10 Crazy Cases of Identity Theft

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According some of the country’s top leading experts of cyber and financial crimes, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Every year, around 15 million people report being victims of identity theft, which results in $50 billion worth of financial loss. That means over 7 percent of adults living in the country are victims of this malicious crime. Identity theft can involve everything from medical theft, creating fake social network profiles, child identification theft and even stolen passports being used to carry out political assassinations! Here is an overview of the top 10 craziest cases of identity theft, counting down to the one we think is quite possibly one of the craziest of all.

10. Marcos Lopez

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Marcos Lopez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was able to successfully use the stolen identity of Adam Brackin, a 15-year-old high school student for over a decade before being caught by local and federal law enforcement authorities. It took years for authorities to catch up with Lopez, whom they alleged never kept a consistent place of residence or form of employment. Authorities are still puzzled to this day how Lopez was able to obtain Brackin’s information. Some experts say that many Mexican gangs and drug cartels also run elaborate identity theft rings and sell information to unknowing undocumented workers to make their transition in the United States easier. Identify theft involving social security information of children is a growing trend in identity theft and can have an impact on children and teenagers as they get older.

9. Wendy Brown

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Wendy Brown, a resident of Green Bay, Wisconsin illegally used her 15-year-old daughter’s identity to enroll in a local high school and join a cheerleading team. According to documents filed by the local district attorney, Brown wanted to relive her childhood dreams of being a part of a cheerleading squad. Brown’s, whose daughter lived in Nevada, took advantage of her absence to illegally use her identity to enroll in a local high school and join the school’s cheerleading squad. According to officials at the school, Brown went as far as actually attending parties with kids. The school started looking further into Brown after she only showed up for the first day of classes. According to Wendy Brown’s mother this is not the first time she had been in trouble for identity theft-related crimes.

8. Anndorie Sachs

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Anndorie Sachs was the victim of medical identity theft, a growing and alarming trend in identity theft-related crime. Someone stole her driver’s license, walked into a hospital and delievered baby, leaving her with a $10,000 bill in her name. According to leading identity theft experts, millions of people find themselves being the victim of this uncommon form of identity theft where people use stolen identities to receive medical treatment. Since the rise in medical identity theft, many hospitals and other medical facilities began requiring multiple proofs of indentity before admitting patients for treatment. Millions of people have found themselves saddled in debt because of this form of identity theft. Many people have been able to defraud medical facilities and insurance companies out of treatments and prescriptions using someone else’s name.

7. Raphael Golb

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Raphael Golb, a New York University religious studies professor and the son of a respected Jewish studies scholar, was charged with 51 counts of identity theft, aggravated harassment, criminal impersonation, forgery and unauthorized use of computers in a NYU library after authorities alleged that he used fake online personalities to defend his father’s intellectual contributions. According to documents filed in a New York City courthouse, Golb engaged in an online campaign using fake aliases, names and plagiarized documents in order to defend his father’s intellectual contributions and theories surrounding the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. Golb’s father, a world renowned scholar based out of the University of Chicago holds a minority opinion on the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After feeling that his father’s intellectual contributions were being deliberately left out of mainstream coverage, Golb took the internet to engage in a relentless campaign using fake aliases to defend his father’s name.

6. Chrystal Trammell/Rebecca Nakutis

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Nowadays, criminals are even using social networking sites to perpetuate identity theft crimes. Chrystal Trammell, a recent college graduate and single mother, fell victim to identity theft when 21-year-old Rebecca Nakutis created a fake Facebook account using Trammell’s information. Charges filled in Johnston County, North Carolina allege that Nakutis used the fabricated Facebook profile to send fake threatening messages to herself, mother and friends that inevitably led to getting a restraining order filed against Trammell. Trammell, who was in a child custody dispute with Nakutis’ husband, fought long for months against the restraining order that restricted her from seeing her child. She eventually discovered that Nakutis created a false Facebook profile using her information to trump up false harassment charges against her. Eventually, Nakutis was arrested for identity theft and Johnston County dropped the restraining order against Trammell.

5. Abraham Abdallah

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Abraham Abdallah was a high school dropout, but also ran one of the most elaborate internet-based identity theft schemes in recent history. The restaurant busboy was able to breach credit card companies, banks and other financial brokerages using the identities of some of the world’s richest people. According to the New York City Police Department, Abdallah was able to steal millions of dollars from people like movie director Steven Spielberg, CNN Founder Ted Turner, financier George Soros and billionaire Warren Buffet, all from a computer inside of a Brooklyn, New York City-based library. Abdallah successfully conned banks by posing to be financial representatives for many of these individuals. He was eventually monitored and arrested after the FBI received information from a financial institution that one of their clients did not request a large transfer of money.

4. Nicole McCabe

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Nicole McCabe, an Israeli ctizien originally from Melbourne, Australia found herself tied up in one of the most mysterious identity theft cases in recent history. According to news reports, Israeli Mossad agents used her Australian passport to gain entry into the United Arab Emirates to carry out an assassination against Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a ranking member of the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas. She was not the only one involved in the elaborate identity theft scheme; two other Israeli citizens unknowingly had their identities mixed up in the assassination. They now live in fear that members of Hamas will be seeking retribution for the murder of one of their members.

3. Amar Singh and Neha Punjani-Singh

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This couple operated a $13 million criminal enterprise that relied on an elaborate network of over 100 scam artists. The couple received information about unknown individuals from identity thieves back in countries like Russia and China. Sensitive information like credit card numbers was stolen using skimming devices. Credit card information was loaded onto counterfeit credit cards that were then used to go on extravagant shopping sprees. Amar Singh potentially faced up to 250 years in prison, but was only sentenced to five to 10 years in prison while his wife pled guilty to petty larceny and was dismissed with a conditional discharge sentence. This case was called the largest and most sophisticated identify theft conspiracy according to Queens-based US District Attorney Richard Brown.

2. Todd Davis

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Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock, a leading provider of identity theft protection services has been the victim of at least 13 identity theft crimes. The CEO, who proudly used to boast his actual social security number on billboards and other print advertisements, learned back in 2007 that his information had been used to take out a $500 personal loan, open an AT&T cell phone account and obtain other forms of credit. Ironically, LifeLock was fined $12 million back in 2012 by the Federal Trade Commission for engaging in deceptive advertising. Apparently, the Federal Trade Commission felt as though that the company’s $10 monthly service that claims to protect individual identities from sorts of scams is actually a scam itself. The FTC also alleged that the company’s $1 million guarantee to compensate customers for financial losses in the event that they were victims of identity theft are also bogus.

1. Philip Cummings

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Phillip Cummings, a former help desk employee who worked at Teledata Communications, Inc., a Long Island, New York City-based software company, orchestrated one of the largest identity theft scams of the 20th century. Cummings, a Carterville, Georgia resident had used his access to credit report information at the software company to re-sell credit reports and other information to a Nigerian-based, International identity theft ring. The elaborate criminal network apparently robbed over 30,000 victims of $100 million and the scheme went on for several years before the FBI found out and put an end to it. Interestingly, what set off investigators was that representatives from Ford Motor Credit discovered that they had been billed by the software company for thousands of credit reports that they never ordered. During the FBI’s investigation, it was later discovered that other companies had been billed for credit reports as well. Apparently, Nigeria is one of the world’s leading hotspots for identity theft and other forms of extreme financial crimes that have robbed people worldwide of billions of dollars.

Bonus: Frank Abagnale

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The famed con artist, check forger and impostor, now a leading security and fraud consultant working with the FBI was spotlighted in the Leonardo DiCapri film, “Catch Me If You Can.” He gained notoriety for impersonating a variety of people such as an airline pilot, doctor, US Bureau of Prisons Agent and lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice and even prison all before the age of 21. He eventually was caught and served time for his crimes. After being released from prison, Abagnale started working for the government to help teach them how to prevent a variety of financial and identity theft crimes. Eventually he started Abagnale and Associates, one of the world’s leading financial security consulting firms.

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10 Movies About Information Security Breaches

Technology has brought many positive changes to the world. Information is available at our fingertips. We no longer have to leave our homes to shop, bank, or communicate with others; including those who live on the other side of the planet. However, with every positive comes a negative. While an honest person can access information they need, dishonest individuals exploit the weaknesses in systems for their own gain. Hollywood has taken notice of this and has /made our worst fears come alive time and again. From films about identity theft to movies about hacking government systems, plots involving information security breaches frighten and delight at the same time.

