier. Just open File Explorer, then head to View > Navigation pane and select View Libraries. Microsoft ripped some other features out of Windows 8.1, too, which you can read all about here. (Bonus: Windows 8.1 now includes Library support for removable media like flash drives and SD cards.)


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Sample Resume Career Objectives – Best Sample CV Objectives

The importance of including a career objective on your CV (Curriculum Vitae) cannot be overstated. This is a short statement, two or three lines long which sums up your goals and helps employers to decide whether or not you are suitable for their company. This is the first thing employers come across when reading your resume or CV, and can make the difference between them reading the rest of it and throwing it away, so make sure you take your time and think of a powerful and effective opening statement which sums you up perfectly.

If you’re stuck for ideas, why not take a look at some of the career objective examples below which are tailored to suit people seeking jobs in ICT, computing as hardware technicians, network administrators, Wireless LAN experts, software engineers, Cisco, CCNA, CCNP, CCIE career jobs, CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ jobs as well as Microsoft MCSA, MCSE and MCDBA jobs.

  • To excel in my chosen field in a job that both challenges and inspires me, while pushing me to work to the best of my abilities and produce the highest quality work that I am capable of.

  • To work in an environment which encourages me to succeed and grow professionally where I can utilize my skills and knowledge appropriately.

  • To surround myself with motivated, skilled professionals in a job with opportunities for career development and advancement with hard work and dedication.

  • To fulfill my dream of becoming a successful computer hardware and networking engineer and have a job which challenges me every day.

  • To enhance my professional skills, capabilities and knowledge in an organization which recognizes the value of hard work and trusts me with responsibilities and challenges.

  • To secure an entry level position in a professional company where I can learn and develop my skills whilst assisting the company in their professional efforts to the best of my abilities with a devoted and trustworthy attitude.

  • To obtain a position in a large global company that will utilize my knowledge of computing and engineering and allow me the freedom to work with other like-minded individuals in a dynamic, inspiring environment.

  • To continue my already established career with a reputable company and contribute my outstanding skills of honesty, team-work and extremely thorough research skills.

  • To work towards a job within an organization where I am in a position of responsibility, and am able to use my skills and experience to commit myself to achieving organizational goals and targets efficiently and successfully.

  • To be a professional and dedicated employee in a company that I can provide with my extensive technical skills and experience.

  • As a recent graduate, I am seeking a role which allows me to continue learning and perfecting my skills as I provide high-quality work, and encourages me to flourish as a network technician.

  • I am looking for a challenging job with a rapidly growing organization that can provide me with a range of goals and job objectives within a contemporary and economical business setting.

  • I strive for continuous progress in everything I do, both personally and professionally, and so am keen to secure role which allows me to enhance and develop my all-round skills and abilities.

  • To build my career in a leading corporate environment dealing with cutting-edge equipment and technological developments that will allow me to utilize my self-motivated and honest nature.

  • I am seeking a job which supports my professional self-development and allows me to forward the aims of the company by providing key skills and work to complete organizational goals and targets.

  • I am interested in becoming a part of a respected and established company which allows me the freedom and responsibility to contribute to challenging and tricky projects and tasks.

  • To share and integrate my knowledge and skills with a small, independent company where I could have job satisfaction and accomplish my goal of becoming a successful and skilled hardware engineer.

  • To utilize my personal and professional qualities in a multi-national organization which gives me opportunities to demonstrate my competency and allow me a steadily paced rate of professional growth and development.

  • To work in a competitive and energetic setting that requires a high level of self-motivation and commitment, allowing me to effectively manage my own professional development and contribute my skills successfully.

  • To be challenged and motivated by my job and colleagues, and to work alongside a team which places high value on strong technical skills and analytically ability.

  • To be part of a mutually beneficial relationship with an organization where I can show my talent and skill in an atmosphere of growth and trust.

  • I am seeking a career change, and would like a job which allows me to use my extensive transferable skills and real world knowledge while providing me with the opportunity to perfect my technical skills.

  • I always endeavor to be the best at what I do, and so am seeking a position within a company with high focus on professional growth and career advancement through hard work and extensive professional experience.

  • I am a hard-working and committed individual with a strong focus on achieving personal goals and succeeding in a professional and challenging business environment.

  • To work hard and enhance my professional skills and working capacities with full determination and continue my aim of becoming a successful computer engineer for a growing company.

  • To work in a company which provides a challenging environment of excellence for me to display and use my skills and talents to add to the company’s goals and research.

  • To pursue a rewarding and challenging position within a company that provides a high level of professional satisfaction and the opportunity to succeed in my goals.

  • To gain a secure position in the world of computing as part of an enthusiastic and hard-working team of skilled individuals, that allows me to improve and develop my career over time.

  • To contribute to an organization in a creative and innovative way in order to become a key player in the company and feel satisfied with my perseverance and commitment to ICT.

