Transferable Skills–Bob Sweigart

Transferable skills are those that utilize any of these examples of marketable skills for a resume. Think about what work or volunteer experiences have shaped you and think about how that experience transfers to a resume.

Many times I am asked by a student or graduate if it is important to include professional experience that is not related to their field of study on their resume. My advice is don’t be afraid to include positions that aren’t directly related to your field of study, especially if you have limited work experience.  You can use this experience to demonstrate what we call “transferable skills” that can really upgrade your resume.

Some examples of transferable skills would include, meeting deadlines, ability to delegate and plan, results oriented, customer service oriented, supervision of others, increasing sales or efficiency, instructing others, good time management, solving problems, managing money/budgets, managing people, meeting the public, organizing people, organizing/managing projects, team player, written and oral communications and working independently. So where does that type of knowledge and experience actually come from? These skills can be honed and developed in many ways including after school programs you have participated in, childcare work, volunteer work, school projects, and even as a result of hobbies that you enjoy. One of the best ways to understand the organization of these skills is to put them into categories similar to those published by Princeton University. Think back on all of the past responsibilities that you have had, even things you did for your relatives, and how those responsibilities could be perceived in a formal work environment.

Look at the job description, responsibilities and required experience and think about what you may have done or learned that could be applied. If a job is looking for someone who has managerial experience and you have never been a manager, but you have supervised a group of volunteers or worked as a lead on an important college project, that might be a way for you show that you have the experience they are looking for.

However, if you feel that your transferable skills are not as good as you want them to be, my advice is do NOT overstate the skills that you do have. If an interviewer asks you details pertaining to a skill that you have listed and you don’t have any answers, your interview will soon be over. If you list that you have managerial experience when in reality you worked alone, that won’t go over well. Take the time to work on your speaking skills and be your own promoter instead!

“Take the time to work on your speaking skills and be your own promoter instead!”

It is often important that you can identify and give examples of the transferable skills that you have developed — this will go a long way to persuading prospective employers that you are right for the job. Don’t be afraid to apply for a job if you do not have the exact experience they are asking for because you could still be the exact candidate that they are looking for.

For more career oriented advice, visit the Career Services staff at Coleman University. All of our current students and alumni are eligible to receive Career Services assistance and we have many resources to help our community find long lasting careers. Call 1 858 499 0202 today!

ENVI Makes a Splash at Prestigious Robosub Competition

We often speak of ENVI and their indoor drone testing facility located on the Coleman Campus as a major hub of development for autonomous flying. However there is more “under the hood” at ENVI than that. This year marks the second in a row that the team of volunteers, students, and mentors at ENVI has competed in the 2017 International RoboSub Competition which showcases the best in RoboSub development from across the globe. From July 24th-30th colleges and universities from as far away as China, India, and Russia also competed for the honor of showcasing the best in RoboSub technology.

Every year this competition is hosted at the SSC Pacific TRANSDEC Pool in San Diego, and the pool is supervised by the U.S. Navy Seals who dive to retrieve the subs and move them to their starting positions. The course must be traversed by the RoboSub through various obstacles and challenges within 30 minutes, and contestants have the ability to start over as many times as needed. The big catch is that the time does not start over when a team decides to go back to the starting line. The sub must be retrieved by a Navy Seal diver and brought back to the start in order to try the course again. Luckily teams get to rotate time in the pool before the competition begins in order to make changes and begin to strategize their way through the course. Despite a slightly rough start, over the course of the week long competition against 43 other teams, the team at ENVI was able to qualify in the final round on Saturday and put their name on the leaderboard. The top three schools this year were Cornell University (USA/First Place), Far Eastern Federal University/Institute for Marine Technology (Russia/Second Place), and the National University of Singapore (Singapore/Third Place). Each of the top teams received a cash prize and international recognition in the world of autonomous underwater vehicles. However prizes were not just awarded to the best contestants. Other teams had the chance to win monetary prizes for “Best Static Entry”, “Best PR”, “Best New Entry”, “Best Presentation”, and “Sportsmanship”.

For two years in a row the ENVI team was able to qualify with their robosub and next year should be just as exciting. In the world of robosub development there are many possibilities for improvement and innovation, and we at Coleman are looking forward to seeing what ENVI has in store for their next competition. For more information on the Robonation competition visit their website at http://www.robonation.org/competition/robosub.

Effective Leaders are Constant Learners: Bob Sweigart

Effective leaders are not afraid to learn something new and keep their minds active through professional development and training. It is important for any professional to be willing to learn whenever they can to improve their work culture.

 As a student or graduate of a technology focused University, it is crucial for you to show not only a mastery of your craft, but also that you have the hard skills needed to be a successful employee and peer. When you review a job description, you are going to assume the company wants you to do A, B and C and have X, Y and Z skills. While it is essential to have these hard skills at your disposal, you need to show the ability to learn new skills. Being the best choice for a position is more than what you have achieved on paper; it is also what you are willing to do as a professional to continue to be the best.