The Conversation (1974)

Information is largely stored in computers, but once upon a time, surveillance was primarily carried out in person. The Conversation follows a surveillance expert hired to track a couple and record their words. After doing so, the expert, played by Gene Hackman, chooses to safeguard the couple by continuing to spy on them even after the initial client receives the ill-gotten tape. In the end, it is Hackman himself whose security is breached as he discovers his own home to be watched and bugged.

WarGames (1983)

One of the first of its type, WarGames stars Matthew Broderick as a bored teenager with access to a computer capable of hacking into a United States military supercomputer. Thinking he is playing a game called Global Thermonuclear War on the supercomputer, Broderick’s character nearly ignites World War III. WarGames was a nod to the idea that video games, which were at the height of popularity in the early 1980s, could lead to violence in the real world. WarGames is also a Cold War hit, reminding the public how fragile the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union truly was.

Sneakers (1992)

Well before most people had computers in their homes, Hollywood began making movies about computer geniuses who could hack into networks and security systems. In this film, a team of security experts, led by Robert Redford, are tricked by rogue NSA agents into stealing and handing over a machine that is capable of massive decryption. In the end, Redford’s character bests his foes and uses the machine to hack into the Republican party’s funds. That money is then given to charitable organizations with no one else being the wiser.

The Net (1995)

Arguably one of the first identity theft films, The Net was Sandra Bullock’s breakout role as a systems analyst who has her life changed when she unwittingly becomes part of a terrorist conspiracy. Her social security number is reassigned to a woman with a severe criminal history, her credit cards become canceled, and her only friend is murdered when his computerized hospital records are changed. The film reflected the fright the public felt about sharing too much information online.

Hackers (1995)

The internet was still new in 1995, which made a film like Hackers intriguing to general audiences. The story is about teenage hackers who use their skills to prank each other and high ranking officials until they accidentally uncover a corporate fraud scheme. At the time, the film grossed under $8 million dollars, far less than what its star Angelina Jolie now receives per movie role. Though it received mixed reviews then, it is now a cult classic.

23 (1998)

One of the few films about information security breaches that is based on a true story, 23 is a German film detailing the exploits of Karl Koch, a computer hacker who became a spy. The film shows how Koch is able to hack into US military computers, gaining knowledge which was later sold to the KGB. After his activities became publicly known, Koch died under mysterious circumstances.

Office Space (1999)

One of the few comedies to employ information security breaches in its plot, Office Space is now a cult classic. The film follows the disgruntled Peter Gibbons as he, along with two co-workers, decides to infect the company computer system with a virus. The sole purpose of this virus is to deflect a very small portion of money at a time into a private bank account owned by the three friends.

The Matrix (1999)

This sci-fi thriller takes the idea of information security breaches and turns it around: What if the computers hacked us? This is exactly what happens in the original Matrix, which is the first in the trilogy. Computing systems use the energy from humans to power themselves while creating a manufactured reality in order to keep humans satisfied. Meanwhile, a rogue group is able to remove themselves from the program, infiltrate the system, and plot to free the human race.

Antitrust (2001)

A young computer programmer is given his dream job working for a software development company in Portland. Things soon take a turn for the worst when Milo Hoffman, played by Ryan Phillippe, discovers this dream is a nightmare. The company is stealing code from expert programmers, and then killing those programmers to cover their tracks. This code allows the company to infiltrate mainstream media as well as the Justice Department.

Breach (2007)

Another film based on true events, Breach details the story of Robert Hanssen, a FBI agent who gave national security secrets to the Soviet Union. Hanssen was brought to justice by a younger agent, Eric O’Neill, who managed to obtain information about his espionage through tracking devices and by breaking into his Palm Pilot. The real Robert Hanssen is currently serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

Hollywood continues to make films about information security breaches on a regular basis. Hackers are often painted as misunderstood geniuses, as is the case of the title character in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. Identity theft can be seen as comedy, as was done in the film “Identity Thief.” National security measures are explored with film heroes from Jason Bourne to James Bond. It seems that the public will never tire of watching security breaches in action, whether fabricated or based on actual events.

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What is a Security Governance Board?

With the increase in frequency and severity of cyber-attacks and other cyber-crimes, businesses are finding that maintaining information security has become a top priority for senior management. In fact, a survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that almost 70 percent of the businesses surveyed had been the target of at least one cyber-crime.

A cyber-crime includes all computer security incidents, including cyber-attacks and cyber-theft. A cyber-attack occurs when a criminal attacks the computer system of a target using computer viruses, denial of service attacks or another form of computer sabotage or vandalism. Cyber-theft occurs when a criminal uses a computer to steal money or services, including incidents of embezzlement, theft of intellectual property and theft of personal or financial data.

The Financial and Business Impact of Cyber-crimes

These crimes used to be the province of mischievous young adults who wanted to prove their hacking abilities. However, because of the potential for lucrative payouts, the criminals have become increasingly sophisticated and organized. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey revealed that the monetary cost of cyber-crimes frequently exceeded $10,000 and resulted in system downtime of more than one day.

In addition to the financial cost and inconvenience associated with cyber-crimes, companies need to be concerned with the risk to reputation and loss of customer confidence that can result from these cyber-crimes. As the use of technology continues to grow and as cyber criminals become more aggressive and skilled, companies can expect an increase in the frequency of cyber-crimes. The survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that approximately 85 percent of companies that were victims of cyber-crime were targeted on multiple occasions.

The Need for Increased Information Security

As cyber-criminal activity has increased, companies have responded with increased information security. Many companies now have information technology departments, which include a chief information security officer. These individuals are responsible for the company’s system security and report directly to senior management and the company’s Board of Directors.

The Importance of a Security Governance Board

In addition, many companies are creating security governance boards that are charged with reviewing and maintaining the company’s information security policies. Another important task of these boards is keeping informed about new cyber-attack methods and approaches, as well as the company’s particular vulnerabilities to cyber crimes.

A security governance board operates like any other committee of a Board of Directors. The security governance board should include at least one member of senior management, the company’s chief information security officer, a legal advisor and outside directors or individuals with significant business or personal experience with respect to enterprise and information security.

The responsibilities of a security governance board include reviewing, auditing and testing current information security procedures and protocols. The security governance board is also responsible for reporting these results and recommended improvements to senior management and the Board of Directors.

Companies that make information and enterprise security a high priority may be able to reduce the incidence and severity of cyber-crimes initiated against them. An established security governance board is an important tool because it creates a centralized resource for identifying and protecting a company’s digital assets, financial resources and reputation.

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Internet Security Threats to Watch for in 2013

security threatsSecurity breaches can show themselves in various forms as cyber criminals steadily become more sophisticated with their attacks on a national security and consumer level. There are even more opportunities for cyber attacks in 2013. Here, we detail 4 Internet Security Trends you can expect to see in 2013, as discussed in a recent article on CNET.com.

1. Privacy Threats

Smart devices are capturing the average consumer’s activities and contact data in addition to their location; this is seen by many to be a violation of privacy. Malware targeting mobile and Mac devices has resulted in data mining and breaches due to poorly written security codes that will continue to threaten the privacy of consumers in 2013. In the U.S., a million people were adversely affected by mobile malware in 2012.

2. Cyber Warfare

The foundation for the Internet being used as a international surveillance monitoring resource by the government will continue to develop in 2013 for military and espionage activities. “Olympic Games” is the secret inter-government project reported to be the root source of computer malware like Flame, Dugu and Stuxnet, and its variant, Gauss. According to CNET, Stuxnet is a highly sophisticated computer worm that has been identified as the first cyber super weapon. Since Stuxnet’s discovery, eighty-five percent of malware has attempted to capitalize on a specific weakness in these systems in the same way that Stuxnet has done in the past. There is a small batch of malware that can attack vulnerabilities in an operating system before a developer has time to discover and repair it, and is known as a “zero-days” attack.

3. Desktop threats

A commercial rootkit known as ZeroAccess is another serious threat that has spread like gangrene; almost being comparable to the damage done by Conficker that made headline news for several weeks. A Russian coder has developed and sold ZeroAccess to boot before Windows; once it is installed, it hides the attacker’s invasion and allows him or her to gain privileged access to the infected computer, and possibly other machines shared on the network. As a counterattack, Macs and Windows 8 have setup Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) boot security procedures to prevent rootkits from invading a PC. However, hackers may soon be able to form mutations of rootkits to reach their aims in the future. Other desktop concerns for Internet users to be wary of include Flashback Trojan and CSS sniffing attacks. The creator of Flashback Trojan has still evaded capture and is rumored to be working on other malware tactics to breach Mac security. Modern browsers such as Firefox or Chrome are extremely vulnerable to CSS sniffing attacks. If you download one of them, there is the possibility of being exposed to spyware through these popular desktop programs.