  • To be involved in a dedicated and rewarding professional relationship with a large company on a part-time basis while I complete my Masters Degree in Computing.

  • To be a motivated and skills oriented employee in a long-term position with a respected and established company where I can display my skills and knowledge to ensure an environment of growth and productivity.

  • After over a decade of experience in various related roles, I am now seeking to gain a managerial position where I can utilize my gained skills and acquired knowledge, both technical and interpersonal.

  • My knowledge of comprehensive technical skills and hard-working attitude make me an excellent choice for a position in an up and coming organization which seeks to expand and grow with the help of dedicated employees.

  • In my first job I will be a dedicated and professional member of any team, with plenty of learned skills, problem-solving experience and a keen to learn attitude.

  • I am seeking an entry-level position in a vibrant and interesting organisation that will encourage me to enhance my creative and technical knowledge, and allow me to learn and use innovative new skills and concepts.

  • To carry out my role in an efficient and cost-effective way and do everything in my power to provide supreme quality workmanship and a suitable level of professional ability.

  • To be a highly motivated and well-educated member of a certified company where I can be a part of a close-knit team to contribute towards the overall expansion and development of the organization while also working on my own professional advancement.

  • Although my experience is primarily in other sectors, I hope that transitioning to a job in computing will provide me with the opportunity to enrich my existing knowledge and acquire new experiences using my excellent management skills.

  • I am a knowledgeable and experience expert in my field who is seeking a fast-paced, challenging role that will provide the opportunity for further advancement to managerial and supervisory positions.

  • To apply my learned knowledge and skills to real-world situations in a demanding environment and be a valuable team member in order to contribute efficient and important skills to the workplace I am in.

  • To utilize my technical skills and provide a professional service to customers by applying and honing my knowledge and working in a challenging and motivating working environment.

  • To utilise my seven years of experience in the field of hardware engineering to pursue a long-term position with a company on the forefront of computing innovation and invention, with particular focus on graphics and video operation and development.

  • To work for a large and well established organisation and display my experience and relevant skills in IT service desk management and development.

  • To be a successful and stimulated employee who meets and exceeds productivity targets with the overall aim of aiding my organisation in its professional growth and expansion.

  • To be a proactive team member in a small business environment where I can work as part of a welcoming and skilled group of workers, allowing me to learn from and be further inspired

  • by the people around me at all times.

  • To join a company in a full time capacity in the field of network development and engineering which will allow me to demonstrate my skills and knowledge of creative system design and application development.

  • To be an enthusiastic and committed employee with an eye for detail and a hard-working attitude, in an inspiring and innovative development team.

  • To join an expanding and successful company as a C++ software engineer and utilize my personal and professional skills and meet company objectives in a timely and efficient manner.

  • To be a member of a company with an exciting and multidisciplinary purpose where I will be a crucial part of developing software and applications and demonstrating my team-work skills and self-motivation.

  • To work in a growing sector as a successful and experienced individual with a position that aids professional development and provides learning and development opportunities.

  • To fulfill my goal of becoming a successful software engineer as part of the telecoms sector in a globally renowned organization with a competitive and motivating environment.

  • To seek a long-term career in computing with a company which I can provide with my large set of skills and receive support and professional benefits from.

  • To use my education, interpersonal and technical skills and experience to be a valuable team member in a part-time capacity whilst pursing my Undergraduate degree in MSC Computing at a world renowned university.

  • To develop and create effective IT solutions in a stable yet challenging workplace setting which encourages me to build strong business relationships with customers and clients.

  • To work in a diverse and rewarding atmosphere that is full of creative opportunities and allows me to use my skills for the mutual development of the company and myself.

  • To utilize my strong work ethic and hard-working nature in the area of hardware engineering and provide my skills and experience to a company which strives to support its employee’s personal and professional growth.

  • To make use of my extensive experience in LAN and WAN network engineering to work in a multidisciplinary, customer-focused company with a focus on innovation and excellence.

  • To develop and continuously learn more about my chosen field for a high-energy and enthusiastic company that values academic, technical, analytically and interpersonal skills.

  • To secure a position with a company that will utilize my passion for computer engineering and help me to create a positive working environment for myself and my colleagues

  • To join a successful, high-tech company who I can bring skills in application design and a breadth of technical skills in order to create and deliver high quality technical solutions.

  • To be a part of a senior software development team with a high level of responsibility and independence to match my extensive industry experience and high-quality work ethic.
    To utilize the skills learned throughout my degree in order to join a success oriented environment where job satisfaction and professional development are awarded a high level of attention.

  • To provide rewarding and high quality services as part of a team of highly motivated individuals with a range of essential skills and attributes in order to ensure a high level of personal and professional development.


