In 2006, the VA experienced a data breach that included the personally identifiable information (PII) of more than 26 million vets. In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) experienced a data breach that exposed the PII of 21.5 million federal employees.

Even if you were not enrolled in the VA system, or are a current or former federal employee, your personal information was likely stolen in the September 2017 Equifax data breach which affected 147 million consumers.

My personal information was compromised by all three data breaches. These incidents made me wonder what I could do to protect my PII. They led me to the discovery that there are several organizations that offer free cybersecurity training to veterans.

You may be wondering what the term cybersecurity means. Cybersecurity is a nebulous term. It’s somewhat analogous to the military term, information operations. Information operations includes electronic warfare, computer network operations, PSYOP, military deception, and OPSEC. That’s a lot of territory.

It’s the same with cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is an umbrella term that includes many subsets.

Cybersecurity aims to protect data, whether it’s in the form of a file or other data, such as your Social Security number.

Here is the thing: no one individual understands all aspects of cybersecurity. Instead, it’s usually conducted by teams of specialists working in concert.

This means that there are jobs aplenty in cybersecurity. If your interest has been piqued, you can learn a bit more about the different aspects of cybersecurity by doing a web search using the term, Seven levels of Open System Interconnection.

A good place to start your free training is the U.S. government’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS). You can also go straight to the Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE) website. FedVTE offers free cybersecurity training for government employees, contractors, and veterans.

The FedVTE course catalog is impressive and even includes training for the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification exam. The CEH certification is the gold standard for cybersecurity. As a result, CEH training is usually very expensive.

Other cybersecurity certifications include CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

If you think that you might prefer your training from the private sector, there are two organizations that offer world-class training, again free for veterans.

The first is the organization known familiarly as SANS. SANS stands for, SysAdmin, Audit, Network and Security. The organization offers top shelf cybersecurity training. It also facilitates connections between cybersecurity professionals and potential employers.

Part of its mission statement reads, “The normal recruiting process doesn't always work for cybersecurity. The dramatic shortage of talent, the gap in hands-on skills, and the rapid pace of change to security threats, mean employers must find new ways to fill vital positions.”

To that end, in 2015, SANS launched the online Cyber Talent Immersion Academy. This program that is designed to prepare veterans for cybersecurity jobs, in a very short time. Again, SANS offers this training to veterans at no charge.

Another public sector resource for veterans is a company that you most likely have heard of, Cisco. In 2017, Cisco stood up a program called CyberVetsUSA. Reservists, National Guardsmen, and military spouses are also eligible for the program.

Cisco has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS), ISC2, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, NetApp, and Network Development Group (NDG) to ensure that the training is up-to-date and industry compliant.

Those are three resources that can help you transition into a career that can last well into your 70s. Good cybersecurity professionals are like good wine; they improve with age.