Category Archives: STC Rochester

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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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Why Professional Conferences Matter

Category:Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Leadchange,Social Networking,STC Rochester Tags : 

I’ve heard a lot of discussion recently that professional conferences aren’t needed anymore because of the inter-connectivity afforded by the Internet. Why is it reasonable to spend hundreds or even a couple of thousand dollars to attend a face-to-face conference?

Over the last week, I’ve been part of the leadership teams for and attended two conferences, the STC Rochester Spectrum regional technical communications conference and the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in San Antonio. It’s been an incredible experience.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Spectrum provided an opportunity for me to meet face-to-face with people I’ve been talking to via social networking for almost a year. This is important because I was able to have indepth conversations with key leaders about critical issues affecting our profession. These conversations wouldn’t have been viable in social media. They may have been doable through Skype or phone, but the ability to read the nuances of a conversation when you’re not together is really difficult.
  • Spectrum also provided STC Rochester an opportunity to showcase our abilities (and to have those abilities affirmed by other community and society leaders.) It was important for our chapter to understand our connections and I think our membership was “blown away” that international leadership would attend. We were truly honored.
  • Spectrum provided state of the art content in technical communications. In the sessions I facilitated, Kristi Leach was able to test a usability session with peers and gain invaluable feedback and Hannah Morgan provided a fresh look at the importance of social networking in your branding and in your career.  Other speakers presented key information about current tools and the future of our profession.

The Security Professionals conference allowed me to see (way too briefly) colleagues that I speak with on conference calls and work with, but from a distance of thousands of miles. We’ve become friends and it’s great to be able to unwind with a team that’s worked hard together all year.

  • The Security Professionals conference gave me the opportunity to present with a panel of fellow practitioners that are remediating private information at our respective universities. It gave our audience an opportunity to hear how four schools are tackling similar problems and the “unvarnished” truth of the stuggles we’ve faced and inroads we’ve made. This was invaluable to our attendees, because they could ask questions and establish the networking contacts that will save them time and dollars as they tackle similar problems. We become resources for each other.
  • The Security Professionals conference also allowed me to work in tandem with Cherry Delaney of Purdue University, my former co-chair of the Awareness and Training Working group. We were able to share with a group of ISOs, information security practitioners (and even a CIO) the steps needed to create a holistic strategic Security Awareness plan and share examples of how we’ve approached the task of educating end users. We were also able to work with them in small groups to develop specific steps and put together the beginnings of an action plan.

The interaction at a professional conference is one of the key enablers to moving forward in your profession, becoming “unstuck” when you’re out of ideas, and establishing a network of contacts to help each other.

This interaction was helped by the fact that the conferences were of a size (120 and 350) where you could actually see the same people in several venues. Large conferences don’t always allow for that.

For me, professional conferences matter.

What do you get out of them?

 

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Call for Proposals, Spectrum 2011 (April 1, 2011)

Category:Infosec Communicator,STC,STC Rochester Tags : 

Spectrum 2011 – Building Better Solutions: A Skills Symposium
Rochester Chapter, Society for Technical Communication (STC)

Submittal deadline: December 17, 2010

You and your colleagues are invited to submit proposals for Spectrum 2011. Spectrum is the annual educational conference of the Rochester Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

STC is an international professional organization that seeks to promote education, communication, and shared resources among communications professionals such as instructional designers, writers, web designers, graphic artists, social media developers, and others who deal with technical information.

Who attends and speaks at Spectrum?

Spectrum is a regional professional conference and generally draws attendees from New York, Eastern Canada, and surrounding areas. Attendance in past years has normally ranged from 100-180 attendees. This year will be the chapter’s 52nd consecutive Spectrum conference, making it the longest running STC chapter conference. Speakers are selected from local presenters and speakers from around the country who have expertise in subject matter relevant to technical communications professionals, and pertinent to the conference theme.

When and where is Spectrum 2011?

This year’s conference will be held on April 1st at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) located at 111 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623-5608.

For more information, visit the STC-Rochester website.

I’ve participated in this conference for a number of years and helped organize it last year. We consistently receive high marks from participants and have been told that the conference is every bit as valuable as the larger international conferences.

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  • 2

Writing the Next Chapter

Category:Infosec Communicator,Leadchange,STC,STC Rochester,Uncategorized Tags : 

Change is necessary but change is uncomfortable.

We should ignore the past. We should value the past. We should just do it. We should learn from past efforts. Do we dash forward, make our mistakes and sort things out as we go? Do we assess the path forward and move carefully down it? How strong should our sense of urgency be? How fast can and should we move forward? How do we mold individual desires into a shared vision?

We need to attract new members. We want to retain existing members. We have many senior members who have contributed faithfully to STC Rochester. We have new members who may not know our past but who are willing to pour themselves into redefining our organization and positioning ourselves for the future.

These are some of the issues we face as the council charged with stewarding the Rochester Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. We are a chapter with a long history of excellence. It’s time to write the next chapter.

I’m trying to find a path that allows us to retain the  distinctiveness of what has made us STC Rochester while moving to a model that is sustainable and will foster growth. Part of this path forward includes implementing a marketing strategy. We’ve received our marketing plan from Neil Hair’s RIT Marketing Concepts class. The plan identifies key opportunities and strategies for growth. We’ve set up a subgroup to study the plan and bring forward recommendations to our October council meeting.

Our kickoff meeting is September 21st. We’re inviting prospective members and want to be sure we can articulate why they should join STC. There is a good bit of angst surrounding this.

We need to remember to have fun.

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  • 11

Why I Value STC Rochester

Category:Infosec Communicator,Leadchange,STC,STC Rochester,Uncategorized Tags : 

If you’ve been following this blog over the last month (Thank you!), you know I’ve been writing about how our local STC chapter is redefining its value proposition and rethinking how we engage our membership and the community. This blog entry provides a personal view of how STC Rochester is valuable to ME.

Benefits–Why I’m in STC Rochester

  1. The opportunity to network globally with leading technical communications practitioners.
  2. The opportunity to network face-to-face with the local chapter.
  3. Engagement with high level and challenging thinkers in the technical communications profession helps me sharpen my own thinking. Iron sharpens iron.
  4. Opportunities for recognition through tech pubs competitions at local and international levels.
  5. The opportunity to be a change agent, to impact a close circle of fellow practitioners in a positive manner.
  6. The opportunity to help an organization reinvent itself to keep pace with a changing profession and society.
  7. The opportunity to use my skills and knowledge to mentor others and help them advance in the profession.
  8. The opportunity to forge friendships with a great group of people who face similar challenges.
  9. The opportunity to participate in regional and international conferences.
  10. The opportunity to learn.
  11. The joys and challenges of casting a shared vision.
  12. The opportunity to learn and practice servant leadership.

Cost–The flip side

  1. $240 in direct costs for international and chapter membership (subsidized by my employer)
  2. Another $80-100 for different meeting fees, tech comms publication entries, etc.
  3. One evening each month for our admin council
  4. One evening each month for meetings, programs, etc.
  5. One full day for Spectrum, our regional conference
  6. Ten-twenty hours to prepare a presentation at spectrum
  7. Many “spare” moments thinking about what we can achieve this year as a chapter. (I’m not sure if this is a cost or a benefit.)
  8. Countless hours at the keyboard communicating with chapter leadership and the chapter as a whole.

Your turn

Why are YOU active in your organization?

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