The first step in becoming a successful professional is being able to read between the lines to see past what your employer is asking of you, and understand what you can do that isn’t asked for, but could potentially be of value to the company. As an example, during a college internship, a student was tasked to complete a project and realized that there was software that could be used to assist with the effort. The hurdle was that the proposed software required that the student learn a programming language she was not familiar with. Since the student knew the program would greatly improve the chances of completing the project successfully, she took it upon herself to learn the new programming language. It was not just showing the initiative to try a new way of doing things that made this student employee an example.Being excited to learn something new that would not only benefit the employee, but also the company, is an example of what a great employee should be.

Demonstrating you are constantly learning is crucial in the field of technology because as we all know technology is constantly updating and changing itself. In an article published by Inc., the five best practices for learning while on the job include understanding how things work in your office, talking issues out with others who have more experience, and simply throwing yourself entirely into something new that you have yet to encounter (Inc., 2014). The Harvard Business Review writes that leaders are better when they are also learners. In order to be effective as a leader, the avenues of creativity and innovation have to be open and that means bringing in new perspectives and protocols (Harvard Business Review, 2015). Learning does not stop once you exit a classroom; to be a high performing employee and a powerful leader you should look for opportunities to learn in every challenge that comes your way.

Thank you to Bob Sweigart, our Director of Career Services for his contribution to the Coleman blog. For more Career oriented advice, resume building assistance, help signing up for e-Hired, and interview prep, visit the Career Services staff at Coleman University or email careerservices@coleman.edu for more information.

 

 

Faculty Spotlight: Anthony Le (Game Development)

What did your parents say when you told them that your plans were for your future? Were they happy about your decision, or did you change your mind all on your own? One of the benefits of obtaining a degree in technology is that your skills and career path are destined for a long life. Your passions are what shape your future, and that rings true no matter the circumstances. That is the theme for our Faculty Spotlight this month as we sit down with Anthony Le, a senior Game Development and Software Development instructor for Coleman University, who started out with a very different career path in mind.
Enrolling as a medical student at UCSD, Le realized that he was not meant to enter the field of medicine. After a thrilling class in physics, Le found that he was more interested in the mechanical way that the world worked, rather than the biological. From there he began his career in technology through computer programming and artificial intelligence. We asked him about his life in technology and his passion for teaching at Coleman University.

1. What was it like moving to the US?
We moved out to the United States in the 1975 after the Vietnam War when I was nine years old. At the time my father worked for a shipping company in the US and the first place we were brought to was Camp Pendleton. So all of my family came to the US at the same time. We settled in Bayou la Batre, Alabama because that’s where my father’s shipping company was based. It was also the setting for the movie Forest Gump. At the time the southern states were very anti-communist, and my family was deeply Catholic, so they welcomed us with open arms and we had a better time adjusting. We went to Alabama, and I had the BEST time. All of these people, our neighbors, town folks, would come over every day and give us stuff and check in to see if we were okay, so my experience in Alabama was wonderful. However my Dad didn’t like it as much as I did, because he wanted to be back in California with the rest of his family, so he rented a big U-Haul and drove everybody back. That was 1976, and my family has lived here in San Diego ever since. I went to Serra High School in Tierrasanta and graduated at Mt. Carmel in Rancho Penasquitos. I was yearbook photographer there and won several drafting and photography awards from the Del Mar Fair.

2. So you stayed in California for college and went to UCSD. Is that were you became interested in technology?
I love UCSD. It is a great school and much bigger than it was when I was there. That feeling of being on a college campus, making friends in the dorms—it was like its own city. I changed my major several times while I was there. My family wanted me to be a doctor and get a good job, so I started out with bio-chemistry and I quickly discovered that I didn’t like it, but I loved my computer science classes. Turns out one of the faculty members at UCSD was a family friend and he was teaching physics, so he got me into that and I became a TA for his program and for the computer lab. Physics simulations were really my first computing job at UCSD. I fell in love with computer programming after that and changed my major to Cognitive Science, which was a nice mix of biology and the physiological makeup of the human body. I learned and dreamt about how those mental processes can one day be emulated with computing. So that was around the time when an Artificial Intelligence major was introduced at UCSD, and I jumped on that program and that was my final change of major. I also have minors in philosophy, psychology, and astronomy (because I love studying the planets).

3. What were you like as a student?
I was a very active student. Besides being a TA in the computer lab, I was a member of the Vietnamese Student Association, and I became president and tried to get our club more involved with other club events on campus. I organized an International Volleyball Player’s club and organized a Hands Across UCSD event for the campus, and it was really tough to get all of the logistics together, but it was a really fun to try to get everyone involved. By that time my sister and my cousin were attending UCSD, so it became a family affair. Overall, UCSD was an amazing experience, and that is where I cultivated my love of learning.

