Transcender webinar: Understanding Big Data

October 19, 2017 at 9:00 am | Posted in Transcender news | Leave a comment
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Big Data is gathered from nearly everyone and affects almost every aspect of modern life, from health care to hotels and from consumer trends to traffic gridlock. Vast amounts of information is now easily accessible and shared freely among companies, but the average person has little conception of their own contributions to Big Data, or how it affects them in their daily life.

Join our Oracle certification and industry expert, John Brooks, for a free 45-minute webinar on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, at 11:00 am CST.  We will cover the definition, uses, and importance of Big Data in our economy, and explain its increasing significance to our society as a whole. We’ll also mention the main applications that are used in Big Data crunching and point the novice certification-seeker toward the best options in this growing career field.

To register for this FREE webinar, click here. (Your contact information will never be sold or transferred.)

Happy webinaring!

-the Transcender Team

Upgrading to the MCSA Windows 10 and announcing the retirement of Windows 7 exams

October 6, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | 2 Comments
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Hi, can I still upgrade from windows 8.1 to MCSA 10, by taking 70-697?

While researching this reader’s question, I went to the Microsoft certification site and discovered that the MCSA: Windows 8/8.1 was no longer listed anywhere on the site, including in the retired certifications list. The only desktop MCSA described is the Windows 10 MCSA.

I’m confident that the information we reported in November 2016 is no longer current, and students should look at the Microsoft site first to determine which exam to take.

I also reached out to Microsoft regarding the exams for MCSA: Windows 10. Their official response was that it was no longer possible to upgrade from the Windows 8 certification. The only way to achieve a MCSA: Windows 10 is  to pass two exams, 70-697 and 70-698. Passing only one of these exams earns you the MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), but nothing more.

The death of desktop certs

If you look at the most recent Microsoft certification paths, you’ll see that the MCSA: Windows 10 is listed as a point on the path to MCSE: Mobility.

mcse 2017

Once you’ve earned the MCSA, taking one more “elective” exam (70-398, 70-695, or 70-696) will earn you the MCSE: Mobility credential. Current and future Microsoft certifications will be divided into the following categories that reflect Microsoft’s move away from local installation:

  • Mobility
  • Cloud
  • Productivity
  • Data
  • App Builder
  • Business
Grab your Windows 7 certification while you still can

After a long, hard run, Microsoft has finally released retirement dates for Windows 7 certifications. All of the following exams will expire on July 31, 2018:

70-680: Windows 7, Configuring
70-685: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician
70-686: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator

As of this writing, each of these exams earns the MCP, but no credit toward an MCSA or MCSE.

Happy certifying!

-George Monsalvatge

All Things Being Equifax: A Cybersecurity Awareness PSA

October 4, 2017 at 10:29 am | Posted in cybersecurity | 2 Comments
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Over 9 billion data records have been lost or stolen since 2013. In fact, experts believe nearly 5.5 million records are exposed every day. It’s no longer a question of whether a company has been compromised, but when it will happen, and how consumers can take steps to protect their data.

Not every data breach is the same. Sometimes the stolen data is already public, like your name and street address, or is encrypted to prevent its use by thieves. The most dangerous breaches expose plaintext data (data that is not encrypted or otherwise obscured) and PII (personally identifiable information), such as a government ID with an associated date of birth and legal name.

The recent Equifax breach is a serious security concern because of its breathtaking scope and sensitivity. The stolen data included social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and other PII as well as credit card numbers. Unlike a username and password, PII is meant to uniquely identify you for your entire life and (usually) can’t be changed. If it’s exposed, you face an ongoing threat of identity fraud.

So what can you do in the wake of such a massive breach? What follows are the best security practices we can recommend, including advice from an actual (anonymous) employee of a big-three credit bureau.

(ETA: as sharp-eyed reader Carol points out, there are actually four credit agencies, though Innovis is typically omitted from these types of list. We have updated the post to add Innovis’ contact information as well.)