4. Cloud-based Cyber Attacks

For people relying heavily on cloud-based services to store, pictures, valuable documents or entertainment collections recent hacking of Apple cloud-based accounts raises concern about cloud storage.

In summary, new app stores and browser techniques have to be developed to combat computer worms, like Stuxnet, that will likely have to be replaced when undetected vulnerabilities are discovered. Devices directly connected to the Internet, such as smart DVD players and TVs will open up a new can of worms in 2013. The volume and method of medical and utility device hacks are expected to grow in impact. Still, if someone attempts to run a toll fraud application in the U.S. they will encounter more of an issue there than they would in China or Russia. With increased improvements in security, the majority of people will not be affected from this problem until the latter part of 2013.

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Top 5 Careers in E-Commerce and/or E-Governance

As our world becomes more technological by the minute, there are exciting, new careers steadily emerging. E-commerce and E-governance vocations are prime examples. E-commerce is the buying, trading, and sale of goods and services over the internet. E-governance is the use of information and communication technologies for electronic governing purposes. This type of governing can range from civilian-to-government interactions, to government-to-government interactions. We explore the top five emerging E-commerce and E-governance careers of today.

5 Popular E-Commerce and E-Governance Careers

E-governance project managers are very much in demand, as E-governance itself is new and growing rapidly. The project manager can expect to be responsible for any number of projects, working closely with government and private entities. One project may involve public records access points while another may deal with registration administration. Salaries can vary, but are typically between $50,000 and $130,000. Educational requirements often include a Bachelor’s in information technology.

An E-governance technology consultant actually designs how the site, program, or software works. Attention to customer needs, practical design strategies, and security are required. Design a site for the military or the DMV, and design it so that intrusion and security breach is impossible. Come prepared for this position with at least an Associate’s in IT and some other relevant experience. Depending on who you work for and how long you’ve been doing it, pay ranges from $40,000 to $140,000.

E-Commerce Online Media Managers do a lot of overseeing and policy implementation. Any media used on any commerce site is susceptible to the media manager’s approval. Use of partnerships to create an effective yet secure presentation of media and other site contents is important. A Bachelor’s degree in marketing along with some relevant experience are typically required to gain entry. Salaries are on the rise but currently sit in the range of $40,000 – $85,000 per year depending on employer and experience.

With all of the potentially sensitive information being passed on commerce and government sites, an information security officer manages a safe and secure environment for these transactions. There are many levels of positions, all leading to CSO, chief information security officer. All are responsible for monitoring any activity and connections. Tenure plays a considerable role, but with some experience, salaries can reach nearly $200,000 annually. A minimum of a Bachelor’s in Information Systems Management is required.

Due to demand, IT security positions in the E-commerce industry are booming. The newest vocation: network security engineer. For a salary between $50,000 and $110,000 per year, a network security engineer enforces a network’s security policies through its electronic architecture. Hardware, software, and security audits are all part of the daily duties. Proven network security engineers can also see high demand in other IT branches.

To date, these are some the hottest E-governance and E-commerce positions out there. As technology expands, so too will the vocational positions needed to keep them going, just as we see in these industries. Stay tuned for what’s next.

About the Guest Author

Richard McMillan is a blogger who writes primarily about technology and related topics. More of his expert advice can be found at Top 10 Best Online Web Design Schools and Degrees.

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Top Jobs for Computer Science Degree Holders

A degree in Computer Science equips graduates with the skills necessary to work in the Information Technology industry. There are several concentrations that help graduates excel in their respective hopeful lines of business. These concentrations include Networking, Programming, Social Media Technology, Information Systems Security, and Health Information Management. This degree goes beyond basic word processing and presentations. It covers database management, client interface, coding, network communications and much more. Some of the basic degree topics include programming principles, algorithms, computer architecture, programming paradigms, data structures, and logic.

An individual seeking a career in the Information Technology industry may be someone who enjoys finding solutions to technology related problems, wants to work in various business environments, and looks to work in a stable industry. Many computer science degree programs require some background in algebra, calculus, probability, discrete math, and equations.

3 Popular Computer Science Degree Jobs

Network administrators are almost always in high demand. Network administrators are individuals who oversee the building, maintenance, and management of an organization’s computer network. They also handle the Local Area Networks, Wide Area Networks, and the business’s Internet and intranet systems. A network administrator will also install hardware and software to ensure all computer systems are up-to-date and working appropriately. Maintaining a safe and secure network is another requirement for most network administrators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a network administrator is just above $70,000. The average salary ranges vary depending on location.

Computer systems designers are also highly demanded by businesses. Computer systems designers create systems that enable businesses to operate more efficiently through technology. Not only do these designers create the systems, but they also manage the computer and information systems. For example, a computer systems designer may create an e-commerce system to bill customers. After creating the system, the designer may also be responsible for overseeing the security of that system. This position requires a traditional full time work week in the business office. The average salary of a computer systems designer is $87,000.

A computer support specialist is an individual who assists those experiencing technical difficulties. The specialist may walk someone through how to setup an email account or uninstall an unneeded program. These specialist also install software, hardware such as printers, and solve issues with Internet connections. Computer support specialists can be found in schools, governmental jobs, and corporations alike. This is a position in high demand, and it requires the least amount of experience and training as those listed above. The salary range is also considerably less than the two positions listed above. The average salary of a computer support specialist is just above $46,000.

As the world continues to rely on computers and technology more and more, computer science graduates are needed more. There are a wide variety of jobs available, job stability, and generous salaries. These positions are also accompanied by creative freedom and flexibility.

About the Guest Author

Len Huxford is a technical writer for various online publications. His writings have earned him numerous accolades and one of his most informative pieces can be found at The Top 10 Best Online Master’s Programs in Information Technology (IT).

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Popular IT Jobs within the Healthcare Industry

Given today’s technology, the field of information technology (IT), is poised for job growth well into the next decade and beyond. When matched with projected job growth of the healthcare industry, the view is doubly optimistic. The IT field handles everything computer-related, from building and troubleshooting hardware components to designing, creating, implementing and maintaining software programming. IT workers are found in business, education, retail, and healthcare. As the healthcare industry becomes more computerized and health records become increasingly digitalized, the need for IT workers in healthcare also increases.

What an IT Professional Can Do in the Healthcare Industry?

Among fastest growing healthcare occupations are those within healthcare information fields. With patient records being increasingly entered and maintained electronically, the need for individuals that can create, program, and maintain the computer systems necessary for these electronic records is also increasing proportionately. One of the positions in high demand is the healthcare information management position. Someone in this position is responsible for entering, maintaining, analyzing and securing patient data and patient records. Often trained in the use of popular software packages used within the medical field, this person often serves as a bridge between the clinical and administrative areas of healthcare.

Another is the position of healthcare information technology. This is more of a true IT position, as the person in this position is responsible for maintaining the actual hardware and software involved in keeping digital medical information. Generally following education strictly in IT fields, this person would then apply his or her IT knowledge to learning the specifics about systems used in the healthcare industry.

Finally, healthcare informatics involves IT knowledge for actual creation and programming of the systems used for digital medical records. This position also delves more heavily into research of how medical information is captured and maintained digitally, seeking to improve the process through new technology whenever possible.

Salaries for these jobs can range between $30,000 to $80,000 per year, commensurate with experience and level of education. Some entry level positions can be obtained with just two years of higher education, allowing the opportunity to work in the field while seeking higher degrees and correspondingly better positions and salaries, if desired.

For science and technology-minded candidates interested in working in healthcare but not necessarily with patients directly, the IT field is a solid consideration. As healthcare job growth remains optimistic into the future, so too will the need for skilled IT professionals.

About the Guest Author

Kim Lawrence is an IT Consultant specializing in the healthcare industry. More of her advice about this topic can be found at 10 Best Online Degree Programs in Health Information Technology/Health Informatics.

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Top Virtual Reality Conferences in 2013

The use of virtual reality has revolutionized the way in which people learn and interact with the world around them. It provides a simulated environment where individuals can experience not only visual, but sound and tactile simulations. Every year, virtual reality professionals meet at conferences all around the United States to discuss new innovations and the future of VR technology. Here are our picks for the best ones.