4. Once you graduated with your degree in A. I. where did you go? Did you create robots?
I wanted to work in computing, and my relative had a chain of computer stores, so I started working for them when I graduated from college. I was in charge of writing programs for diagnostic and performance testing and for keeping tabs on all of the inventory and OCR (optical character recognition) programs used to process all the orders. Unfortunately, this chain did not win out over its competition, so my relative moved into a different field—buying and selling prescription medications from Canada to patients in the US. So I wrote all the programs to scrape and accumulate all of the data on prescription medications (this was before Big Data was around) and price match for the lowest prices. Then the government changed the law and we could no longer sell lower-priced prescription medication from abroad. With my 20 plus years of programming experience, I ended up getting into teaching through my wife at the time, who knew the Vice President of Coleman University was looking for programmers who had real experience and wanted to teach. I came to Coleman when the Game Development department was still in the process of creation, so I was involved in writing the courses for Game Development. We had to write six classes and establish a certification program. I wrote Course 2 and Course 5, which were about Engine design and 3D rendering (for networked first-person shooter (FPS) and third-person shooter (TPS)). The algorithms for 3D rendering use the same technology and mathematical calculating processes as Artificial Intelligence and neural network programs. It’s the summation of a lot of values and the manipulation of numbers simultaneously. It is a lot of complex ideas, and that is the challenge of teaching: getting students to relate to the material and understand it, so they will be excited to learn.

5. Did you find that you had a passion for teaching after you began at Coleman?
Turns out, from all of my experience as an eldest sibling and as a TA in college, this is my calling. It fits me, because I can explore what I love to learn, and using what I know about AI and how the brain works thus far, to facilitate and transfer that knowledge to another person, using a many sensory modalities as possible. For me this was a fateful event, and I went with it. That was over 7 years ago. Now, I am focusing on helping our students learn physical computing, like how to program robots, sensors, GUIs, and different hardware devices to enhance their job placement. Our students are so excited to learn and Game Programming is very competitive, so I am working on introducing physical computing using Python and C into Game Development and Software Development. Even though I love games and created my first game using the VIC20 and Commodore 64, I am not a gamer per se, I am more into computing. I want to bring more programming into the Game Development program. When a student is hands on and sees his or her creation, and it’s something that’s tangible, that is the experience we want. Computing is a tool with a specific language and you need to understand the syntax to express how you want to control the technology.

6. What do you look for in a potential student at Coleman University? What advice do you have for a new Coleman student?
What I love ideally, is excitement. When students are excited, they are learning and progress goes up exponentially. My advice is perseverance. You cannot learn everything in one try. It is a process and especially with programming, you have to do it in many different ways and solve many different errors. In solving errors you learn something new. You can read about it and watch it, but until you do it and spend the time fixing it, you will not actually learn. The more you put yourself through this process the better prepared you will be, so use repetition and that will help you excel and gain experience. Education is an investment, so I would advise anyone who is learning a new skill to keep in mind that commitment to an investment. I will always give students a chance to solve things on their own, and then I step in to help by providing strategies and hints. I often discuss the various ways that people solve the same problem, and my motto is if you don’t agree, at least try it once, and if you realize you like it you can incorporate it into your own style. Be open minded.

 

We want to thank Mr. Le for taking the time to sit with us and discuss his passion for teaching and computer science.  If you are interested in pursuing a technology-focused degree and learn from instructors such as Anthony Le, do not hesitate to call us. Classes start every ten weeks and financial aid is available for those who qualify. Call (858) 499-0202 today!

 

Coleman is Ranked #1 in San Diego!

Recently our University was pleased to find that we had been ranked number one in San Diego for Cybersecurity degrees by Universities.com. If you did not already know, Coleman has had the longest running Cybersecurity (formerly Network Security) degree program in San Diego. Since 1963 when we first began our journey as The Automation Institute, our organization has been at the center of technology development and we have graduated many distinguished alumni over our 54 years in Southern California. From Data Processing to Cybersecurity we have come a long way by following the trends and seeing the potential in every student that walks through our door.  Our alumni have gone on to work for SPAWAR, Cisco, Kyocera, and many other incredible companies that are the leaders in technology development. With our lifetime Career Services access and small class sizes our students have been able to create lucrative careers in exciting fields. More importantly, they have brought integrity to the Coleman name and we are proud to continue to provide a top Cybersecurity education for San Diego. Our mission statement is “To deliver relevant education that prepares individuals for technology focused careers, while providing an environment where they may develop to their full potential” and we will remain dedicated to that mission long into our future. This is exciting news for our university and we are so happy to share it with our followers and alumni!!