Continue Reading All Things Being Equifax: A Cybersecurity Awareness PSA…

The Great Password Debate – Where we disagree about password resets and failures (Part 3)

September 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Posted in cybersecurity, Knowledge, Technical Tips | Leave a comment
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This post is part three of our reaction to new recommendations in the National Institute of Standards’ Digital Identity Guidelines (NIST Special Publication 800-63), Appendix A – Strength of Memorized Secrets. You can check out Part 2 here.

In the Great Password debate that has been generated by the latest NIST guidelines, we (the trainers and experts on the Transcender team) find we agree with some recommendations and disagree with others. In our previous post, Josh discussed the way password complexity has been found less secure than longer passwords made up of simple words. In this post, we (Robin Abernathy, Ann Lang, and Troy McMillan) want to discuss NIST’s new guidelines for password resets (password age) and responding to password failure/account lockout (failed authentication).

Among the otherwise sound advice in the Digital Identity Guidelines (NIST SP 800-63B), we did pick out three points that cause us some consternation:

  • Verifiers SHOULD NOT require memorized secrets to be changed arbitrarily (e.g., periodically). However, verifiers SHALL force a change if there is evidence of compromise of the authenticator. (Section 5.1.1.2)
  • Unless otherwise specified in the description of a given authenticator, the verifier SHALL limit consecutive failed authentication attempts on a single account to no more than 100. (Section 5.2.2)
  • When the subscriber successfully authenticates, the verifier SHOULD disregard any previous failed attempts for that user from the same IP address. (Section 5.2.2)
Love it a long time, or leave it every 30-60 days?

How many of you out there work for a company that requires you to change your password at a regular interval, usually every 60 or 90 days? Bullet point 1 states that this is no longer necessary.

Troy says: I disagree with this recommendation. I contend that changing the password at regular intervals DOES increase security because it shortens the amount of time it is available for disclosure. The logic behind this new NIST rule is based a failure of how people implement it, not a failure of the concept of password age. In other words, the concept fails because the users do not use unique or secure passwords. They usually choose a new password that’s similar to the previous passwords with a few character changes. This issue would be resolved with proper security awareness training and policy enforcement. Also, there are solutions out there that can prevent users from creating a password that is too close to a previous password. So while we understand what NIST is trying to do with this change, I personally don’t agree with it.

Ann says: I disagree somewhat. The theory is that if you’re ALSO making people choose much longer, easier-to-remember character strings for passwords, like IlikebigpasswordsandIcannotlie! Twoyears beforeI changeit lala hooray!, then you still have the advantage of the password being much, much harder to crack or guess from a mathematical standpoint. After reading through their breakdown of Authenticator Assurance Levels (AAL), I’d be okay following their password age recommendations for any site that’s operating at AAL2 or above.

(For what it’s worth, Microsoft’s 2016 Password Guidance for IT Administrators both counsels you to lose the mandatory periodic password reset, AND to educate users on choosing appropriate passwords and banning commonly used passwords.) Continue Reading The Great Password Debate – Where we disagree about password resets and failures (Part 3)…

The Great Password Debate (Part 2): Longer, Simpler Passwords Are the New Black

September 8, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Posted in cybersecurity, Knowledge, Technical Tips | 1 Comment
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This post is part two of our reaction to new recommendations in the National Institute of Standards’ Digital Identity Guidelines (NIST Special Publication 800-63), Appendix A – Strength of Memorized Secrets. You can check out Part 1 here.

Which of the following two passwords is more secure?

p@$w0RdCh34Tr#
ILikeSimplePasswordsICanRememberAndUseNotComplex

The first password is 14 characters long, well over the recommended minimum of 8 characters. It also meets many, if not all, of common password complexity requirements: it contains multiple special characters like @ and $, numbers like 3 and 4, and mixes uppercase and lowercase letters in for good measure. It does not contain a username or any repeated characters. At the Password Meter, I get the following rating:

password1_strength

The second password is a lot longer (over 3x), clocking in at 48 characters. If you think that is crazy long, section 5.1.1.2 of the new NIST  800-63B Special Publication suggests passwords of least 64 characters! But this password is pretty awful when it comes to complexity: it has no special characters or numbers, and it contains easy-to-read dictionary words. So you’d expect a really low score from the Password Meter.

