Can Hackers Steal Secrets from Reflections?

I encourage my students to go over and visit Rick, Paul and Bill’s blog.  In 2009, Rick posted a link to a Scientific American article on How Hackers Steal Secrets from Reflections.   Great Article.  With our students going through some of the best security courses available, these links are very valuable.

Although we used a mirror for this example, we have tried glasses and other reflective materials and you can take a picture and reverse the photo.

Reverse Image

Reversed with Irfanview

Corrected with IRFanview

Tablet or Laptop for college?

Tablet or Laptop for college?

As high school students take the summer off and begin to prepare for college, we are often asked what technology students should get for college.   Here’s our answer.  Both – maybe.  Why?

Laptops provide an adequate screen size and can be used for long periods of study.  With a larger screen size than tablets, laptops can help with periods of preparing papers, presentations and just multitask better.   Add a 17+ inch monitor to your laptop and extend your screen to bring up the internet during research.  This allows you to keep your paper up or material up on your laptop screen while researching on the other.   So why not a desktop?  You can get a desktop – however will you need portability?

With Microsoft Windows, chances are you’ll find whatever freeware or software you’ll need and it’ll more than likely have a higher compatibility than other operating systems.   What about an Apple laptop?   They are fine.  Make sure you have parallels loaded and there aren’t any compatibility issues with classes that you have.

For portability, a tablet can quickly take notes, use Microsoft Office (Free for iPad and Android devices) or maybe use apps that are offered in your class.   These devices have a longer battery life, power up quickly and are perfect for class to class operations.

So can’t I just use a smartphone for this?  Absolutely.  Tablets tend to be trendy, expensive for what you truly get- but on the other hand, they can help.   The choice is yours and this may be based on the type of classes that you sign up for.  Which tablet?  This becomes a complex question but with Apple Store, Google Play or a Microsoft Surface, you can generally find an app for your tablet.

Remember to use synchronization and iCloud or OneDrive to hold non sensitive documents so they will always be available for your laptop, tablet and/or phone.  Guard your flash drives and have at least a 16 or 32 gb drive.

Protect your asset with device tracking from Apple, Google Apps or Prey Project.  Always load anti-virus, get your updates and never leave your device unattended.

Here’s the final answer.  You should get a laptop and decide if you need a tablet or if your smartphone will do.  Dollar for dollar, you’ll get a ton more storage with a laptop and with Google Chrome loaded as a browser, you’ll be surprised at the Apps you can loaded in chrome (hundreds).  Thousand of freeware software and true computing power give laptops the edge.  With multiple USB, HDMI, Wireless or Wired Network, a tablet again doesn’t compare.

Research your classes and remember the likelihood that you’ll change majors is almost a given.

An unnecessary path to tech: A Bachelor’s degree

An unnecessary path to tech: A Bachelor’s degree.

An excellent article on education and technical careers from Computerworld.  TCAT Shelbyville”s CIT program has a 98% retention and 92%+ placement.   Is a degree worth the money?  Yes, after you start your technical career.  Your education in technology cannot end once you start your career.    Are certifications worth their weight?  Absolutely.  If you know the hands-on.   The three, academia, certifications and hands-on is the fastest way to a career in IT.

Computer Information Technology wins CTE: Excellence in Action Award


(L-R) Mike Miller, Assistant IT Manager, Dawn Babain, Network Administrator-LMS Specialist, Ivan Jones, TCAT Director and Steve Mallard, IT Manager


More information on the CIT Program

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is pleased to announce our first annual Excellence in Action award, which will recognize and honor superior Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study from around the nation.  

Selected programs of study will exemplify excellence in the implementation of the Career Clusters, and have a meaningful impact on student achievement and success. All winners will be honored at the 2014 Achieving Excellence in Career Technical Education: The National Career Clusters Institute in Phoenix, Arizona on June 16, 2014. – See more at: The National Association of State Directors – CTE


Winners will also be featured:

  • In a national press release, which will be distributed to national media.
  • In a one-pager, used as part of NASDCTEc’s federal advocacy toolkit.
  • In a monthly newsletter sent to members of Congress.
  • In a standalone blog on Learning that Works blog.

- See more at:

Solving The Security Workforce Shortage – DarkReading

According to the study, the most sought-after quality is a broad knowledge of security — more of a strategic understanding than technical know-how followed by certifications.  Read More

Opinion – While certifications are an important part of IT, the technical know-how is the most important. Getting a degree or a certification is a great advancement for your education but can you configure a firewall? Run Linux-OSX- Windows? Support mobile, wireless, servers with Active Directory and monitor and control an IT environment?   That’s the difference between $12 an hour and a career.