Faculty Spotlight: Tommy Mitchell (Game Development)

This month we wanted to showcase another of our amazing instructors on our blog, and our spotlight is on Tommy Mitchell. A Game Development instructor with many years of direct experience in the field, Mitchell’s knowledge of the game industry has become a huge advantage for Coleman University students. Having been a fan of gaming since he was six years old, it is more than safe to say that this subject is a passion for him; one that he shares with our students.
We sat down with Tommy to discuss how he got started in Game Development and what it takes to be successful in the industry.

1. How did you get into Game Design and Development?
Well that’s a bit of a long story. I have played video games since I was 6 years old so I’ve always been pretty active with that. I used to play about 2-3 days per week and it just became an obsession. However traditional art became my forte. When I graduated from high school, I had a partial scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Texas for their art program. As I was going through my courses I was approached by a professor who had recently established a game design program on campus called Guild Hall and she wanted me to join. I went through those courses for two years which put me in the pipeline for a game development degree. So I have a traditional art background, but I went from painting canvases to digital art and sculpting.

2. How did you apply your degree after you graduated?
Once I graduated I was called up to work for a small gaming company in Austin Texas called Midway. During that same time I was hoping to pursue more education in game design, so I applied to schools in San Diego that offered higher degrees. Once I had been accepted, my company offered to hire me back once I had finished my education. So I moved to San Diego in the hopes that I would have a job waiting for me back in Texas once I was done. I attended ITT Tech for their Digital Entertainment and Game Design program. I received my bachelors degree, while also doing freelance work. In 2009 I was lucky enough to get an interview with Sony and I was hired on as a game tester. I did game testing for about a year and a half.

3. Wow. So you lived every teenage gamer’s dream then?
A lot of people think that with game testing you’re just constantly testing games and having fun, but it is serious software testing. You have to look for bugs and issues, marking their coordinates in the game, and making sure that you are sending that information to the developers. Your job is to find as many ways as possible to break the game. After a year of testing I was promoted to being a character artist. The first game that I worked on for character design was God of War 3, just small portions  of the background design, which was really fun. Then I was put onto the teams for MLB The Show, and Star Hawk. After a couple more promotions I was given a project management role, around 2011 for a game called PS All Stars. At that same time I started working at Coleman University.

4. So how did you become an instructor at Coleman?
Once I had graduated with my bachelors I was interested in getting my master’s degree, so I came to Coleman to pursue my degree in Information Systems Management. I was going to school and working at the same time. I graduated in July of 2010, and continued working at Sony. After a big project that I was working on was finished, I stopped in to talk to Career Services and catch up with my instructors. I found out that Coleman had started a Game Design (as it was called at the time) program and they were looking for instructors. Career Services took my information and forwarded it to the dean of the program, who called me ten minutes later asking for me to come in and interview. Two weeks later I was a full-time instructor for Coleman.

5. What classes are you teaching now?
I instruct Level Design 1, Intro to Digital Sculpting, the Programming Capstone, and Fundamentals of Game Design. Mainly I teach students the basic structures of game design. It is a very fast and competitive career path to go into, so you need a strong knowledge of every aspect of design.

6. On that note, what are the misconceptions that incoming students have about getting into the Game Development field?
Whenever we have student orientations I am the first person to tell students that if you think that you’ll just walk into a studio and start testing video games, you should throw that idea right out the window. This program is not about that. You are learning a skill set that is very complicated. Even when you’re done with a class meeting, you still have to do more work on your own outside of class. The industry’s first question in an interview will be “what else have you done?” You can create a portfolio that includes your class assignments but companies do not focus on that, they want to see how you applied your skills to an outside project. You need to develop more than programming skills. Game Developers have increased hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, and problem solving skills due to the requirements of this industry. In this industry you will be asked to work long hours and even work overnight to meet deadlines and finish projects, so putting in more hours for professional development will only benefit you. In our program there are really two tracks. The first is more of a programmer role, and the other is the designer role. Each one takes a lot of time to master and you have to do it all of the time, which includes participating in game focused events. Luckily for our students Coleman hosts the Global Game Jam every year, and that has a huge impact. Organizations look for that specifically, as well as your online presence through LinkedIn and Twitch. Networking is a lot more involved in job placement than people realize. Passion is important in this field and students need to have that in order to succeed. I would also recommend that students be prepared to freelance while they are looking for work. Once a project is over you may not have a residual income coming in so be prepared by getting into other projects ahead of time. Be willing to learn as many skill sets as possible. Ask peers who may have a better grasp than you to help you learn more. As long as you communicate the desire to learn, people will be willing to teach you.