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Microsoft Certifications 2014 can you a JOB

With the new technologies coming in the market every other day, life has become advanced these days. In this modern era, you have to be on your toes all the time especially if your career in related to the field of IT: one has to stay updated with all the latest programs and their features in order to stay ahead of his peers. For instance, there was a time when Gramophone was the invention of the century but then it was replaced with mobile phones. Similarly, the invention of television and radio created quite a heap in the early 20th century but later on, the thunder was stolen by computers in the late 20th century.

In this day and age, computers and internet have become the center of attention. Consequently, IT has become the most popular field. IT experts are quite in demand these days; but with the emergence of new programs every other day, they have to keep up with the latest technology in order to stay ahead in the race. One way of staying ahead is the certification courses. These courses ensure that the candidate has attained all the latest knowledge and is ready to roll in the world of technology.

This article will discuss some of the most popular certification courses offered by Microsoft.

Microsoft Technology Associate

This is a certification course designed for the starters: people who want to start their line of business in the field of technology. Accordingly, it tests the fundamentals of IT and validates that the candidates have a basic understanding of the essentials. This course has been divided into three tracks and the candidates can choose any one of the tracks, depending on their preference. The tracks are: IT infrastructure, Database Design and Developer.

Microsoft MCSA- Windows Server 2008
This exam is designed for the IT personnel and it validates their skills in Server Networking management. IT professionals and System Administrators are suggested to take MCSA- Windows Server 2008 exam especially if they are looking forward to earning their MCSE certification.

Microsoft MCSA- Windows Server 2012
This certification exam is an advanced level exam which validates that the candidates have sufficient knowledge of Windows Server 2012 for its proper installation, configuration and working. MCSA- Windows Server 2012 certified can easily get the position of Network Administrator, Computer Systems Administrator or Computer Network Analyst.

Microsoft MCSE- Server Infrastructure
This certification course is designed for IT experts and it will get you the title of ‘Solutions Expert’. It tests individual’s skills in effectively and efficiently running a modern data center with some experience in virtualization storage and networking, identity management and systems management.

Microsoft MCSE- Desktop Infrastructure
This course validates that the individuals can manage desktops and devices, while maintaining their security and integrity, from anywhere around the globe. It also tests individuals’ expertise in application and desktop virtualization together with remote desktop services. With this certification in hand, you can easily qualify for a job of Data and Application Manager or Desktop and Device Support Manager.

Microsoft MCSE- Messaging
This certification is an expert level certification and it validates that the applicant has relevant skills in order to increase user productivity and flexibility. It also validates that the person has sufficient knowledge as to how to improve data security and reduce data loss. After passing this certification exam, candidates can easily qualify for the position of Network and Computer System Administrator.

Microsoft  MCSE- Communication
This certification validates candidates’ expertise in using Lync Server to create an effective communication path that can be accessed from all around the globe. This certification is also an expert level certification and you can easily qualify for the position of Network and Computer System Administrator with it.

Microsoft  MCSE- SharePoint

This Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification course verifies that the candidates have the necessary expertise to share, synchronize and organize the data across the organization. SharePoint 2013 is the updated version of Microsoft Office, and passing this certification can get you a job of Systems or Network Analyst.

Microsoft MCSD- SharePoint Application

This Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer certification course is another of expert level certification courses which validates individuals’ expertise in web programming. It also requires the individuals to design and develop applications with Microsoft SharePoint. With this certification, you can easily secure the position of Software Developer or Web Developer.

Microsoft Private Cloud

MCSE- Private Cloud certification course tests candidates’ expertise to manage Private Cloud computer technologies. It also verifies that the candidate can implement these technologies in a way to optimize service delivery. You can easily get the position of Server Administrator and Network Manager with this certification on your resume.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager
Microsoft System Center Certification focuses on the skills to manage computer and clients. The candidates should be able to configure, administer and deploy System Center 2012 in order to pass this exam. You can earn the title of Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist through this certification.

Microsoft Server Virtualization
This certification verifies that the candidate is familiar with Server Virtualization, both on Windows Server and System Center. This course expands individual’s expertise and skills in order for him to meet the rapidly modernizing technological business needs, and it can get him the title of Microsoft Specialist in no time.

Microsoft Office Certifications
Microsoft offers many certifications that verify candidates’ skills in handling and using Microsoft Office Applications. These certifications start from beginners level and go up to the master level. Microsoft Office Specialist is a beginner level certification whereas Microsoft Office Specialist Expert is an advanced level certification. Last but not the least; Microsoft Office Specialist Master is a master level certification.

Microsoft MCSA- Office 365
This course focuses on individual’s skills in handling Office 365 together with productivity tools and cloud-based collaboration. This certification can easily get you the position of Cloud Application Administrator or SaaS Administrator.

Microsoft Dynamics

This Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certification confirms an individual’s expertise in Microsoft dynamics: a specific module can be chosen for this certification. However, this certification will be withdrawn from the market, at the end of this year, and replaced with the new ones.


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