Tag Archives: RIT

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Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators, Part Three

Category:Cyberstalking,Facebook,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Privacy,Risk,Social Networking,STC,STC Rochester Tags : 

Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators was first published in the Society for Technical Communication‘s Intercom magazine in November 2010.

How We’ve Communicated These Concepts at RIT

Higher education is a mix of cutting-edge and legacy computing systems. Unlike many large companies, most universities and colleges continue to use computing equipment well past its retirement age. At the other end of the spectrum, faculty and students always want the newest technology available. Securing such a heterogeneous environment is a challenge. With limited resources, RIT needed to find a way to reach a large user population that may be indifferent to security issues. Even worse, these users might consider themselves to be “experts,” especially because this is a technology university that attracts some of the brightest students.

To communicate digital security issues to RIT students, faculty, and administrators, we used standard communications vehicles such as a series of brochures on Internet safety topics and computer security requirements, email alerts and advisories for specific threats, and an RIT Information Security website containing electronic copies of the materials. We also used some more innovative methods, such as classes, social media, and community discussion and messaging.

Digital Self Defense

We developed a series of Digital Self Defense classes that we offered to faculty and staff. We advertised these classes through email, using every cliché about safe Internet use that we could think of. The initial class, “Introduction to Digital Self Defense,” was instructor led and primarily a presentation with discussion. In that class, we focused on communicating desktop, portable computer, and password standards. We also discussed safe Internet use.

New Student Orientation

Although the Digital Self Defense classes developed a strong following among faculty and especially staff, it was not an appropriate vehicle for reaching students. Recognizing that security awareness is a multi-year project, we developed an “up tempo” presentation to focus on three areas of concern to students: Safe Computing, Illegal File Sharing, and Safe Social Networking.

We discussed the various technical requirements for using computers at RIT after setting the stage by talking about the various threats students might face and the role of organized crime in creating malware. We incorporated video resources that illustrated key concepts or provided a “friendly” way to introduce concepts that we knew would be hotly debated by the students, such as illegal file sharing. To help students understand the need for safe social networking, we discussed examples of risky student Internet behavior at RIT and other universities. We also used videos to reinforce the importance of being selective about what information you place online.

Social Media

We established Facebook and Twitter accounts for the RIT Information Security Office designed to reach students. To build our fan base, we advertised the site through posters and emails, and we kick off each fall by entering students who become fans of the RIT Information Security Facebook page in a drawing for a $100 gift card. Over a three-year period, we gained almost 4,000 fans. We used the Facebook page to post articles about safe social networking and to engage fans in discussions about information security issues.

Phishy

RIT's Information Security Office mascot, Phishy, with Ritchie the Tiger

Phishing

Over the past couple of years, higher education has seen an increase in phishing attempts, known in the industry as “spear phishing.” Spear phishing targets a specific group of individuals by crafting emails or other “bait” that appear to come from a known and trusted source, such as a school’s information technology department. In 2009, RIT saw a string of phishing attempts that had, from our view, a success rate that was unacceptable. (As much as we’d like to block all phishing attempts and train our community to recognize and ignore such password requests, someone always falls for a well-crafted phish.)

Unsure of how best to combat the threat, we formed a team of our best information technology thinkers to address the issue. We chose a multipronged approach with both technology and people initiatives. We increased our email alerts and advisories to inform the community of the problem. Our Information Technology Services organization began prepending a warning message to all incoming emails that contained the word “password” in the text. However, we knew that this wouldn’t be enough to solve the problem. In conjunction with a poster campaign adapted from Yale University, our student employees wore a fish costume around campus; “Phishy” was an instant hit. Phishy reminded students to never respond to requests for their passwords. Although we haven’t been able to stop everyone from responding to phishing attempts, we usually see only a few people respond now.

Lessons Learned

Different messages require different vehicles. Faculty and staff may still use email as a primary means of communication. Students, however, get much of their information from social networking, so that’s where we need to be to reach them.

REFERENCES

“Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids.” (www.theonion.com/video/facebook-twitter-revolutionizing-how-parents-stalk,14364/).

Moscaritolo, Angela. “InfoSec: 23 percent of users fall for spear phishing.” SC Magazine. 9 March 2009. (www.scmagazineus.com/infosec-23-percent-of-users-fall-for-spear-phishing/article/128480/).

Nation, Joe. “Facebook Mini Feeds with Steve.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=w35cFqG4qLk).

RIT Information Security website (http://security.rit.edu).

RIT Information Security Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RITInfosec).

“Sophos Facebook ID probe shows 41% of users happy to reveal all to potential identity thieves.” 14 August 2007 (http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/2007/08/facebook.html).


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Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators, Part One

Category:Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Risk,STC,STC Rochester,Uncategorized Tags : 

Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators was first published in the Society for Technical Communication‘s Intercom magazine in November 2010. I’ll be reproducing the article in several parts over the next few days.

What do technical communicators need to know about information security? How do they protect both their private information and professional assets, including work they may be doing for a client? How can they leverage and use social media safely and effectively? This article discusses key security measures you as a technical communicator and computer user can take to protect yourself and others, and it offers best practices for safe use of social media. I’ll also provide examples of how we’ve addressed similar user security awareness issues at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

I’ve been creating end-user communications and developing change management materials for 16 years. I’m currently responsible for policy development and security awareness in the Information Security Office at the Rochester Institute of Technology, one of the largest private universities in the country and home to more than 18,000 faculty, staff, and students. We communicate a number of different techniques for computer users to protect themselves and others. We’ve branded our awareness initiatives as Digital Self Defense. Many of these digital self-defense techniques are useful for technical communicators, too.