7. What are your opinions on the rise in online celebrity gamers, or the professional gamers that compete in world competitions?
Well, social media and online exposure is actually a huge boost to developers looking to get hired by a company. These feeds and uploads are being watched 24/7 by companies looking for new hires. If a studio likes a candidate they will be brought in for testing or interviews. Having a vlog or Twitch channel is a big help for getting yourself noticed. I had two students who were invited to work with famous game vloggers and were flown to a vlogging convention in San Francisco because of their popularity online.

8. Considering your passion for art and your background in it, what are some of the recent games that have come out that you feel are visually/artistically incredible in their style?
I’m going to be a little biased with my answer. I would have to say two of the games that I actually worked on within the last five years. I was an Associate Producer for The Last of Us and I really loved the artwork that was developed for that. Even though I was brought in around the third phase, it was my first big title as Associate Producer and I was freaked out because I was working on that and teaching at the same time! My second choice didn’t do so well commercially, but I really liked Order 1886. I consider that one to be a steampunk version of Van Helsing. You were acting as a werewolf hunter and it was almost like its own cinematic movie. I helped design some of the Demon Dogs that were within the game. The other game that I can think of is Unfinished Swan, you are playing as a little boy who falls into an open world through a book which is all white. As you work your way through the game, colors and structures start to appear and you create your world that way. The first color that is initiated is black so you can create figures and outlines then add color as you go. We tell students when they are applying to a company and want to showcase their best work with a demo, that if you can turn down the volume and run through it and still understand the story no matter where you are, then you have done a great job. I look for that specifically when I am hiring for studios.

9. Can you tell me the most important traits that you look for in a potential Game Development student?
Definitely, I look for a student who is passionate for Game Development and who is an open book. They don’t come into the classroom thinking that they have everything handled, that they only have to learn to do a couple of things. You have to be very motivated and hungry to achieve your goals because this field is very competitive. You have to realize that you and 20-30,000 other people are applying for the same jobs at any given time. Challenge yourself every day to get better; you can’t stay in the same place. You have to reinvent yourself, and the best thing about being in the game industry is that it is not hard to find something new to learn every day. There is no ceiling on what you are capable of in a work position, because the technology in this field is constantly changing so you have to change with it. Confidence is also really important, being able to look someone in the eye and provide straightforward answers will help you stand out from the crowd in an interview and in class.

10. Last question: tell me about your favorite project that a student or group has produced at Coleman?
It was a capstone group in 2014. It was a very unique group with plenty of colorful personalities that also had a lot of motivation and passion for what they ultimately wanted to do. They created an amazing 2D game, with almost every aspect being hand drawn and conceptualized by this group. The project lead was a really shy and laid back student so I purposefully put him in a leadership position. Within hours of their first meeting they came together and completed their concept. This group came in every day that they could and worked on this project, which was incredible. Once they had a finished product, they published it online and received a lot of praise for their work from other developers and programmers. I use this group as an example to motivate students, because it is this type of project that they should be striving for. The capstone is a great way for students to really figure out what it is that they want to do.

If you love gaming and creative art, think about joining our Game Development program! Tommy is just one of the amazing instructors that we have in the program and there are opportunities here for you to grow and establish an exciting career. Call Coleman today at (858) 499-0202 for more information and to schedule a tour! 

Ransomware Global Strike: The “WannaCry” Attack

 

 

In the height of the westward expansion into California, the “Wild West” became not only a place, but a term that described an entire cultural phenomenon. What made the west so wild were the apparent lawless territories that saw hostile takeovers, train and carriage robberies, kidnapping, and ransoming. Over time the west was settled and developed into new states with their own laws and regulations. The wild part of the west was no longer a threat, at least in the physical world. Today we have a new and almost lawless place, however this territory only exists online. Though there are plenty of companies and programs that work 24/7 to ensure safety online, there are still opportunities for malicious attacks to be carried out. The robberies and takeovers that plagued the westward expansion have now become digital.

A typical scam that you will see online is the email phishing that we talked about in a previous blog. These scams can be easy to avoid as long as the recipient is not engaging with the email or providing any personal information. Unfortunately that does not always protect online users from being attacked for their information. Ransomware has become a bigger threat that is hard to trace and causes an incredible amount of damage. Essentially it is software that takes all of a victim’s personal files and information and holds it for a ransom that must be paid. Recently a large ransomware attack has become global news, with at least 150 countries experiencing the same attack. The most affected victims were the small businesses, universities, and hospitals that were unable to protect themselves and had to either pay the ransom or risk losing all of their data (CNN Money). Reports from China, Germany, Japan, Russia, the US, and Spain confirmed that there had been attacks from the same ransomware and that they had taken the necessary precautions to try and stop its spreading.