Top 5 Best Virtual Reality Conferences in 2013

IEEE Conference

The IEEE virtual reality conference will be held at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida from March 16-23. There will be a variety of exhibits, workshops, and special events for attendees to enjoy. Rather than focusing on a particular aspect of virtual reality, this conference will cover a wide range of topics. Some of these topics will include immersive gaming, navigation, tracking and sensing, and VR systems and toolkits. For more information about this conference, click here.

SPIE Conference

The SPIE, “Engineering Reality of Virtual Reality” conference of 2013 will take place at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Hotel in Burlingame, California. The dates are set for February 3-7 and will include topics such as creating virtual learning environments, using VR to promote natural world immersion, and looking at the past to better understand the future of virtual reality. For more information about this conference, click here.

NextMed/MMVR20 Conference

The NextMed/MMVR20 conference will be located at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley Hotel in San Diego, California. The event will take place from February 20-23 and will focus primarily on how virtual reality is being used to further medical study and practice. There will be discussions on how virtual reality is helping to shape the world of surgery, psychology, and how medical “games” are helping educate health professionals. For more information about this conference, click here.

HCI International Conference

The HCI International conference will be taking place at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2013 dates are set from July 21-26 and the topics will cover many of the finer mechanics related to virtual reality. There will be discussions over topics such as how virtual reality is being applied in military, entertainment, and educational settings. The different instruments involved with virtual reality and how they all work together will also be a main talking point. For more information about this conference, click here.

ICVR Conference

The International Conference on Virtual Rehabilitation will be held at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The dates for the conference have been set from August 26-29 and will include multiple speakers that are professionals in using virtual environments to promote physical rehabilitation. There will also be a variety of exhibits where visitors can see advances in the field. For more information on this conference, click here.

The plethora of topics covered by these conferences showcase how virtual reality is being applied to a diverse range of disciplines. Meetings such as these allow professionals to share their insights and continue to move the field of virtual reality forward for the betterment of humanity.

 

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2013′s Top Computer Network Conferences

The computer network field is a rapidly growing enterprise. Candidates with a degree in the field are sought after in the job market. Conferences are an excellent place to keep up with theories and upcoming news concerning the industry. Following are our top picks for Computer Network Conferences in 2013.

Top 5 Computer Network Conferences in 2013

  • Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing
    Palo Alto, CA
    Jun 1–4, 2013
    Sponsored by the Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory, this conference focuses on original research in theoretical aspects of computer science. Past conferences have included topics such as applications of logic, algorithmic graph theory, complexity theory, computational geometry, algorithms and data structures, cryptography, computational biology, biological computing, probabilistic computation, computational algebra, machine learning and parallel and distributed computation. They’re currently reviewing papers.
  • 33rd International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    July 8–11, 2013
    This conference provides a forum for the latest research findings in distributed systems and solutions. Scientists and engineers in the fields of industry, academia, and government are invited to present their works. The committee is currently reviewing papers with author notifications planned for February 2013 and final manuscript submissions due the following month. Past conferences have included algorithms and theory; crowdsourcing, social networks and reputation systems; big data, data management, and analytics; security and privacy; P2P, distributed os and middleware; fault tolerance and dependability and web-based systems and applications.
  • 2013 USENIX Annual Technical Conference
    San Jose, CA
    June 26–28, 2013
    This conference covers the latest in modern computing with an emphasis on experimental results and implementations. Past conferences covered system and network management and troubleshooting; embedded systems; distributed and parallel systems; operating systems; virtualization; cloud computing; datacenter networking; networking and network services; security, privacy, and trust; usage studies and workload characterization. Papers are still being submitted for consideration.
  • IFIP Networking 2013 Conference
    Brooklyn, New York
    May 22–24, 2013
    The annual International Federation for Information Processing is a non-profit, non-government organization that works in the field of information technology. The Networking Conference is sponsored by their Technical Committee on Communication Systems. This will be their 12th event in a series of international conferences on computer networking. It is currently planned to be held at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn. At this time, the committee was still reviewing submitted papers for the program with acceptance notifications planned for March 2013.
  • Joint Workshop on Pricing and Incentives in Networks and Systems
    Pittsburgh, PA
    June 21, 2013
    This conference looks to encourage discussions in game-theoretic, economic principles and models that challenge network based services, applications and the development of networks. It’s co-sponsored by NetEcon and W-PIN in conjunction with ACM Sigmetrics. Among the subjects they look to cover is design of incentive-aware network architecture and protocols; studies of polarization, online collaboration, crowdsourcing, and human computation; and pricing of online goods, copyright issues, effect of network structure of social networks.

In coming years, specific fields like Network Administrator and Network or Information Systems Manager will be critical and continue to grow. These individuals can look forward to be well compensated with great potential for fast advancement.

About the Guest Author

Will Page is a technical writer who has earned a Master’s Degree in Information Systems Management. He enjoys attending and writing about his profession and more of his expert advice can be found at The Top 10 Best Master’s in Information Assurance Programs.

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Top Information Security Conferences in 2013

Information Security (infosec) is an exciting field dedicated to protecting all privileged data in a system. It works to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. Whether it is customer data, trade secrets, or other privileged information, information security is the effort to keep it accurate and available to the people who need it, while keeping it away from those who do not. There is no shortage of infosec conferences to attend in the USA. Here are some of the best:

Top 5 Information Security Conferences in 2013

Black Hat– July 27 – August 1, 2013, Las Vegas, NV. Founded in 1997, Blackhat has events worldwide, but its roots are in Las Vegas, NV. Attendees include representatives from government agencies (including law enforcement) to ‘Blackhat’ hackers. The “Black Hat Briefings” provide technical briefings on topical subjects and training sessions taught by respected experts provide practical education and in many cases certifications.

Black Hat is a conference often used to reveal vulnerability information. That has caused problems in the past, but recently researchers and vendors have worked to fix, or at least work around, issues before revealing them at the conference.

RSA – February 25 – March 1, 2013, San Francisco, CA. The RSA Conference is among the oldest security conferences. It started as a cryptography conference in 1991 and naturally grew to include a wide array of security fields, including infosec. It includes a security conference and a vendor expo. The conference includes talks by industry experts and Peer2Peer sessions that are small group discussions of topics especially relevant to security professionals. Peer2Peer sessions are not presentations. There is no presenter, only a facilitator to help keep discussion going.

DefCon – August 1-4, 2013, Las Vegas, NV. DefCon began in 1993. Its first meeting was intended as a farewell party for “Platinum Net” but when “Platinum Net” shut down unexpectedly, it morphed into a general hacker party. It is still a general hacker party, though law enforcement and federal agents do attend.

DefCon is strong on cracking security and exploiting vulnerabilities. It is also a little more on the “Wild West” end of the spectrum. So, if you are looking for hardcore information on hacking with a bit of life on the wild side, DefCon may be just what you are looking for.

ShmooCon – February 15-17, Washington, D.C. ShmooCon is aimed at new and interesting developments in technology – primarily, security technology. ShmooCon has traditionally had three tracks, “BUILD IT, BREAK IT, and BRING IT ON.” In 2013 they are shifting a focus. In response to the closing panel discussion last year, “BREAK IT” is becoming, “BELAY IT.” The idea is that the focus on attacks so prevalent at conferences needs to be redirected, with more attention given to defense. “BELAY IT” focuses on defense, whether it is talks on defense concepts, broken protocols, or promising research.

Security BSides – Security BSides is an arguable inclusion to this list, but the fact that it is arguable makes it worth mentioning. The BSides concept started as an unofficial addition/alternative to other cons like Blackhat, RSA, and DefCon. BSides conferences originally took place on the same days as established cons, but after hours or in a fashion that did not directly compete. The purpose was to provide additional opportunity for talks, education, and networking. Now they take place when and where someone sees a need and acts to fulfill it. BSides may coincide with a larger conference, providing additional speakers and workshops after the main con, or they may be stand-alone conferences. The rapid growth of BSides from a few U.S. conferences in 2009 to conferences worldwide as quickly as 2010 demonstrates the ability to fill a need for even more information in the infosec community. BSides conferences take place around the US and the world throughout the year.

Wherever you’re geographically located and whatever your 2013 calendar is shaping up to look like, there’s sure to be a conference that fits your needs.  With the ever-changing world of information security, the infosec conference docket is sure to get fuller and fuller every year.

About the Guest Author

Brock Stanley is a information security professional who attends as many infosec conferences as his schedule allows. More of his expert advice can be found at Criminal Justice Major Guide.

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5 Things Small Businesses Should be Doing to Protect Their Information

small business securityFor small business owners, taking precautions to protect information serves many valuable purposes. In addition to being necessary in complying with local and federal laws, securing private and personal data can also help to prevent theft or misuse of that information and keep private data or company secrets from falling into the hands of the competition. The following are the top 5 steps small businesses can take to ensure their data is protected.