What makes TCAT Shelbyville’s IT program different?



Exams include Windows 70-680/70-687, Windows Server 2012 70-411/70-640.  The MTA (Microsoft Technical Associate is associated with other certifications in the same curriculum.

The Information Technology program at TCAT Shelbyville offers one of the best programs in the nation for IT professionals.  The amount of resources and curriculum that cover all major operating systems (Linux, Apple and Windows) is delivered by certified and industry leading experts.  With this curriculum, and the round robin method of teaching,  junior students work with senior students and instructors.  A major advantage students have are resources that are available 24/7/365.

Students spend 30 hours each week in lecture, labs and real world hands on for approximately 15 months.  Winning national awards and recognition, the program offers one of the best learning environments in the industry and continues  with a placement rate of over 90% and a retention rate of 96%.


Students can earn up to 10 certifications along with multiple diplomas and certificates.

For more information -
Visit the CIT program at

Note:  The Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Shelbyville is an accredited institution.  

Technology Centers Becoming Colleges of Applied Technology; Recognized for Workforce Education

Full release from the Tennessee Board of Regents can be read here.

Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology Logo

“NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 28, 2013) — The state’s workforce training schools known as Tennessee Technology Centers are being renamed Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology as of July 1.

The name change more accurately reflects the post-secondary training provided at the 27 campuses and many satellite locations across the state. The Tennessee Technology Centers have always been higher education institutions, offering post-secondary programs for workforce preparation. But the previous “center” title was often misunderstood.”


“Our colleges work closely with their surrounding communities to develop programs that support the workforce needs of their industries,” said James King, TBR vice chancellor for the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. “They play a major role in the workforce development from Memphis to Elizabethton, providing training in industrial, allied health, business and personal service programs for more than 30,000 students every year.”

“Our 84 percent placement rate soars above the national average,” said King.

That success has been noticed by national organizations and higher education leaders around the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Chronicle of Higher Education and other education and media services have all profiled the institutions’ achievements in providing professional and skills training that meets student needs and business and industry demands.

The name change was made possible through legislation introduced by Representative Harry Brooks and Senator Jim Tracy and signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam.

You have to be versatile in Information Technology

Back in 2007 we published an article on ‘The Challenge of Teaching Information Technology‘.  Recently we were also asked to write and article for TricomTS’s blog The Right fIT (Their Corporate Website is here) on Educating Tomorrow’s IT Professional Today.

So why do I write these articles?  Because Information Technology is growing.   Boot camps are only or should be only for seasoned IT Professionals.  It takes time.  With technology growing, to educate a student and to transfer the amount of information from every resource available – it is not only challenging for the instructor, it is a challenge even to the best students.   IT Professionals cannot take four years to start a career, technology will change so much within a year and the curriculum (accredited) has to be dynamic and change as technology changes.  IT personnel wanting to move up the corporate ladder should go to college later in order to advance.   Many IT pros are specialized career field but a majority of them have to be versatile and their skills have to be diversified.

And with a global economy, IT Professionals have to be lean and they have to learn quicker than ever.

We recently were interviewed by ComputerWorld and provided our look at how the economy and how a global economy changes the way IT thinks, works and reacts to this.  So truly we offer all of this advice to those who want to become an IT professional.  Be ready for change…everyday.  In today’s world, employers do expect a lot out of young IT personnel.  Remember it is the best career in the world to those who have a heart and passion for the industry.

The article from ComputerWorld was picked up by several other magazines and webpages.
CIO Magazine
NetworkWorld Magazine(ARRA)
NetworkWorld Magazine(Leaner Lifestyle)
LinuxWorld Magazine

2013 Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit: Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat

2013 Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit:

Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat


Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit: Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat will be held on the MTSU campus May 7 and 8. This event will address criminal, intelligence, disruptive, and information cyber threats and be of particular interest to city/state/federal governments, healthcare, education, transportation, financial, utilities, and business industries.

Presentations from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, TN Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service and private sector cyber security.


2013 Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit:   Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat

 When: Tuesday, May 7 – Wednesday, May 8

Where: MTSU campus, Student Union Ballroom

Cost: $30 per attendee

Attendees: state/local/federal govt. agencies, utilities, private sector, education, healthcare, transportation, financial

Credits/Certifications: CEUs available

Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit: Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat will be held on the MTSU campus May 7-8. This event will address criminal, intelligence, disruptive, and information cyber threats and is scheduled to include presentations from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, TN Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and private sector cyber security organizations.