Through a patch in the Microsoft Windows software, the ransomware “WannaCrypt” was able to target specific users and take over their systems. Ransomware works as a lock box for your data, keeping you from accessing any of your files or personal information unless you agree to the terms and conditions set up by the creator. Victims were told to use Bitcoin to pay for the return of their files (Microsoft). Many of the Windows users who were targeted were not using an updated, or a licensed version of this software making them even more vulnerable to patches that could not be fixed in the Microsoft updates. In the wake of this viral attack, Microsoft released a statement outlining the efforts they were making to avoid these attacks in the future. However, they also called on the public to become more aware of their own responsibility in updating their computers and backing up their information with an external drive and cloud software. Proactive actions are the key to being safe online. This idea of being proactive is also what stopped the ransomware attack from continuing to spread. A young cybersecurity student in the UK decided to look more closely at the software behind the attack and discovered a kill switch. The malware was using “a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to – just as if it was looking up any website – and if the request comes back and shows that the domain is live, the kill switch takes effect and the malware stops spreading” (The Guardian). Once the student located the domain name, all he had to do was buy it. The domain cost $10.69 and was immediately registering thousands of connections every second; once it was purchased the malware was stopped in its tracks. Additionally once this domain was bought he was able to determine the IP addresses attached to the malware and reported them to the authorities. Though this was a great victory, in the world of Cybersecurity it is just a temporary fix. There are just as many entities creating malware as there are cybersecurity experts trying to stop them. What makes this malware attack so dangerous is that it can be replicated and reused at any time.

Backing up files, or storing information in the Cloud, and regularly updating your software are the best measures you can take to protect yourself from ransomware. As we mentioned in a previous blog on email phishing, it is imperative that you avoid any email from a company or bank that is asking for your personal information via email.

If you are interested in becoming a cybersecurity expert yourself, consider a degree from Coleman University. Perhaps it could be you that stops the next big cyber-attack in its tracks! Call (858) 499-0202 for information on our technology focused programs.

 

Phishing Isn’t a Sport

Six tips from Coleman University on how to keep your email safe from phishing scams.

Cybersecurity is a hot button topic lately. With the rumors of Russian infiltration into the United States Presidential election, and the exposure of private emails and photos onto sites such as WikiLeaks, the privacy that we covet online is becoming increasingly endangered. With the recent phishing scam going through Google Docs, it is imperative to remember the necessary steps to take online in order to ensure that you are not a target of a scam. First, let’s review what online scamming/phishing looks like, and the ways to spot one.

The most likely scam that you will encounter is a phishing email that can be sent to your accounts. Phishing is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a scam by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly.” An email may look legitimate with logos and graphics, but that does not mean that it should be taken at face value. For example, banks have taken a stance against phishing by only allowing account actions to be completed through their own websites or at a physical bank location. Your private bank will never ask you for passwords, social security numbers, account numbers, routing numbers, or any other private information via email (Telegraph.co.uk). Be on the lookout for emails that inform you of account changes or updates; if you did not authorize changes, immediately report this issue. The best course of action to protect yourself if you feel that you have been targeted by a scam is to document as much as you can with photos, emails, and phone calls. If an email comes into your inbox that seems suspicious call the company that supposedly sent it and ask about the email. Taking the initiative to validate the email before responding is one of the best ways to protect yourself from online threats. So what happened in regards to the Google Docs scam that went viral last week?

Gmail users were sent a notification from a known contact to click on a shared Google Doc. In order to access the document, the users had to authorize a transfer of contact information to the sender. Since the sender was perceived to be a friend or family member, there was little hesitation to allow this authorization. Routing the doc through an unauthorized Google Docs app prompted the Gmail user to allow the application to take control of their email information as a “management” tool (BGR.com). As a result, any personal information attached to contacts was downloaded and stored. Google reported shortly after this spamming went viral that over one million accounts were potentially compromised and the unauthorized application was shut down, as well as the email accounts that were the source of the scam. Information from email accounts linked to sites such as iTunes, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook were the most vulnerable to this scam. Any users who had encountered this phishing email were asked to change their emails and passwords immediately. An interesting thing to note is that a majority of these emails were addressed to “hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh@mailinator.com” (Forbes.com).

One of the first things that you should look for when it comes to identifying phishing emails is the sender’s name, the name that they have addressed the email to, and the language they have used. If there are typos, or if the language is not clear, that should be your first indication that the email in question is not valid. Most often the email address of the sender will look like an official domain, but there could be minor differences such as a period between words, or a domain extension from another country such as “.ru” or “br”, which can be hard to miss. If links are provided in the body of the email, hover your cursor over them and the destination for the link should pop up. If an IP address comes up instead of the domain name, then the link could be fraudulent. Another item to look for is the tone of the message. If you receive an email that has a threat such as closure of an account, that tone is your best indication that the message is fraudulent. A good source of examples for phishing is the Microsoft website, which also lists the information for phishing phone calls and how to report phishing activity.