Keep an Up-To-Date and Strictly Enforced Privacy Policy

As businesses grow and begin taking advantage of technology to store private information, it is vital to keep a strictly enforced privacy policy that is strictly enforced. In general, it is wise to keep one written privacy policy for staff and a second one on the company website for clients and users to access with ease. This way, there are no questions about what is to be expected by the staff or what clients can expect from the company itself.

Maintain Strict Password Policies

By far, one of the easiest ways to ramp up security throughout a small business is to maintain a strict policy requiring strong and secure passwords for all online accounts. This should include email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other social networking services that the company is using.

Updated, Secure Anti-Virus Software

It isn’t uncommon for small business owners to have somewhat of a casual approach to IT security, frequently thinking that their business is too small to become a target for a computer virus. In contrast, small businesses are just as likely to become victims as larger businesses and once the damage is done, it can be both costly and time-consuming to repair. Keeping an up-to-date anti-virus software can help to protect against vulnerabilities in security.

Hire a Hacker

That old saying, “fight fire with fire” holds some truth in the business world. One of the most effective ways to fight and protect against hackers is to hire one. Contrary to belief, not all hackers have intentions of stealing private information. Having a knowledgeable hacker on the staff can be significantly helpful in ensuring there are no security vulnerabilities in computer systems that others might be able to take advantage of.

Keep an Updated List of Devices

In addition to computers inside the business, wireless printers, smartphones, pc tablets and laptops are all vulnerabilities because they store information that can be hacked and stolen without the proper protection. Keep a list of devices that is updated regularly and be sure that users are signed out of private accounts when they are not in use. Because some of these devices are portable, it is critical to encrypt information and backup everything onto a flash drive information and data can be salvaged in the event that the device were stolen.

With all of these steps in place and carried out in action, small business owners can maintain greater security over private and personal data. Finally, by keeping the staff informed and educated on the proper procedures to follow in the event that information is compromised, a company is much better able to ensure that information is protected and retrievable at all times.

About the Guest Author

Bruce Smith is an IT consultant who specializes in working with small businesses.  He contributes frequently to tech blogs like The Best Small Business Web Hosting.

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Top Scholarships for Computer Science Majors

Computer science is a field that is becoming more important and popular as the years go by because of the increase in the general population’s dependency on technology. Everyone loves having a smartphone that can do everything in their pocket, but only a few people know how to create software for those kinds of devices.

5 Popular Computer Science Scholarships

Whether you are thinking about attending one of the best computer science programs in the country at MIT or Stanford, or you are thinking about attending a school close to home, you should always keep an eye out for the various scholarship available to you. Following is a description of five of the best computer science scholarships available to qualified students.

The Wayne V. Black Scholarship is a scholarship program that is open to anyone who attends college in the United States or Canada. You will have to be in good academic standing to apply for this scholarship, and you also need to make sure that you are attending an accredited school. The total amount available for this scholarship is $5,000, and the final decision is made by the Scholarship Committee.

The ExcEL Computer Scholarship is another $5,000 prize, although $7,000 is available for graduate students. This scholarship is granted by Loyola, and it can be combined with other financial aid that you have already received.

Another scholarship you may want to look into is the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. Dr. Anita Borg was a woman who dedicated her life to technology, and it only makes sense for a program for the advancement of technology would be created in her honor. Each of the recipients of a Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship will receive $10,000 for the upcoming school season.

A fourth scholarship for computer science that is worth applying for is the Oregon Space Grant Undergraduate Scholar Program. You must attend a college or university affiliated with the Oregon Space Grant Consortium to qualify for this scholarship, and scholarships of up to $2,000 are currently available through this program.

A last scholarship program that is available for qualifying students is the TELACU Scholarship Program. There are hundreds of scholarships handed out every year through this program, and students attending colleges in California, New York, Illinois and Texas are currently eligible  This is the perfect scholarship option for someone from a low income background, and this is especially true for first generation college students.

As you can see, there are plenty of scholarship options available for individuals, young and old, who would like to better their lives with a career in computer science. If you have always loved tinkering around with technology and trying to create something of your own, then you should think about how these scholarships can have a positive impact on your life for many years to come.

About the Guest Author

Miriam Buxton is a career counselor and regular contributor to blogs that feature articles about education.  More of her expert advice can be found at The Top 10 Most Affordable Online Schools for Information Technology.

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The Top Five Bioinformatics Conferences of 2013

Bioinformatics is the study of how computer technology might be used to manage biological information. Exciting examples include analyzing genetic sequences to invent a new, life-saving drug and determining the sequence of the entire human genome. Bioinformatics conferences help biologists around the world touch base, communicating the latest strides in the field to each other. Check out these top five bioinformatics conferences, which will be held in the U.S. in 2013.

1. Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing
January 3-7, 2013
Location: United States – HI – Kohala Coast

This conference features keynote speaker David Ewing Duncan, an author and journalist speaking on “The Rise of Personalized Health, and the Coming Age of Human Enhancement.”
For more information, click here.

2.Epigenomics Session at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing (PSB)
January 3-7, 2013
Location: Hawaii – The Big Island

The conference focus will be analytic techniques for epigenomic data. Invited speakers include Michael Snyder, Stanford University and Frank Pugh, Penn State University.
For more information, click here

3. Conference on Semantics in Healthcare and Life Sciences
February 27 – March 1, 2013
Location: Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts

CSHALS is an opportunity for bioinformatics experts from around the world to share their knowledge of semantic information technology in pharmaceuticals, hospitals, healthcare institutions and college laboratories. Keynote speakers include Stefan Decker, National University of Ireland; Lynette Hirschman, The Mitre Corporation; Edward H. Shortliffe, Arizona State University and Bryan Sivak, US Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information, click here.

4. The Great Lakes Bioinformatics Conference
May 14 – 16, 2013
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,

GLBIO is sponsored by the Great Lakes Bioinformatics consortium, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Lectures, tutorials, poster presentations, and keynote speakers will be featured. Keynote speakers include Ivit Bahar, from the University of Pittsburgh; Ziv Bar-Joseph, Carnegie Mellon University; Jing Li, Case Western Reserve University and Isidore Rigoutsos, Thomas Jefferson University.
For more information, click here.

5. Rocky Mountain Bioinformatics Conference (ISCB)
December 12 – 14, 2013
Location: Snowmass/Aspen, Colorado

Computational scientists will converge at this conference featuring lectures and topical, ppecial interest discussions, to be announced.
For more information, click here.

These top five bioinformatics conferences allows professionals to share their ideas in this exciting new field and forge professional relationships that will last a lifetime. So mark your calendar for 2013!

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5 Ways to Secure Your Computer From Identity Theft

internet securityIdentity theft is a growing concern in our society. Identity thieves target personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, or credit card details. They use the information to obtain credit or other benefits using the victim’s name.

The proliferation of computers and mobile devices has increased the risk of identity theft. People do more and more tasks online, such as banking or shopping, and many websites collect personal information. It’s important to be aware of the potential for identity theft and to make sure your computer is secure.

Top Five Tips for Securing Your Identity

Here are several steps you can take to keep your computer safer and reduce your risk of identity theft.

1. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. A recent survey by Michigan State University found that users running such software were fifty percent less likely to have had their credit card information stolen. Not only do these programs lower the risk of identity theft, they also keep the computer more secure overall. Anti-virus software detects and removes computer viruses. An anti-spyware program will uncover software that collects personal data, such as browsing history, login information and passwords.

2. Secure your computer with a firewall. A firewall allows you to access the Internet while blocking unauthorized access to your computer. Windows comes with a built-in firewall. Make sure it’s active before you connect to the Internet. You can also install a third-party firewall for additional protection.

3. Encrypt all sensitive files. Encryption scrambles files so that they cannot be read without a password or key. There are several encryption software programs on the market. The extra security provided by an encryption program is well worth the cost.

4. Use secure passwords and change them frequently. Avoid including personal information, such as Social Security numbers or birthdays, in passwords. Strong passwords contain a blend of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. They should be a minimum of eight characters long. Passwords should be changed every three to six months. This can seem inconvenient, but the added security is worth the effort.

5. Be alert for phishing scams. Phishing is an attempt to gather user names, credit card information, passwords, and other personal data by posing as a legitimate entity in an online communication (typically an e-mail). A phishing message usually looks like an e-mail from a bank, an online store, a social network, or another popular online site. It typically directs users to enter personal information at a fraudulent website that often looks very much like the real site. If you receive an e-mail requesting personal information, contact the company it claims to have originated from and verify that the message is legitimate. Never click on a hyperlink in a suspicious message. Many such links lead to sites infected with viruses or other malware.

