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October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and there’s no bigger “holiday” for those who work in information technology, digital safety and tech security. Okay, that might be a tiny exaggeration; However, it is safe to say this: cybersecurity professionals keep our internet and networks safe from hacking, data breaches, scams and fraud, and there simply aren’t enough cyberheroes doing the job.

Just in 2017, data breaches hit a new record high of 1,579 breaches, indicating a drastic upturn of 44.7 percent increase over the record high figures the year before. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in computer security or data protection. The theme for week two of NCSAM is to highlight the intense need for highly-skilled, dedicated professionals who are interested in the landscape of modern crime and warfare known as our computers and the internet.

But who has the chance to become a superhero? Anyone! Only two years ago, there were an estimated one million unfilled jobs in the U.S. in the cybersecurity field, and that number is expected to be 3.5 million by 2021. There has never been a better time to consider this field, and there may have never been a more critical need than right now.

1. Middle school and high school – It’s never too early to begin learning about data breaches, information technology, cybersecurity and other tech-related subjects. Unfortunately, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a few high schools even offering this type of course. There are some really dynamic online sources for teens, though, and the first step is simply to get students interested in the field and talking about the subject.

2. College and career – More and more colleges are offering cybersecurity degrees, and many of those schools even offer a fully online bachelor’s degree in the field (after all, you’re going to be working online a lot, you might as well earn your degree that way!). The programs have grown in number to the point that multiple sources have already ranked colleges’ and universities’ cybersecurity degree programs according to best value, best education, highest number of graduates working in their field and more.

3. Returning learners – For one reason or another, the average person changes careers between five and seven times during the span of their work life. Some of the reasons include better pay or benefits, more flexibility, a lack of opportunity in their previous field, or simply the chance to reinvent themselves after years in a fulfilling career. Cybersecurity is relatively new, it’s constantly evolving, it’s an incredibly high demand, and for some, it’s a job that a professional could do as a freelancer or from home. All of those factors make cybersecurity and information technology exciting possibilities for older, non-traditional or returning students.

No matter why you consider the cybersecurity field, there’s never been a better time to take on the challenge. It’s a widely recognized and highly sought after area of study while also serving the greater good and protecting the public. (The $100,000+ average annual salary doesn’t hurt, either.) If you’re looking for an exciting opportunity that can offer you variety mixed with longevity, talk to a college, university or career counselor about cybersecurity.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Our Shared Responsibility Begins at Home

Against all odds, Caren’s aging out of the foster youth system and ready to strike out on her own. By all accounts, she’s done quite well — graduating from high school, attending college, and earning $30,000 a year working part-time as a store manager. She even bought a car and has three months’ rent saved to get an apartment.

The problem is, Caren’s birth mother stole her identity and ruined Caren’s credit history. As a result, no one will rent to her. Caren’s transitional housing is about to end, and she’ll soon have no place to live.

Why foster youth become victims of identity theft

Caren isn’t her real name, but she’s a real victim of child identity theft, something that’s all too common among foster youth. That’s because of all the people who have access to a foster child’s documentation and personal information — biological parents, any number of foster parents, foster agencies and program personnel.

In this case, Caren’s biological mother used her identity for cable television and other household bills. This apparently went on for years. When Caren discovered the problem, she could’ve filed a police report, but she worried what would happen to her mother. She also worried what would happen to her siblings who still live at home with her mother.

So, Caren faces homelessness instead.

“Foster youth have so much that’s out of their control,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center. “Not only is their information being shared and, unfortunately, often not in a secure way, they don’t have that parent or guardian behind them, trying to help.”

Symantec’s new program to help foster youth identity theft victims

With situations like Caren’s in mind, Symantec has launched a new program to help foster youth and the nonprofits that support them. It’s called FAST, Fostering a Secure Tomorrow. FAST will help foster youth protect and restore their identities, using the support of Norton and LifeLock experts, solutions, and services.

Symantec will partner with the Identity Theft Resource CenterTechSoup, and a network of community groups and organizations to assist foster youth. Initially, FAST will work with three foster youth-focused nonprofits. These are Bill Wilson Center and Promises2Kids in California, and Aid to Adoption of Special Kids in Arizona.

Symantec will provide cybersecurity education, access to security products, and identity restoration services. Symantec employee volunteers will mentor youth, provide program training, and advocate for strong policies that help protect foster children.

Caren isn’t alone. There are stories like hers across the foster youth system. And they illustrate the need for programs like FAST to not only restore the identities of foster youth victims, but also help protect these young people against becoming identity theft victims in the first place.

Read the full report here: The Impact of Identity Theft on Foster Youth

This blog was originally posted on Symantec.com. Symantec proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.


If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.