Taking that extra moment to evaluate an email is your best line of defense in keeping your private information safe. Make sure to update your email passwords and delete unwanted or fraudulent emails as soon as possible. If you are interested in how online security works, and want to learn more about protecting online identities think about the possibility of a career in Cybersecurity. This field is growing fast and will be a lucrative degree option long into the future. Call Coleman today to schedule an appointment and speak with an admissions counselor at (858) 499-0202 Monday through Friday.

 

 

Reflection on a March: The Fight for Science

This post was written by Norbert Kubilus, the President and CEO of Coleman University. We will be posting more guest blogs from our staff and faculty throughout the year so please subscribe for more. 

Earth Day 2017 was a wonderful day for a march in San Diego. I joined thousands of scientists and engineers, university professors and K-12 teachers, researchers and laboratory technicians, and people of all ages and from all walks of life in support of scientific research in the United States … and to protest proposed research funding cuts by the current administration. Organizers estimated that 15,000 people were at the San Diego March for Science start at the Civic Center. I would not be surprised if there were over 20,000 of us marching that day in San Diego, joining maybe a million more across the United States.

Hand made signs were the order of the day. Many signs reflected themes seen on signs across the nation. Others were truly local San Diego, which has one of the largest scientific research communities in the United States. One sign really struck me as we walked down Broadway to the Embarcadero. It read: “I have never seen polio … thanks to science.” The young woman carrying was from the Salk Institute and certainly born after polio became a disease of history in the United States. She never experienced a polio scare, and she could not know the memory she triggered for me. The March for Science 2017 quickly became very personal.

In the early 1950s, the polio epidemic in the United States reached a record high of 58,000 new cases in a single year, nearly three times the annual outbreak of the previous decade. Summer polio “scares” were real, resulting in public swimming pool closures and cancelling various community events. Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine came to market in 1955, and the March of Dimes launched its children’s vaccination campaign.

The memory triggered for me was of my first “march for science” — 62 years ago. On a crisp autumn day in 1955, my elementary school class marched — OK, walked — the half mile or so to the Public Health Office in Verona NJ with our teachers to receive our first polio shots. Thanks to Dr. Salk, his vaccine and the National Polio Immunization Program, the annual number of U.S. polio cases fell to 5,600 by 1957 and less than 200 by 1961.

Paralysis was a lifelong sentence for those who contracted and survived polio. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I first met victims of the polio epidemic, teenagers my own age who were left crippled for life by polio. As a young adult, I also had co-workers worked who were polio survivors. They all walked only with the assistance of heavy braces … and an apparent resentment for their fate.

On Earth Day, I remembered all of them as I was able to walk unencumbered along the San Diego habor. Thank you to young woman from the Salk Institute and her sign for the memory. And thank you Dr. Salk, your University of Pittsburgh research team and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis for giving us the first effective polio vaccine.

Norbert J. Kubilus, CCP MBCS is President & CEO of Coleman University, a private non-profit teaching university founded in 1963 and located in San Diego, California. Its degree programs prepare graduates for technology-focused careers. visit www.coleman.edu

Faculty Spotlight: Thomas Byrne (Cybersecurity Program)

Part of what makes Coleman University so unique to San Diego is the incredible faculty that we have on our campus. Technology and its development are not pastimes for our faculty; their careers and passions are built around it. We sat down with one of our Cybersecurity instructors, Mr. Thomas Byrne, to talk about his passion for technology and teaching. Hopefully we can show you something new and exciting about your instructors!

Mr. Byrne (far right) stands with his First Robotics Team at the Central Valley Regional in March of 2016. This photo was taken after the team had secured a spot in a semi-final for the second time that month!

1.So, Mr. Byrne, what drew you to technology and network security?

I grew up with technology and thinking back here are some of my memories: I was literally amazed at my first RED Led watch in the mid 1970’s as well as PONG, which I had hooked up to my TV. I thought to myself “this is the future, these digital readouts.”  Then one day in 1982 my father, who worked at McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach as a Branch Chief Engineer, brought home a Compupro 8/16. It ran CP/M off of 8-inch floppies. One of my favorite games to play on the computer was “Colossal Cave Adventure,” which was a text based adventure game that made you visualize the world you were exploring. I spent a lot of time exploring that cave and one day I got stuck in the cave and actually phoned the author for a game hint in the help file. That was cool, knowing that I could phone the creator of the game. The hint was “Did you get the axe? Did you throw the axe at the Minotaur?” Ooops! I also read a lot when I was a kid, and I eventually came across tech magazines in the electronics store. I read an article and found out that you could punch a hole on the back of that huge floppy to make it double sided; it was so exciting to learn that I could double my storage!  I learned to program in Assembly, which meant manipulating the CPU stack, and I watched my dad write code to track expenses and even predict when airplanes were flying overhead as they landed in LAX. I also received my HAM radio license back when you had to learn Morse code and was communicating with people in Japan and Germany… so that’s how I sort of got hooked on technology, it was my fun time. As for network security, I like to be secure and wanted to learn how to maintain my systems against threats. I saw all the virus activity and did not want to lose my data, so I researched how to stay safe online and really liked understanding how the hackers think and what motivates them. I also learned how vulnerable this technology is, and I wanted to do something about it.