But you’d be wrong:

password2_strength

What is going on? In a nutshell, according to the latest research, password size matters more than character complexity, even if the password strings together easy-to-read words. This is a harsh truth, to be sure, and the reason why requires a quick trip back to mathematical set theory and the world of bike lock combinations.

Continue Reading The Great Password Debate (Part 2): Longer, Simpler Passwords Are the New Black…

The Great Password Debate (Part 1)

August 22, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Posted in cybersecurity, Knowledge | 1 Comment
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Are you overwhelmed by having to remember too many passwords? Why do some experts recommend using special characters like %, $, or @? Do you really have to change your password every 90 days? Which password method will keep your accounts and data safe from hackers?

Do you ever just feel like you’ve fallen into the password abyss?

Welcome to our new blog series, “The Great Password Debate!”

If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired of keeping up with password complexity advice — which says to maintain dozens of unique special-character passwords that change every 90 days — you’re not alone. Bill Burr, who helped first come up with these password standards for National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is right there in the password abyss with you:

I have maybe 200 passwords. I can’t remember all those obviously […] It’s probably better to do fairly long passwords that are phrases or something like that that you can remember than to try to get people to do lots of funny characters.

Currently, most authenticators make users create a combination of numbers, letters and symbols for a “safe” password. However, Mr. Burr has stated recently that he believes making passwords more complicated is NOT the best way to protect your information. He now recommends longer, simpler, and more unique phrases—and, apparently, so do the recently updated NIST standards.

So, what are you to do? Go with the tried and true methods of the past ten years, or step out with the new password approach? In our upcoming blog posts, we’ll delve into this issue, presenting various password rules and seeing how they compare with the latest suggestions from security experts. It promises to be a very L1v3LY D38473.

Stay tuned…

Shahara Ruth

OMG, my refrigerator got hacked!

August 10, 2017 at 9:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Years ago I started worrying about getting a virus on my laptop. More recently I began worrying about getting a virus on my iPhone. As of 2017, my new fear is that my smart refrigerator can send spam – or worse.

Last year a photograph of a smart refrigerator displaying an adult site on the display floor of a major retailer went viral. (I tried to find and credit the original source; it was posted on John McAfee’s twitter feed but it’s not clear whether it’s his photo.)

BadRatedFridge

We live in a golden age. You can change the temperature in your house from a remote location by simply using your phone to access your Internet-connected thermostat in your home. But who else can connect to this device?

HandsOnLabs

Connected devices or smart devices, referred to as The Internet of Things (IoT) devices, have simplified our lives more than we could ever imagine – or so their manufacturers claim. IoT devices have moved beyond home alarm systems to control home automation components like electric lights, HVAC systems, robotic vacuums, ovens, refrigerators, freezers, and even water faucets.

IoT devices are used in medical devices such as heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, pacemakers, and hospital equipment. IoT devices in automobiles send and receive information to the device manufacturer or update the equipment components. They let us know remotely if our brakes are worn, if it’s time for an oil change, or if it’s time to change our cabin filter. We’ve come a long way from the diagnostic port on a 1973 VW which could tell you if your alternator was charging your battery properly.

In short, IoT is big business, and everybody wants to cash in. IBM has rolled out a bunch of commercials promoting the IBM Watson IoT.

If you have watched a TV show or movie recently, it seems that any nerdy character with a bad haircut, an unfortunate tattoo, and an earring who can speak a complete sentence without using the words “like” and “you know” can hack into every security camera or device in a building. That’s fiction, but what about reality? IoT devices are notorious for lacking integrated security. Most of them just have a userid and password as credentials.

NetgearSetup

Criminals, identity thieves, or just plain pranksters would love to disarm your alarm system, steal your information, or just make your life miserable by hacking into an IoT device. An IoT device can be compromised in two ways:

  • An IoT device can be told to do what it is not supposed to do. A networked component in your smart TV could become part of a botnet attack. As hackers demonstrated to Jeep, an IoT device in an automobile may be hacked so that attackers can disable the power braking system.
  • IoT devices can be told to do what they are supposed to do, but at the wrong frequency. These attacks could include turning on the water or the lights in your house at the wrong time, flooding your basement or leaving it well-lit for thieves.

