Tag Archives: Information security

  • 1

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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  • 0

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

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


  • 4

Mobile Devices: Paradigm Shift or Just Another Content Delivery Mechanism?

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,mobile device,Privacy,Social Networking Tags : 

I’m curious about whether you think the integration of mobile devices into curricula is a “game changer/paradigm shift” or whether you regard it as just another content delivery mechanism. As a technical communicator, I’ve looked at the mobile device primarily as an additional delivery vehicle; a channel that can be used to reach others. As an educator, I’m thinking of the possibilities of a course structured around mobile devices as the main education platform. As an information security practitioner, I’m wary of the privacy risks and potential cyberstalking.

Will mobile devices be a boon or a bane? Will they cause a profound change in learning? Are they just a stepping stone to the next big thing?

I’m not sure. Let’s look at a few recent game changers:

  • Personal computing has been and will continue to become ubiquitous. We have access to immense amounts of information. That has changed how we research practical information. Do any of you use printed maps? What about calling 411 for someone’s phone number?
  • The growth of E-readers may eventually sound the death knell of traditional print. Newspapers are scrambling to adapt to a digital audience as they find print circulation shrinking.
  • The transatlantic cable has been described as the Victorian Internet in the way it revolutionized communication.
  • The telephone and the elevator made modern skyscrapers possible.

What about the smartphone?

  • Access to banking is now available through smartphone apps and you either can or will be able to make payments directly from your mobile device. You can also store shopping card info and coupons.
  • Mobile devices have greatly increased the access to social networking.
  • QR codes connect mobile devices to Internet-based information

Do you agree that these are game changers? Are there mobile apps that you do consider to be game changers?

Addressing the educators in my audience, how do you see integrating mobile devices into your courses? Will you redesign your course to take advantage of their capabilities? Are they just “one more thing” to consider in your content delivery? Will you incorporate social networking with both a mobile and traditional computer interface?

I’m interested in your thoughts. I’m not an expert in this area, but I’m trying to adapt to the possibilities.

Please leave a comment so we can have a discussion! Some of you have contacted me individually. Please post here so we can learn from each other.

By the way, If we’re really lucky, maybe mobile learning will be the death of PowerPoint!

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

This blog entry is cross-posted at https://www.educause.edu/blog/bwoelk/MobileDevicesParadigmShiftorJu/227783


  • 0

Apps for Integrating Mobile Devices into Classroom Use and Campus Communications

Category:Cyberstalking,EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,mobile device,Privacy,Social Networking Tags : 

How many of you are integrating mobile devices into classroom work? In addition to my role as Policy and Awareness Analyst, I teach a couple of classes, Cyber Self Defense and Effective Technical Communication.

We discuss secure use of mobile devices in the Cyber Self Defense class. We’ve also talked about potential attacks on mobile device users, especially as the devices are used more for bank account access and making payments. We discuss the potential pitfalls of location services. (As an infosec guy, I’m always focusing on the should not’s rather than the should’s.)

I haven’t really thought too much about integration into the Effective Technical Communication class.

I’m struggling with how to integrate mobile use into either classroom or distance learning. Our students can access some content from our LMS, but so far the functionality is limited. Any successful (or not successful) experiences? Any ideas?

Wearing my Policy and Awareness Analyst hat, one of our strategies in increasing security awareness is to take our message to where the students are. We created a Facebook page for RIT Information Security and have driven up the number of fans by having a drawing each fall for a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card and believe the effort has had some success. As more students use mobile devices, we’re going to want to be where they are as well. One of our HEISC Awareness and Training Working Group members suggested creating an app for security awareness. I know of a Google App for this, but I’d like to have something personalized for our institution.

Have any of you created mobile apps to integrate coursework or for other communications? Are you pushing information to the devices or are you relying on the students pulling the information? Have you found existing apps that you’ve found useful?

Lots of questions. Can anyone suggest some 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

https://security.rit.edu/dsd.html

Become a fan of RIT Information Security at https://rit.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6017464645

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bwoelk

Follow my Infosec Communicator blog at https://benwoelk.wordpress.com

Please note that this blog entry is also posted as part of the EDUCAUSE Mobile Sprint #EDUSprint at https://ow.ly/4GFzf


  • 0

Irony

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Risk,Uncategorized Tags : 

I received the following notification today:

DHS Announces the Release of New Training Course Workplace Security Awareness No-Cost Critical Infrastructure Workplace Security Training

The Department of Homeland Security announces the availability of IS-906, Workplace Security Awareness, a no-cost training course developed by the Office of Infrastructure Protection Sector-Specific Agency Executive Management Office.

Access IS-906 on the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Institute Web site: https://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/IS906.asp

The online training provides guidance to individuals and organizations on how to improve security in the workplace.  The course is self-paced and takes about an hour to complete. This comprehensive cross-sector training is appropriate for a broad audience regardless of knowledge and skill level.  The course promotes workplace security practices applicable across all 18 critical infrastructure sectors.   The training uses innovative multimedia scenarios and modules to illustrate potential security threats.  …

A certificate is given to participants who complete the entire course.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Ironically, the course asks you to provide your SSN.

Sigh…


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