2.How long have you been teaching at Coleman? What inspired you to become a teacher?

I was hired as an Instructor in August of 2010. Before that I was a corporate trainer for Luxottica. I always was someone who could learn and then explain almost any topic and gain insights on it. I really like helping people understand difficult concepts in cybersecurity. This is a huge positive, as a lot of the material can be difficult until you understand it. I try to make it easy to understand, so that my students can remember the material down the road and make use of that knowledge. I try my best to cut through the noise to the essence of what’s really important to know.

3.Do you have a piece of advice or information that you want all of your students to know before they graduate?

There is a job for you, as the world certainly needs trained cybersecurity professionals. It will not be handed to you though. One piece of advice I have is to be very flexible in your careers and gravitate to the areas that interest you. Learn everything you can about security and technology; we live in amazing times and the whole world is going through a digital transformation right now. The world needs your help, so study hard and keep up with all the changes in technology and security. The Internet is a great human resource, so use it; learn how to find good sources of information and never stop learning. It’s very important to learn to interact with others in a positive way and become a good communicator. Be a positive person. Technology is hard for many so help them understand it.

4.Where do you go for the most accurate and up-to-date information on what is happening in technology?

I take advantage of my commute time and listen to podcasts. I’ve got my podcast apps, and I can tie into any podcast out there. I listen to Google, Apple, Microsoft, Security Podcasts, etc. It really comes down to about five companies that are at the head of technology development. It is all interesting to watch and hear, like a big game to see who will come out with the next trend.

5.What are some basic tactics that you would recommend to the public, who may not be fully aware of online cyber risks?

First of all, don’t believe in total privacy online. If you’re on the Internet regularly, you are not doing it privately. If you’re using the Internet you’re going to be in some database somewhere. In regard to keeping your own computers and other devices secure, try not to click on links that you don’t recognize, use two-factor authentication whenever possible, have a password manager for your personal emails and other log-ins, keep up with the news, and don’t go to websites that you can’t verify. Most importantly, don’t allow any action on your devices that you do not personally approve. So if an email comes up with a link that you do not know, reverse it, call the company directly and ask if they contacted you. You need to initiate the connection instead of assuming a provided link is good.

6.What are you involved in outside of the classroom that involves technology development?

Well, I am a mentor for First Robotics. My son wanted to start a robotics club at his high school with two friends, after seeing that other schools around the city, such as Hi Tech High had them. They started a robotics team for Mission Hills High School in San Marcos. I met with them and let them know that I wanted to help out, so I met all the parents of the other students and we worked together to start a robotics team. It’s a lot of work! You have to form the team, and it costs about $4000 to compete in these competitions, so that takes a lot of fundraising. You’re given parameters like the weight of the robots, which has to be 120 pounds, and the cost, which has to be less than $4000, and so on. So you need to get sponsors. We got started in the robotics competitions in San Diego four years ago, and our first project was a defensive robot which was required to have the ability for aerial assist. In that first competition we placed 23rd out of 60 teams, which was pretty high for a rookie team, considering that some of the other teams had been doing this for at least ten years. From there we ended up going to St. Louis to compete, because we won Rookie All Star; we were up against teams from across the nation, but there are also about 30 countries that do this every year as well. Right now there are about 6,000 teams globally that are a part of this competition. We were up against the best and that motivated us to come back even better the next time. So in the following years we have been semi-finalists in both the national and international competitions. This year we were semi-final and quarter-finalists. There are a lot of scholarships attached to this, so students can get money from Boeing and other companies who are looking for engineers to sponsor. Our team is so successful because we have so many mentors who specialize in every aspect of building and implementing.

7.What is an up and coming technology or technology trend that you are really excited about?

Well people like to say that my head is in the clouds, because I am so invested in cloud computing! This is the next paradigm shift in major technology. A cloud service run by major corporations like Google and Microsoft provides the advantage of a powerful storage facility, with massive processing power, and servers that can shift their computing power to adapt to any situation. In regards to hacking, people are going to start seeing the value of the cloud, because it offers more security at less expense, and it is consistently updated. The ability to share and store information will connect the world and give everyone access to technology.

 

We want to thank Mr. Byrne for taking the time to tell us about himself and his passion for technology. Keeping students motivated and engaged is a full-time job and there is a lot more beneath the surface here than you might think. Join us again next month for another spotlight on our incredible faculty at Coleman University! If you would like to know more about First Robotics and the team that Mr. Byrne is mentoring follow the links below.

https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc

https://www.facebook.com/team5137/