Following these tips will lower your risk of identity theft and keep your PC more secure. By staying aware of the risks and taking steps to improve your security online, you can lower the chances of having your identity stolen.

About the Guest Author

Daniel Young holds a Masters Degree in Information Technology and blogs frequently about information security and other IT related issues.  One of his most recent contributions can be found at The Stupidest Things You’re Doing to Put Your Identity at Risk.

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Safeguarding Patients’ Health Information

Today’s ever changing world presents new challenges to protecting patients’ healthcare. There are several reasons why protecting health information is beneficial to both the medical provider or practice and the patient, many of which revolve around legal liability. Modern day health facilities, their providers and staff must be conscientious of patient confidentiality because they can be brought to court at nearly anytime by any patient. If proper evidence shows there was a malfeasance, costly penalties could ensue. Following are four ways healthcare workers can help protect both their patients and their employers.

Proper Documentation

Liability is not the only reason, nor should it be the defining factor, for using discretion when releasing patient information. Ethically, one must consider the patient’s best interest when sharing personal information – even when this occurs in the same office between co-workers. Patient documentation is complex, and this must be considered when applying guidelines for securing health information. Medical records, which were primarily paper charts only a few years ago, are now almost completely electronic. These systems are protected by username and password login credentials. Health facility staff must be cautious to keep their passwords safe and deter the misuse of patient information. It is of utmost importance that workstations be locked at all times when a member of the staff is not using the system. Also, patient information should not be visible while other patients are in the area.

Privacy and Respect

Health care workers and providers must be careful to respect the patient. Typically, it is suitable to call a patient from a waiting room by addressing him by his first or last name only. It is appropriate and professional to refer to the patient as “Sir” or “Ma’am”, or by the first name only, but never by both the first and last name. Also, it is very important to not discuss patient information when other patients are able to hear. Even when asking a patient simple questions regarding his symptoms, it is recommended to wait until the patient is in an exam room.

Access to Information

All patients have the right to allow their spouse, child or anyone else have access to their records; however, they must sign an authorization to do so. Anytime someone calls for the patient’s information, this list of authorized individuals should be referenced before giving details of the patient’s health record to anyone.

Patients’ Responsibility

Test results, appointment information and any other information in patients’ chart must be kept confidential at all times. It is also imperative for patients to cooperate with their providers by understanding their rights. Each and every patient has the right to confidential health information. In order to achieve this, patients must comply with any policies put in place, such as medical records authorizations. This documentation is extremely important in today’s litigious society.

There is a simple, straightforward way to achieve patient confidentiality – patients and providers must strictly protect health information through proper documentation and etiquette.

About the Guest Author

Mary Johanssen spends much of her time as a nursing informatic instructor teaching her students about patient confidentiality and information security as it relates to healthcare record keeping. More of her advice about this interesting and unique field can be found at MSN – Nursing Informatics.

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Information Security Concerns in Clinical Trials

clinical trialsClinical trial studies are the heart of advancing medical science. The goal of any trial is to collect data that may lead to more effective drug therapies, diagnostics, treatment protocols and devices. In today’s techno-centric world, security is always going to be an valid concern. Responsibility for the safety of clinical trials falls on the sponsors and investigating group. Proper clinical trial management is the key to securing data for anyone taking part in a study. Following is a discussion of three ways leading medical research organizations are helping to ensure the security of all parties involved in their clinical trials through the use of sophisticated software.

Clinical Trial Management Systems

The proliferation of information technology systems has introduced more computer software environments to clinical studies. One approach often seen to enhance trial security is the use of a clinical trial management system – independent software able to assimilate large qualities of data. The clinical trial management system is a comprehensive tool that controls all aspects of the trial including:

      • Planning
      • Budgeting
      • Patient management
      • Government compliance

Each separate program offers different features. This is one way that researchers can ensure security for both their patients and data. The programs offer a desktop dashboard that works as a standalone interface to control the software.

Clinical Trial Portal

A clinical trial portal is a web-based system that is study specific. This platform gives sponsors and investigators an online, centralized remote access point to input data, review information and create applications for trial participation. It will monitor all access to help prevent intruders and regulate conduct.

Clinical trial portals come in different formats. The clinical trial investigator portal provides secure information to train investigators for the study. This alleviates the need to send data via email or another unsecure process. The portal hosts confidential documents, study protocol and brochures. It also serves as a central location when recruiting sponsors. With a proper logon, potential sponsors can access the system securely and find out more about the study. Through the portal, sponsors can review the database of investigators, analyze their qualifications, and read study related documents.

The ability to sign documents electronically is a security benefit of a clinical trial portal. Digital signatures save time and money, as well as cut back on hardcopy storage needs. Through electronic signatures, sponsors and investigators can sign off on protocols, training material and other documents without waiting for messenger deliveries or unsecure emails.

Interactive Voice Response Systems

These programs are an effective way to manage a clinical study that uses phone registration. The program relies on a voice recognition platform to conduct the study remotely. Patients can access the surveys or information reporting system via their personal phones. Without the proper security, phone systems are vulnerable to hacking or misuse. The voice recognition program helps to limit access to the various areas of the study. When a patient calls in, the system does a voice analysis to verify the identity of the caller and routes them to the proper arm of the study automatically.

Security is a concern with clinical trials, especially in the world of electronic record keeping. Researchers can work with specialized software programs to cut back on the risk of patient information and study data leakage.

About the Guest Author

Don Wise is a medical blogger with specific interest in how technology is transforming the healthcare industry.  More of his technology/healthcare findings can be found at Nursing Informatics Program Rankings.

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5 Top Computer Animation Conferences in 2013

Computer animation is a growing field in today’s marketplace, with wide-ranging application all across the film, video game, and web entertainment industries. Attending CG animation conferences is a great way to connect with other industry professionals, learn about recent developments in the field and keep up to date with current trends in animation.

5 Top Computer Animation Conferences in 2013

With so many industry enthusiasts in one place, computer animation conferences are also an easy way to find future clients, employers, or employees. Following is a list of 5 of the best 2013 computer animation conferences.

GRAPP 2013
February 21-24, Barcelona, Spain
The International Conference on Computer Graphics Theory and Applications, a participant in the 8th annual VISIGRAPP joint conference, covers many aspects of computer graphics, ranging from 3D modeling to interactive environments — but computer animation is a topic given much attention at the conference. A meeting of researchers, developers and artists, papers presented at the conference will cover such aspects as facial animation, animating particle systems, crowd simulation, and retargeting motion capture data. For more information, click here.

FMX 2013
April 23-26, Stuttgart, Germany
FMX is a conference on animation, effects, games and transmedia, regularly featuring presentations by the minds behind blockbuster animation titles released in the U.S. The focus here is more on the production arc and end product than technological details: animated films are often screened and lectures tend to be “making-of” talks by prominent figures in the animation field rather than presentations of technical papers. For more information, click here.

CASA 2013
May 16-18, Istanbul, Turkey
Much more narrowly focused than the previous two, the 26th International Conference on Computer Animation and Social Agents is presented by a number of prestigious institutions, including Microsoft Turkey. Every aspect of animation technique is discussed here, including motion control, behavioral animation, and the distinctions between physics, image and knowledge-based animation. The various fields of application are also subjects of interest, with talks on everything from computer games to medical simulation. The conference is also about social agents in contemporary animation, discussing avatars, AI, personality and inter-agent communication. For more information, click here.

ACM SIGGRAPH/Europgraphics SCA 2013
July 26-28, Anaheim, California
Taking place immediately after the much more broadly focused SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference, the 2013 Symposium on Computer Animation will feature a board bringing together faculty from universities in California, Texas, Switzerland and Hong Kong, as well as a representative of Disney Research Zurich. The SCA is largely focused on the physics of animation, with presentations on the dynamics of fluid, cloth, hair, and collisions. Character and speech animation are also common topics. For more information, click here.

CGamesUSA 2013
July 30-August 1, Louisville, Kentucky
The 18th International Conference on Computer Games has a broad-ranging program, but computer animation in the field of games receives focused discussion. Presentations range from the technical — on topics such as game physics and animation of both skeletal and facial natures — to the theoretical, such as animation in the realm of content generation and the aesthetics of animation. For more information, click here.

Choose a conference that works with your calendar and travel plans. Attending computer animation conferences can be a rewarding experience, building valuable knowledge and connections.