Every device or software may have flaws. A flaw that nobody else knows about is referred to as a “zero-day exploit.” According to a WikiLeaks report, the CIA has a set of tools to hack IoT devices via “zero-day exploits.” One zero-day exploit lets you activate the microphone on a smart TV or other device to remotely record conversations. According to the report, the CIA has many zero-day exploits for Android and Apple iOS devices. Who else has this set of tools? A government agency could use them to spy on their own citizens, or a rival nation, or even disrupt an election of another country. I am looking at you, Vladimir Putin.

VladimirPutin

According to Gartner Inc, there will be over 20 billion IoT devices by 2020. There is consumer demand for these IoT devices. Consumers want it simple and fast, and device manufacturers do not want to make these device overly complicated out of the fear that consumers won’t buy them. Adding additional security to these devices is not generally in the device manufacturers’ best interest if they want to increase sales. However, technology always changes. Devices, unlike computers, rarely have the ability to accept a patch or update. WiFi routers may have firmware updates, but not all Internet-connected devices do. This leaves the consumer at a security disadvantage. Worse, it leaves them open to hacking.

What can the consumer do?

Most users do not change the default security on devices. WiFi routers’ passwords are rarely changed out of the box by the average consumer; nor are the passwords of security cameras. If you think the password is like your front door, you should lock your front door, and for heaven’s sake, change the default password.

You should try to practice good password hygiene.

  • Avoid reusing credentials – Use different passwords and user IDs for your different devices. How in the world can I keep up with all these passwords? I can barely remember my daughter’s birthday or the security code for my ATM card. You can get a password manager app and install it on your phone.
  • Change passwords frequently – Passwords can become stale. Your roommate that moved out two months ago knows your WiFi password, and so does his ex-girlfriend. It might be time to change a few passwords.
  • Make the passwords strong – The passwords should be at least 15 characters. You should have a mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters. You can make the passwords out of a phrase, song lyric, or something that you can remember. For example, take a look at the following:
    • Ih8DaNew0rle@ns$aintz translation ”I hate the New Orleans Saints”
    • Its@Sm@11W0rld@fterA11 translation “It’s a small world after all”
    • A7thN@tionArmy#C0u1dNtH0ldMeB@ck translation “A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back”
    • WhyD0e$MyC@tP00p1nD@Corner translation “Why does my cat poop in the corner?”

It’s a given that the average consumer might not consider security a priority with an IoT device. However, the IoT goes beyond consumer devices. If a device can be accessed via Bluetooth, WiFi, or any other wireless technology, it is vulnerable and could be compromised – and that includes crucial healthcare devices. Medical device maker Johnson and Johnson had to reveal to over 100,000 patients that a hacker could exploit one of their insulin pumps. We are not talking about refrigerators and security cameras anymore. We are now talking about people’s lives and well being. It may no longer be a spy-novel plot device to suppose an assassin could remotely speed up a pacemaker or stop a medical implant from working.

A financial institution spends a significant portion of its IT budget on security. Healthcare providers only spend about 6% of their IT budget on security, and it is usually applied after the device is designed rather than being integrated into the device.

Who knows if there is a zero-day exploit in a medical device right now? It may take years for manufacturers to find them all. Who knows if a hacker found the exploit first? If it’s difficult for an automobile manufacturer to replace an electric window motor in a mandated recall, it will be extremely difficult to replace a medical device that has been installed and then recalled due to IoT insecurity. Technology has gone down a road that can bring us great prosperity and better health. We need to make sure that the potholes are paved and road is secure from bandits.

Until next time,

George Monsalvatge

Join us for a FREE Transcender webinar: Protecting your personal information online

July 14, 2017 at 8:22 am | Posted in Transcender news | Leave a comment
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Your private, personal information should be just that. Unfortunately, in today’s cyber world, your personal data has become an asset to be bought, sold, or stolen. Despite using complex passwords or securing your accounts, your data is always at risk from unscrupulous individuals or organizations. A new industry of cyber-middlemen don’t even want to hack your data themselves – they’ll just steal it and sell it to the people who do.