Tuesday, May 7

7:30 – 8:00       Registration and Networking

8:00 – 8:30       Welcome and Introduction

MTSU Representative

TN Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Assistant Commissioner David Purkey

8:30 – 9:15      Emerging Threats in Cyber Security

Speaker TBA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

 9:15 – 10:45     China, Cyber, and U.S. Energy: Who, What, Why, and What’s Next

Betsy Woudenberg, Chief Cyber Officer, Intelligence Arts

A discussion of China as our cyber adversary, using cyber attacks on U.S. and global energy companies to illustrate how the Communist Party’s domestic objectives drive its cyber espionage campaigns


10:45 – 11:30    Vendor tables and break

11:30 – 12:30    Lunch

12:30 – 1:15      Keynote

Scott Augenbaum, Supervisory Special Agent, Cyber Crime Squad, Federal Bureau of Investigation

1:15 – 2:30         TBA

Speaker TBA, Federal Bureau of Investigation

2:30 – 2:45         Break

2:45 – 4:30         Secret Service – Cyber Crime Investigations

Todd Hudson, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service

Wednesday, May 8

8:00 – 9:00           Social Engineering

Sese Bennett, Information Officer, State of Tennessee


9:00 – 10:00      SCADA

Speaker TBA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

10:00 – 11:15      Intrusion Case Studies

Steve Mallard, IT Director, Tennessee Technology Center at Shelbyville

11:15 – 11:30      Break (vendor tables close at 12)

11:30 – 12:30      Lunch

12:30 – 2:00        Keynote:SCADA for Spies

Betsy Woudenberg, Chief Cyber Officer, Intelligence Arts

An introduction to SCADA – the technology that automates critical infrastructure – and how adversaries can penetrate these systems using humans and technology

2:00 – 2:15           Break

2:15 – 4:30           Cloud/Mobility Security

Speaker TBA

Event Sponsored by:

 Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Forensic Institute for Research and Education

Middle Tennessee State University

MTSU Information Technology Division

Enterasys Inc.


Registration information:

Date: Tuesday, May 7 – Wednesday May 8

Location: MTSU New Student Union Building

Cost: $30 per attendee (No Federal funds are expended to cover any catering or food)

Attendees: state/local/federal government agencies, utilities, private sector, education, healthcare, transportation, and financial, and law enforcement

Credits/Certifications: CEUs available ($10 MTSU fee)

Register Here

For more information, please contact: Karen Austin at or 615-494-7971

Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit

Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit: Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat

Date: May 7 and 8

Location: MTSU New Student Union Building

Registration: March 1, 2013

Middle Tennessee Cyber Summit: Building Partnerships and Understanding the Threat will be held on the MTSU campus May 7 and 8. This event will address criminal, intelligence, disruptive, and information cyber threats and be of particular interest to city/state/federal governments, healthcare, education, transportation, financial, utilities, and business industries.

Presentations from Department of Homeland Security, TN Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and private sector cyber security.   Registration information can be found at beginning March 1, 2013.

MTSU Cyber Summit

You’ve started your IT career. Now what?

So you started your IT career and you landed in a help desk position.   What now?   We wrote an article,  “It takes time in the trenches of help desk”   that tells you to do your time.   But what about those amazing salaries on Computerworld or over at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Handbook?   How do you get there?  It takes time, experience and skill.

In IT you have to do one of two things.   You can be a master at everything or you have to find a focus on one area.   In IT, you can attend school and get ready for an entry level position.   You can also become an expert in one area.   This is one of the most career killing things you can do.  Why?   I’ve seen programming languages come and go and I’ve seen technology change at the drop of a hat.

But where does your advanced education come from?   OJT (On the job training) and self-study.   Without the ability to grow, you’re job can become stagnant.   Attend seminars,  attend classes, go to college and experiment.   Most of all, network with others and watch and listen to others in the field.  Have an open mind and be prepared to continually grow in the field of IT.

Here’s our article on  “It takes time in the trenches of help desk” from  March 10, 2012

That’s right, you’ve earned your way through technical school or college only to land at a help desk job.   Take a second and look at the logic behind this. IT professionals over the years have landed at help desk and the successful ones deliver quality service to the end users.   IT Managers, Directors or CIOs just can’t put someone in their server room without adequate experience troubleshooting computers.  An understanding of the operations of your organization starts by being exposed to all of the software and inner workings of the company.     Can you land that job in the server room or as a network admin?  Sure.   Reality is that it is rare.    It takes time, trust and experience.