About the Guest Author

Melody McCurdy is a writer who blogs frequently about video and computer animation, game design, and other IT related topics.  More of her expert advice can be found at The Top 5 Online Computer Animation Schools.

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Top 5 Video Game Developers Conferences in 2013

The field of video game development has never been more accessible. The mobile gaming revolution has given aspiring developers the ability to create and market their games to a wide audience. A thriving industry means lots of conferences to attend. Here is a quick glimpse at 2013′s biggest events.

1. The Game Developers Conference

From humble beginnings as a gathering of 25 people in the living room of founder Chris Crawford in 1988, to an audience of 22,500 in 2012, its history provides the perfect metaphor for the exponential growth of the game industry in the past 25 years. The Independent Games Festival, an exposition for budding developers, is part of the conference as well as the Game Developers Choice Awards. The conference covers the gamut of gaming with session titles like “Why Won’t Farmville Go Away?” and “Static Lighting Tricks in Halo 4″.

The 2013 event will be held in San Francisco from March 25-29. For more information about the GDC, visit their website by clicking here.

2. The Electronic Entertainment Expo

E3 is probably more well-known among game fans due to the media coverage the conference usually receives. However, this knowledge is second-hand, as it is only open to developers. Unlike the more structured GDC, E3 has a more fair-like format, as publishers set up booths and attendees freely roam around the conference floor.

This year E3 will take place June 11-13 in Los Angeles. Click here to visit their website.

3. The Penny Arcade Expo

PAX actually hosts several conferences: PAX Prime and PAX Dev in Seattle; PAX East in Boston; and PAX Melbourne in Australia. PAX Dev, as the name implies, caters to developers and provides a more formal learning environment. The others are open to the public and are expositions similar to E3.

The dates for PAX Prime and PAX Dev 2013 have yet to be announced, but they usually take place in late August. PAX East will take place in Boston March 22-24. Visit the website for PAX East by clicking here.

4. The D.I.C.E. Summit

This event targets producers and executives and incorporates a variety of non-video game related social events like a golf tournament (with an actual golf club, not a Wii remote) and a whiskey tasting event. Past speakers have included the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto.

This year’s D.I.C.E. summit will be held in Las Vegas February 5-8. Registration is open at their website.

5. Games Beyond Entertainment Week

Though outside of the mainstream, serious games are starting to gain more attention, and GBEW provides a forum where developers and producers can network in this expanding market. The week is actually a series of mini conferences focusing on different topics, such as the Games for Health Conference and The Serious Games Tutorial Unconference.

The 2013 dates for GBEW are still TBA. Last year’s conference was in Boston. Click here to visit their website.

This is a small list of the hundreds of video game conferences that take place every year. The financial and technical barriers to producing games will likely continue to fall, birthing new generations that ensure events like these are not going anywhere anytime soon.

About the Guest Author

Mitch Grossman is a blogger and video game enthusiast from Anaheim, California.  He is pursuing a degree in video game design and offers his advice about game design schools at Top 8 Best Online Game Design Schools.

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Bioinformatics Training and Degrees

Bioinformatics is, at a glance, a hybrid field. It combines the biological and computer sciences, and may be of interest to either biologists with an interest in IT, or to IT specialist with an interest in biology. A diverse range of topics are covered under bioinformatics. In general, it is the study and organization of biological systems and interactions using computational programs. Currently, genome projects and genetic engineering are the prime focus of bioinformatics.

The Importance and Possible Uses of the Science

The biotech industry has traditionally had the strongest demand for bioinformatics work. The expectation was that bioinformatics would assist in the development of new bio-based technologies for use in other industries, agriculture, medicine and for general consumer products. As biotech funding has been steadily decreasing, most bioinformatics work is now relegated to university-based research labs.

There is a still a wealth of biological knowledge to be gained and organized. As computers are now the primary means of organizing, manipulating, and sharing complex biological data, bioinformatics remains a vital part of the scientific community. As new technologies are developed, there is likely to be a strong return to the commercial opportunities of the field. Worldwide, the biotech field is still strong, and will likely surpass the fifty-billion dollar mark in the coming years.

Bioinformatics Training and Preparation

Since bioinformatics is a hybrid field, beginning possibilities for training are diverse. The advantages of preparing for a bioinformatics career is that it will have the side-effect of opening up a wide variety of other jobs and careers. Usually the career path starts with a foundation in the biological sciences. Biochemistry, microbiology, or genetics are the most useful specializations, but any degree in biology or life science is useful. From there, a graduate should begin training in computer sciences and IT. They should be competent with programming and code writing and have several years of IT experience before taking the final steps into bioinformatics.

A reverse of this career path is also possible, with a student beginning their undergraduate study in IT and then moving into the life sciences. The actual bioinformatics training will be a graduate-level integration of these two primary areas of study.

While full degrees in biology and software development may not be required, current hiring mangers are looking for experience above all. The best experience will be in one or both of the two primary fields, and jobs in either usually require a full degree.

Where to Obtain a Bioinformatics Degree

Obtaining a bioinformatics degree has been made easier recently with a dramatic increase in training programs across the US and other countries. The following is a list of training courses specifically in bioinformatics. A base degree must already be held.

The first two programs are grounded in biological science. The last program is for those with an IT background.

1. UC Davis Professional Bioinformatics Training Program
2. University of Michigan Medical School Bioinformatics Training Program
3. Chicago Online BiTmaP Program

Possible Career Paths in Bioinformatics

The advantage of pursuing a bioinformatics degree is the wide range of possible career options. Listed below are three popular choices.

1. Geneticist: Average salary is approximately $60,000-$90,000 annually.
2. Biostatistician: Average salary is approximately $60,000-$80,000 annually
3. Bioinformatician: Average Salary is $130,000 annually.

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Cryptography Training Basics

cryptographyCryptography is a fascinating subject in both study and in practical application. It consists of many layers of complexity and intrigue that can challenge even the most clever of minds. By definition, cryptography is a branch of of knowledge that relates to the academic study of and real-world decryption of codes, ciphers and other types of language puzzles. Cryptography has a wide range of uses and applications and a career in the cryptographic arts can offer challenges that cannot be experienced in virtually any other career. Anyone interested in committing themselves to the study of cryptography should know a few basic facts about this intellectual pursuit.

Why Study Cryptography?

Cryptographers pursue their area of study for a wide variety of reasons. Some students may have a lifelong love of and fascination with the field of mathematics, both in research and in practice. Mathematics is an integral part of the field of cryptography and someone with a strong basis in mathematics can do well in such a capacity. Others who may have a passion for computers and complex technology can find an interest in cryptography. In general, this type of study is important to people with a love of knowledge, a love of challenges and a sense of pride in their intellectual achievements.

Cryptography Training

Training in the field of cryptography covers a wide range of subjects. Each one of these subjects is best learned in an individual, dedicated course or in a group of courses that provide hands-on, real world exercises in the different skills that successful cryptography entails. Encryption is one of the foundational areas of knowledge that must be thoroughly grasped as a requirement to understand cryptography. Encryption is the process by which communication messages are transformed into unreadable ciphers.

Cryptographic primitives are another important area of study. Primitives are dedicated mathematical formulas and equations that have been specially designed to be deployed when performing a great deal of decrypting at one time. This method of decryption was not widely used in the early days of cryptography but has gained a great deal of prominence with the advent of digital technology that is used for decryption.

Finding Cryptography Training

Given the nature of this field, it is understandable that a number of quality training programs exist online.  Here are three of the best:

1. Black Hat (www.blackhat.com) is a leading provider of cryptography training resources. They hold security conferences that offer comprehensive skill training.

2. Cryptography-Tutorial.com is another useful training website that provides online study materials.

3. Kalliance.com specializes in IT tutorials that can benefit cryptography students.

Cryptography Careers

There are many careers available in the field of cryptography and you should take care to select the one that fits your skills and career pursuits best.  Following are three example of careers in this field.

1. Cryptographer — Approximate Salary: $60,000 – $125,000 per year

  • Cryptographers can work for government security agencies or technology companies.

2. Information Security Analyst — Approximate Salary — $75,660 per year

  • Information security analysts protect a company’s interests as their website is developed and built. They analyze and remain up to date on all aspects of the website as it is being constructed.

3. Incident Responder — Approximate Salary — $81,000 per year

  • Incident responders can work for any company or business that has an Internet presence. They focus on security breaches, firewall compromise situations and phishing scams as they occur, applying on-the-fly solutions to problems.