Industry expert George Monsalvatge will explain how your personal data is a monetary asset for both legal and illegal businesses. He’ll go over strategies to help protect your personal information from hackers, as well as explain the common and not-so-obvious tricks that scammers use to gain access to your information. He’ll discuss the ways that your “digital data profile” is inferred from your public and not-so-public online behaviors. Finally, he’ll mention the careers available today in the field of cyber security and how you can prepare for them.

Learn more about protecting yourself from data thieves by attending this FREE webinar, “Protecting Your Personal Information.” The webinar will be presented Wednesday, July 26th, from 12-1, EDT.

To register for the event please use this link: Webinar Registration Link

This is one presentation that you don’t want to miss!

Logical Operations’ CyberSec First Responder (CFR-210) Certification Is Now U.S. DoD-8570 Compliant

July 7, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Posted in cybersecurity, Knowledge, Logical Operations, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Logical Operations has announced that the CyberSec First Responder (CFR) certification is now approved by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) as DoD Directive 8570 compliant. CFR is now an approved Baseline Certification for the CSSP Analyst and CSSP Incident Responder categories, and verifies the skills necessary to perform these job functions.

The CyberSec First Responder certification exam (CFR-210) tests the cybersecurity practitioner’s ability to prevent, detect, analyze, and respond to security breaches in the organization.  Transcender is the authorized practice test provider for the CFR-210 and provides the CFR-210 practice exam, which includes 260 practice questions and over 300 flash cards covering the exam’s four main objectives:

  • Analyze Threats
  • Design Secure Computing and Network Environments
  • Proactively Defend Networks
  • Respond/Investigate Cybersecurity Incidents

According to Joe Mignano, VP of Channels for Logical Operations, the DoD approval “allows individuals fulfilling crucial information assurance functions for the United States government or their contractors to validate their Analyst and Incident Responder job skills with our certification program.”

The CFR certification already met the ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 standard and was accredited by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) in 2016.

Logical Operations also provides a CFR training course, developed to prepare IT professionals with the knowledge, ability, and skills necessary to provide for the defense of those information systems in a cybersecurity context – including protection, detection, analysis, investigation, and response processes.

U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570 provides guidance and procedures for the training, certification, and management of all DoD employees involved with Information Assurance functions in their line of duty.  Other providers of certifications that meet DoD Directive 8570 are Cisco, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), EC-Council, International Information Systems Security Certifications Consortium (ISC)2, Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), and Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC).

 

Microsoft’s long-running Windows Server 2008 certification to retire July 2017

June 27, 2017 at 8:20 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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A whopping nine years after its introduction, Microsoft is drawing the certification program for Windows Server 2008 administration to a close. As of July 31, 2017, you will no longer be able to take the exams or earn the MCSA: Windows Server 2008.

The retiring exams are:

  • 70-640: TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring (Transcender practice exam available here)
  • 70-642: TS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring (Transcender practice exam available here)
  • 70-646: Pro: Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator (Transcender practice exam available here)

If you only need one or two of the exams to earn your MCSA in Windows Server 2008, then don’t delay. Earning that credential will enable you to sit for exam 70-417: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012 and upgrade to the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 in one step. However, a number of earlier certifications will also qualify you for this exam, so be sure to review the list of prerequisites first if you still have two exams to go on the MCSA: 2008.

After July 31, the MCSA in Windows Server 2008 will join the list of legacy certifications. It will still be a valid credential for your resume and will appear on your transcripts in the Active section.

MCSA 2008

At the same time as it shutters the MCSA: Server 2008 certification, Windows will also close down the 70-694 exam, Virtualizing Enterprise Desktops and Apps. This exam focuses on Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) Service Pack 2 (SP2), Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) as part of Windows Server 2012 R2, and earns a credit toward an MCP certification.

Happy certifying!

-the Transcender Team

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