When surveyed, IT professionals have a deeper respect for that manager that has done their time at help desk.   Many professionals do their time in this role and elect it as a career.   If you do your time and continue your education by getting more certifications, going to seminars and electe to attend a higher educational institution, you can work your way up the IT ladder.

The stress of help desk is different than any other stress.    While you have to put on your happy face and deliver quality service to your clients, it all starts at this level.    The redundancy of calls,  end-users who are frequent callers and the general grind of problems coming at you that appears to never end causes this stress.

IT managers and upper management in this field take notice of the people who excel at customer service.   IT is a service based career and help desk is your starting point for your career.    Ironically problems in this field go up to the higher level IT professional and solutions have to be pushed down in order to keep everyone happy.

Being positive and upbeat while you do your time in the trenches will bring that recognition to you.   It also allows you to place this experience on a resume for future jobs and positions in your organization or with different companies.

After decades in this career, I can point out hundreds of students who kept this attitude and later in their careers became more successful in IT.   There seems to be a sense of entitlement going through the IT field.   See help desk as a starting point to move up.     What about an example of someone who worked their way up?

One such example is Eric Canneer.   Eric started his career in IT as level I help desk and performed well while keeping a positive outlook.   During his career he never stopped learning and later was hired by one of the world’s largest logistics company and now manages their wireless globally.    While Eric is one example, hundreds of more examples come to mind.    I’ve had students who 95% of the time start help desk and over a period of one or two years worked their way to higher level positions in some of the country’s Fortune 500 companies and in every type of business and industry you can think of.

Are you truly ever out of a help desk position?   No.   You may not have that grind of answering phones daily but you are trying to please the end user and the problems never go away.   With a society that thrives on technology, you have to accept that innovation and  new technology brings on new problems and headaches.

Handling the stress of help desk and continuing your career in IT-

  • Accept the fact that you are in customer service regardless of your position
  • Obtain higher level certifications
  • Continue your education with a higher-ed institution
  • Realize that the customer is venting at the situation and not you
  • Help other IT personnel and work as a team
  • Ignore any negative personnel who bring you down
  • IT is in the top ten growing industries and the opportunities are greater than any other career
  • Find ways after hours to relax and get away

Information Technology will continue to grow and positions will continually be added in this field.   Less than three years ago, we didn’t truly have mobile computing experts that took care of a field that is growing at an unprecedented rate.   Become an expert in several fields and prove yourself not only to your managers and company but prove yourself to to you.

Here’s a great comment from this original post.

“IT is a service based career” … “There seems to be a sense of entitlement going through the IT field.”

These are the two most important statements in the entire article. Too many of my IT coworkers look down on the users and don’t treat them respectfully, which in turn soils the reputation of IT people. We are not an elite field of nothing but Bletchley Park code breakers, even if we think we are, and even if the end users think we are just because we were able to reset a password or tell them how to setup an email signature.

Consider yourself a mechanic instead. Some of use are working at Jiffy Lube, doing oil changes and routine maintenance. Some of us are rebuilding engines at Pete’s Auto. Some of us are helping design new transmissions at TransConn Int’l. But that’s it, so get over yourself, get another cup of tea, and answer the phone politely.

I’d also add, “Acknowledge the fact that you don’t know everything about everything”.    Mike

Microsoft Virtual Academy – Free Microsoft Courses

Frequently Asked Questions about Microsoft’s Virtual Academy

  • What is Microsoft Virtual Academy?
    It is an online portal for IT professionals that offers a vast amount of information about Microsoft products and technology.  Designed with whitepapers, videos and reference materials, MVA gives the modern IT professional materials on topics that are found in IT today.  The MVA program gives rewards for completing programs.  There is also a points and rating system.   You can track your point progress and you will see ratings as follows – Bronze (0-99), Silver (100-499), Gold (500-2,999), and Platinum (3,000+).
  • Do the course count towards certifications?
    No.   But taking the courses familiarizes and helps the IT Professional understand current and evolving technologies.
  • Do you receive a transcript that you can use professionally?
    Yes.   You can download your transcript at anytime.   Course completion does not take place until the assessments are complete.
  • What is the value of Microsoft’s Virtual Academy?
    Not only do you learn some of Microsoft’s technology for free, you can use these type of courses for career advancement.
  • Are the assessments easy?
    No.  Microsoft offers challenging questions and a curriculum designed to be informative and educational.   You can retake the assessments as many times as you want.   Remember, with online courses, taking assessments just until you pass does not add value to your education.   Study the material  take notes and take the assessments when you are ready.
  • Are the courses really free?

Microsoft Virtual Academy