Five Ways to Secure Your Computer “Technically”

Keep your computer’s operating system and applications up to date. When was the last time you updated your software? Although Microsoft Windows and Macintosh OS X can be configured to check for and install updates (also known as patches) automatically, you should check to make sure this feature is enabled. Applications are another story. Many of them have auto-update features, but again, they may not be enabled by default. In addition, some applications (Adobe and Firefox, for example) require that you are logged in as an administrator in order to install the updates. (This is less of an issue with Windows 7 because it prompts you to accept updates.) For older operating systems, such as Windows XP, some updates won’t install because you’re using an account with limited privileges (a security best practice).

Install antivirus software and enable automatic updates. Many computers are shipped with free trial versions of antivirus software, such as Norton or McAfee. These trial versions often expire after three months. Many home users choose not to subscribe when the free version expires and use their computer with no antivirus software. Several years ago, an AOL study found that almost 85% of home computers were either not up to date or not running antivirus software.

Macintosh users often do not know that they should be running antivirus software. In my opinion, the Macintosh advertising campaigns have led many Macintosh users into a false sense of security. We see this every fall at RIT when new users arrive. The RIT Information Security Office has investigated incidents involving compromised Macintosh computers several times during the past year. Not only is malware (malicious software) being developed to target Macs, users may also receive Windows malware in their mail and pass it on unknowingly to Windows users.

Several companies offer free versions of their antivirus software for Windows and Macintosh computers. AVG and Avast are two well-known programs. Do not use more than one antivirus program on your computer because they will probably interfere with each other.

Install anti-spyware. Spyware tracks your browsing habits and reports the information to an external party. It’s possible for a computer user to host hundreds or even thousands of spyware programs. Antivirus software may not detect spyware, so it’s necessary to use an anti-spyware program.

There are several free anti-spyware programs available for Windows computers. Spybot Search & Destroy, Microsoft Defender, and Ad-Aware are good examples, but note that recent versions of Ad-Aware include an antivirus component. This will probably conflict with another antivirus program you’re running.

Spyware targeting Macintosh computers is just starting to become a threat; there are few anti-spyware programs designed for Macintosh.

Use a firewall. A firewall prevents unauthorized communication with your computer. It will also help protect you against worms, a type of malware that does not need user interaction to spread. Connecting an unpatched (not up-to-date) computer to the Internet or to a network without a firewall will result in the computer being infected within minutes. The Windows and Macintosh operating systems currently include a firewall. However, they may not be enabled by default. Ensure that a firewall is enabled.

Use an account with limited privileges. If you’re using a computer that has the Windows XP operating system, your day-to-day work should be done using an account with limited privileges. A limited account allows you to run most software programs, use your email, browse the Internet, etc. However, a limited account does not allow you to install software. (To install software, you need an administrative account.) Using a limited account may prevent some malware from installing itself on your computer. Newer Macintosh and Windows 7 computers (and the much maligned Windows Vista) force you to authorize program installations, limiting the ability of malware to install itself on your computer.

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Secure Mobile-an Oxymoron? (Redux)

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,mobile device,Privacy,Risk,Uncategorized Tags : 

Responses to the #1 topic on IdeaScale, “Consumers dictate device usage, not IT,” indicate that MANY of you believe consumers will drive smartphone adoption in Higher Education, while the sentiment around the topic, “Get rid of the walls around your enterprise data,” indicates that quite a few of you believe that core university data should be accessible to smartphone users.

However, yesterday’s polls have shown that not even all of the attendees of yesterday’s webinar use PINS or swipe patterns on their smartphones. The inherent difficulties in entering a complex password on a smartphone increase the likelihood that users will rely on simple passwords, if any, to access their devices. At the same time, users are expecting access to more and more university resources through their smartphones, increasing the risk of a data breach.

Where does security fit into this picture?

In Thursday’s webinar, “Smartphone Privacy & Security, What Should We Teach Our Users?“, the speaker, Norman Sadeh, indicated that mobile users are three times more likely to fall for phishing attempts. That statistic implies that spear phishing against university communities, which already demonstrates more success than we’re comfortable with, will be even more effective against smartphone users. As we find ourselves more and more hurried, making quick decisions just to handle the ever-increasing stream of information flowing at us, we’re more prone to fall for these attacks.

I would guess that many of us who own smartphones are using them to access our university e-mail, if not other university resources. Most of us don’t have any control over whether someone may e-mail us private or confidential information. If our smartphones become the weakest link in protecting data, they will be targeted.

How many of us have misplaced our smartphones or left them sitting on our desk in an unsecured office? Have you left your smartphone in a taxi or on a shuttle bus?

Increased access to university data is a desirable convenience. Will we be able to get the right combination of security controls, user training, and policies in place to allow smartphone access without it leading to a security breach resulting in a notification event or embarrassment to the university? What kinds of security controls are you using to prevent this? What security apps do you recommend to your users?

Lots of troublesome questions. Where are the answers?

Ben Woelk
Co-chair, Awareness and Training Working Group
EDUCAUSE/Internet2 Higher Education Information Security Council

Policy and Awareness Analyst
Rochester Institute of Technology

ben.woelk@rit.edu
http://security.rit.edu/dsd.html
Become a fan of RIT Information Security at http://rit.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6017464645
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bwoelk
Follow my Infosec Communicator blog at http://benwoelk.wordpress.com

This blog entry is part of the EDUCAUSE Mobile Computing Sprint and is cross-posted at http://www.educause.edu/blog/bwoelk/SecureMobileanOxymoron/227983


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