Thursday, 27 June 2013

Record haul for Firebrand at the Microsoft Apprentice Awards


Microsoft hosted the annual IT Apprentice of the Year awards at the House of Commons this week. Apprentices from Firebrand’s scheme picked-up three awards – Apprentice Employer of the Year, plus runner-up and an honourable mention in the headline Apprentice of the Year category.

Some of the nominated apprentices with Charlotte Preece, Firebrand’s Apprentice Assessor

Signalling the importance of apprenticeships to the economy and the IT sector, the ceremony was attended by several government ministers, MPs and Microsoft directors. Hugh Milward, Director of Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, explained: “There is a huge wealth of talent here in the UK and it’s really important to celebrate the achievements of these apprentices. The great news is that these young people are now firmly on the career ladder; 93% of Microsoft apprentices stay with our partner businesses and move into a fully qualified role. These awards recognise their hard work, determination and achievements so far, which will stand them in good stead for a successful career in IT and will help maintain the talent pipeline we have in the UK.
The Microsoft apprenticeship programme is part of the company’s Get On programme, which aims to help 300,000 British 16-24 year olds into work by 2015. Microsoft is partnering with Firebrand and 30,000 IT businesses across the UK to help achieve this.

Three happy apprentices

Ten Firebrand apprentices were shortlisted for awards, from a pool of hundreds across the country. Here are the three winners:

Apprentice Employer of the Year

 - Winner: Adatis (Tom Davis)

Apprentice of the Year

 - Runner-up: Billie Elliott, employed by Hull Trinity House Academy

 - Honourable mention: Charlotte Allen, Chorus

Tom Davis
Charlotte Allan
Billie Elliott, runner-up for Apprentice of the Year, was given her award by the Minister of State for Employment. She said: “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Trinity House Academy so far and I’m so happy to have won this award. My apprenticeship has made me even keener to work in IT and has given me a chance to get the skills I need to do that. I would like to say thank you to Microsoft and Trinity House Academy for giving me this opportunity.”

Billie was recognised for her hard work throughout the apprenticeship, and for her consistently-high level of resourcefulness and maturity. While her manager was unavailable for work for a six-week period, she worked hard to improve her knowledge and skills, whilst also having the sole responsibility for maintaining the academy’s IT network.

If you’re interested in employing an apprentice – or maybe becoming an apprentice yourself – visit the Firebrand Apprenticeships website.

About the Author:
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

‘Unhackable’ Cryptography


As computers get faster, and more powerful. And hackers get smarter and more sophisticated, it's getting harder to protect sensitive information transmitted over the internet.

But hacking sensitive data might become a thing of the past as researchers have almost perfected the most sophisticated way of encrypting information. Quantum cryptography - but now without the optical fibers that are usually required.

The idea was developed by Cambridge University engineers in the UK and by Toshiba’s European research laboratory. It takes everything a step closer to what is now being dubbed ‘unhackable’ and can soon be introduced into credit card transactions.

What is Quantum Cryptography?

Quantum cryptography was developed from the laws of quantum theory to create what could be uncrackable codes that can even show if they've been messed around with or snooped on. The reason it's uncrackable is because it works with the laws of quantum physics. If you try to observe a photon particle, it reacts differently as to how it would react if you were not observing it. It is rather hard to explain so I'll leave that part to an expert. Alex Filippenko explains it with the double helix experiment in the video below.

Quantum cryptography uses single photons, the smallest particles of light, in different orientations to produce a continuous binary code, or "key," for encrypting information. The rules of quantum mechanics ensure that anyone intercepting the key is detected, providing highly secure key exchange.

A similar technique is already being used by governments and the military but one of the issues caused by it is that the quantum keys to encode and decode the information have to be sent on single photons (particles of light) across an optical fibre separate from the line carrying the data itself. This made it extremely complicated and expensive - especially for long distances. But this has now changed.

Andrew Shields from Toshiba Research in Cambridge stated: "The requirement of separate fibres has greatly restricted the applications of quantum cryptography in the past, as unused fibres are not always available for sending the single photons, and even when they are, can be prohibitively expensive,".

"Now we have shown that the single photon and data signals can be sent using different wavelengths on the same fibre."

The Toshiba system, outlined in research published in the journal Physical Review X, still requires an advanced detector that picks up the encryption key in a time window of just 100 millionths of a micro-second, at the expected arrival time of the single photons.

The detector is able to filter out 'noise' in the fibre which is caused by data itself therefore avoiding the cost of dedicated optical fibre lines.

Previously, quantum cryptography did work on shared optical fibres but only through short distances, with low capacity rates, or with data moving only in one direction.

The researchers state that their system can move data back and forth over 50 km with the encryption.

Learn about Cryptography

Opportunities in IT security are popping up everywhere so why not take it? Get the right security certification and earn on average £50,000. Here are two certs which are highly respected, guarantee career advancement and teaches you about cryptography. Read about the top IT security certifications, what you'll learn and how much you can earn here.

About the Author:
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Last minute tips for passing your ISACA CISA or CISM exam


Updated on 16/07/2015
ISACA's CISA and CISM are must-have certifications for any IT security professional working with information security systems. 

These high prestige certifications are difficult to attain, but if you follow these tips, you'll be better prepared to achieve them:

  • Read through the ISACA Exam Candidate Information Guide 2015, which you can find here.
  • By now you've probably read or re-read ISACA’s CISA or CISM review manual which provides you with the content, structure and other topics of the exam. Highlight key areas and devote extra attention and time to them. Don't leave anything to chance.
  • Join the discussions in ISACA’s Study Communities – click here for the CISA group and here for the CISM group. 
  • In case you haven’t got the CISA/CISM Practice Questions Database v15 resource, ISACA also offers free CISA and CISM Self-Assessment tests which will help identify gaps in your knowledge that are in need of further study. Here are the links - CISM Self-Assessment and CISA Self-Assessment.
  • Stay old school. Take notes and read things out loud. Both will help you memorise concepts more easily.
  • Once you're confident, and can explain most if not all the basic concepts of CISA or CISM, then read review questions, answers and explanations.
  • This is not a university or high school exam. Think like an IT Auditor and not like a student. You have to manage tasks the best way by making the best decisions.
  • Many students find that the hardest part is visualizing the concepts, which you’ll need to do in the exam. So try to prepare some of your own before hand.
  • As you’re probably aware, you can’t take the CISA or CISM review manuals into the exam, so try to skim through the key areas 30 min before the exam.

CISA ISACA logoOne thing to note is that the markers don’t want to know if you are the strongest in IT related systems, they just want to be sure you’re competent enough and can make the best decisions, evaluate and review IT security and audit related issues.

Here are some more general revision tips to ensure your exam success:
  • Frequent breaks are essential. Don’t expect your brain to focus for hours, if you don’t give it some rest. Take a 5-10 minute break for every hour spent with studying
  • Drink plenty of water as it helps you to think and most importantly it hydrates you.
  • Avoid caffeine. Coffee, Coke or Red Bull, they will only make you feel more anxious, so cut them out of your “exam diet”.
  • Before the test, do some exercise. It gets your blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
And one last thing, try to relax! Visualise your goal: your name on this certification (or your slightly different CISM certification).

CISA certification template

Do you need more information/inspiration? Check out these great CISM & CISA resources:
Or watch these two videos of CISA and CISM certified professionals.

Good luck.

About the Author:
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.