Cryptography is an exciting and extremely challenging field for the person with the right skill set, education and interests.   Research this exciting field and get started on your dream career.

About the Guest Author

Amelia Lockwood is a blogger and information technology expert who enjoys researching all of the careers she never embarked upon.  More of her findings can be read at Cybersecurity Careers.

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Top 5 Careers in Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence exists in many forms including video games, robotics, search engines, face recognition software, and even weaponry. With so many career options available, there is a job waiting for anyone willing to work for it. A bachelor’s degree in computer science may land you a few possible jobs, but to get deep into the A.I. field, you will need a Masters or Ph.D. specializing in machine learning or A.I. This will provide you with the knowledge necessary to pursue a fruitful and very profitable career.

5 Popular Artificial Intelligence Careers

The career options available to the well-educated student are many and varied. Everybody loves video games, but newer games require highly intelligent enemies to keep players challenged. This is where a game programmer, or software engineer, comes in to play. With the right company, this job starts at $75,000 annually and reaching as high as $125,000 annually for lead programmers.

Perhaps a more serious career is what you have in mind. Robots are taking over the industrial world, but they need programmers. A robotic scientist or programmer makes a median salary of $90,000 annually. Robotic Scientists have the best shot at getting hired if they have at least a master’s in robotic engineering and receive licensing from their state.

If you seek a career that helps out other humans, consider a career as a software engineer working on face recognition software. Many companies, including security companies, police departments, casinos, and even Google are utilizing face recognition to understand the people benefiting from their service. People seeking out this career choice have a wide range of salaries to choose from depending on their education level, from $28,000 to $125,000 annually.

Google will be one of the highest paying companies from face recognition, but they also use A.I. in another interesting way. Google hires people with artificial intelligence degrees to manage their massive search engine. The Google Search needs to be able to predict what users wish to search for despite spelling errors and thousands of possibilities of their intended meaning for the searched phrase. This is where A.I. becomes important. A Ph.D. can net you a salary upwards of $112,000 annually. Some of their highest paid senior software engineers take home over $250,000.

Often working for private companies can be a very difficult affair. Their hiring process is quite competitive and they seek out only the best of the best. However, the government employs the largest number of people in the nation and they too require the aid of highly skill artificial intelligence employees. Warfare is growing more complex by the day and thus the government is developing smart weapons. Their software development engineers earn a median salary of $73,000 annually, but the earnings also come with excellent benefits and retirement packages.

Artificial intelligence plays an increasingly large role in running the world around us and the possibilities for its use continue to grow. Any student willing to put in the effort to gain a high level of education will be quickly accepted into this growing and well paying industry.

About the Guest Author

Paul West is an IT professional from San Francisco, CA. He contributes regularly to tech blogs and more of his expert advice can be found at Top 10 Best Online Schools for Computer Science Degrees.

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Cyber Warfare Training Basics

Cyber warfare has developed into an industry of widespread necessity and near-constant innovation. This discipline calls for the study of tactics and techniques that can, when effectively deployed, be used to deter attacks designed to compromise system security. Such attacks are almost always politically motivated and usually target repositories of highly sensitive information, such as government computer systems and high-profile military intelligence networks. The battleground of the digital age is found on the Internet, not in the bunkers and bases of previous generations. As such, modern defensive tactics must be adapted to counteract the digital threats and attacks of cyber warfare.

Why Study Cyber Warfare?

The study of cyber warfare constitutes one of the most critically important fields of research currently underway in the United States. The very real and palpable threat of an attack launched by an enemy state becomes more significant every day. As more and more information is stored online, the consequences of a cyber attack multiply. This is why the study of cyber warfare is so very important. No computer defense network is perfect and completely invulnerable. New skills and tactics must be developed and deployed on a constant basis to keep up with the changing nature of cyber threats.

Cyber Warfare Training

The field of cyber warfare includes a variety of subjects that each comprise a vital component of the discipline as a whole. The following are some of the topics that are covered in a typical cyber warfare training course.

History of Cyberwarfare:

In order to properly understand the modern, ever-changing nature of cyber warfare tactics, it is critically important to have a thorough understanding of how this form of warfare came to be. Although it may seem to be a strictly contemporary phenomenon, cyber warfare has roots that stretch back decades. Having a keen insight into the development and origins of cyber warfare can provide a distinct advantage in modern applications.

Cyber Warfare Theory:

Theory refers to the study and research of the conceptual planning of cyber warfare strategy. A working knowledge of cyber warfare offensive and defensive strategies is a requirement for the practice and planning of modern cyber warfare.

Cyber warfare training courses can be located online. Below are several course providers that can be found online.

      • Applied Technology Institute (www.ATIcourses.com)
      • CyberInt (www.cyberint.com)
      • Global Knowledge (www.globalknowledge.com)

Cyber Warfare Careers

Most of the cyber warfare jobs that are currently available are offered by certain branches of the military and government. Listed below are some of the jobs available to those who wish to make a career out of their interest in cyber warfare.

Cyber Warfare Specialist

A cyber warfare specialist needs to have a solid understanding of offensive and defensive cyber strategies. They will be called upon to recommend courses of action in response to new and developing threats. The average salary for a cyber warfare specialist is approximately $104,000.

Cyber Warfare Systems Analyst

A cyber warfare systems analyst is responsible for the maintenance, upkeep and troubleshooting of defense hardware and software. They must keep careful track of all that happens within a cyber threat network. Their average salary is approximately $106,000.

The field of cyber warfare is rapidly growing and expanding.  Now is the time to investigating whether this exciting and challenging career is for you.

About the Guest Author

Mindy Zhu is a criminologist from NYC, and she contributes frequently to journals and blogs about security issues facing our nation.  You can read more of her expert advice at Top Online Colleges for Criminal Justice.

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5 Top Artificial Intelligence Conferences in 2013

AI ConferenceArtificial Intelligence is the field of study concerned with the design and construction of intelligent systems. It is by this discipline that much of the future is paved, with some of the top scientists in the world rigorously working towards the creation of agents that can perceive their environment and make intelligent decisions based on acquired data. Every year, many of these scientists come together with the purpose of consulting each other and sharing the results of their research. The following are the top five Artificial Intelligence conferences taking place in 2013 all over the United States.

The 11th Conference on Artificial and Computational Intelligence and its Applications to the Environmental Sciences

Being hosted from Jan. 5 to Jan. 10, this conference focuses on the applications of artificial intelligence to the environmental sciences. In particular, 2013′s theme will narrow in on the advantages of intelligent agents and data mining systems in the field of meteorology. With this, the hosts of the conference hope to advance research on the capabilities of current systems in predicting weather patterns and, more accurately, forecasting climate changes. Doing so will provide substantial benefits through the ability to track extreme weather conditions and provide data support to private sector decision makers.

For more information, click here.

The 16th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics

This conference will be hosted from April 29 to May 1 and will comprise the closely aligned fields of computer science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and statistics. The purpose of this conference is for scientists within these disciplines to openly exchange ideas for the advancement of individual research. This conference has been maintained since 1985, opening dialogue between each respective field and allowing them to benefit from their experimentation.

For more information, click here.

The 30th International Conference on Machine Learning

From June 17 to June 19, the foremost international conference in the field of machine learning will be hosted with the purpose of bringing together the top minds in this wide and varied field. Concerned with the development of algorithms that allow machines to interpret and learn from varying data, this conference hopes to bring these scientists together to consult one on another in the process of creating truly intelligent machines. The benefits of this technology comes in the way of machines that are able to extrapolate from acquired data and make educated decisions.

For more information, click here.

The 16th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education

Taking place from July 9 to July 13, this conference will be dedicated to the advancement of artificial intelligence for educational computing applications. Bringing together such far-off fields as computer science, the cognitive sciences, education, game design, linguistics, psychology, and sociology, this conference aims to allow scientists to confer with one another in creating breakthrough tools and technology that will inspire and educate more efficiently.

For more information, click here.

The 25th Annual Conference on Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence

This conference will be held from July 14 to July 18, focusing on applications of artificial intelligence technologies that have proven successful. The host of this conference hopes to more closely bridge the gap between theoretical and applied artificial intelligence by showcasing research, experiments, and developed technology during the course of the event. By doing so, the conference may provide a forum to allow current and future artificial intelligence projects to further innovate by possessing a more rounded repertoire of theoretical knowledge to aid development.

For more information, click here.

About the Guest Author

David Grim is a technology writer and conference organizer from Pensacola, Florida. For more of his contributions to online IT resources, visit him at Top 10 Best Online MIS Degree Programs.

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