TSTC Cybersecurity student Samuel Sanders works on a digital data privacy assignment during a recent lab session.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – In today’s digital world, hackers are developing extraordinary methods to access consumer data.

Data Privacy Week begins Jan. 22 and not only educates consumers about how to better protect themselves, but also highlights how Texas State Technical College students are being prepared for their future careers.

Daniel Follis, a Cybersecurity instructor at TSTC’s Waco campus, said it is essential to protect personal information.

“Hackers will use any data they find on a person using techniques such as social engineering, social media platforms and dark web forums,” he said. “Some of that data includes marital status, kids’ names, photos, job titles, workplace, emails and much more information. Social media is a huge target because it is a part of the public domain.”

Follis said it is ideal for computers and smart devices to have software that protects them from viruses and malware.

“That software is used to keep a computer safe,” he said. “Those updates contain patches and security updates to keep information more secure. People can use virtual private networks (VPNs) to help keep their data safe as well. Consumers need to delete the cookies on their smart devices on a regular basis and close the tabs when the device is not in use.”

Amy Hertel, a Cybersecurity instructor at TSTC’s Marshall campus, said first-semester students learn about the fundamentals.

“That applies to a personal computer, server and network operations,” she said. “To understand how an exploit works, they will learn about the principles that make it function. Students are taught how a router handles network traffic and how a denial-of-service (DoS) attack can break it. They will deploy the best practices to prevent those attacks from occurring.”

Hertel added that the program’s culmination is its capstone course.

“The students perform penetration testing in a virtual environment,” she said. “They will identify vulnerabilities within the operating system, network and web applications. Then they determine which actions should be taken to increase the security posture of the environment.”

U.S. Air Force veteran Samuel Sanders is in his first semester at TSTC, where he is studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity.

He said he has learned about the evolving technology of hardware and software.

“The student population should be aware of data privacy because it’s their personal information,” he said. “There are cases of identity theft that can damage a person’s financial future and personal safety.”

His education has helped him become more aware of security measures.

“Any individual who uses the internet for school, work or entertainment is digitally tracked,” he said. “Now I avoid those threats.”

TSTC offers online training for its Cybersecurity program. Students can choose to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity, certificates of completion in Cybersecurity, an advanced technology certificate in Digital Forensics Specialist, and several occupational skills achievement awards.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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