Elon Technology Blog

Securing smart devices and protecting personal information

Photo of smart home connected to devices

Source: asurion.com

We live in a world of smart cities, connected devices, and digitized records. Smart devices allow us stay connected and updated on what is happening around the world, and help us keep up with our fast-paced lives. Although smart devices are immensely useful, they are fueled by our personal information, which can be dangerous. By providing your smart devices with information like your shopping preferences or address, they are able to monitor your activity and save personal data. For example, some connected devices, such as the Echo and Alexa, work by listening to audio cues and spoken phrases to provide their users with a helpful responses. These devices can help us create a shopping list, call a loved one, play our favorite song, and more, but as they are always listening and monitoring what we say, it can be difficult to know how to protect our information from security threats. With this in mind, it is important to understand how to use these cutting-edge devices in a safe and secure way.

 

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices that can connect to the internet while collecting, analyzing, and sharing data. A few examples of IoT devices could be:

two people playing video gamesphoto of smart watchGPS system in a car

 

Fitness tracking device

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While smart devices are useful for monitoring and improving our everyday lives, it’s important to keep in mind that they are still susceptible to potential security breaches and hacks. Here are some simple ways to keep your information safe while using smart devices:

  • Set up Two-Factor Authentication
    • Two-factor authentication means going beyond creating a username and password and also providing additional authentication information sent to you from a separate device. For example, when logging into Twitter, there is an additional code sent to your phone that is needed to log in on your computer. This way, even if someone knows your password, you are the only one able to log into your account.  Many devices and apps have this built-in these days, but be sure to enable it for all accounts/apps when possible.
  • Keep your devices and apps up-to-date
    • When an official software update becomes available for your app or device, download it! These updates often contain security patches and bug fixes to prevent potential security issues.
  • Personalize usernames and passwords
    • Most devices come with a default username and password that hackers can easily crack. For example, most wireless routers have login credentials on a sticker on the back of the device which can easily be accessed and is not private. Be sure to create a secure username and password that only you know.

 

Although smart devices can threaten our data and security, they can make our lives easier and there are many simple ways to use these devices safely. Along with taking precautionary measures such as using two factor authentication, updating your device, and creating personalized usernames and passwords, it is important to be smart and cautious while using these devices.

 

For more cybersecurity tips. check out last week’s article here on the Elon Technology Blog, and stay tuned next week for a National Security Month recap article! Don’t forget to look out for #ElonSecure on Twitter for even more tips.

 

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Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity in the Workplace

Man using laptop computer

Data breaches are increasing every year and hackers are getting more advanced as security systems improve. Because of this, there are many ways for hackers to steal data in the workplace including when you share information online over an unsecure WiFi network or leave your computer unlocked. Fortunately, there are many ways for you, as an employee, to protect personal and professional information.

Here are a few simple measures to protect data, prevent theft, and stop attacks in the workplace:

  • Be aware of the people around you
    • Be mindful of the people around you while working in public spaces such as coffee shops or a library. For example, people may be standing behind you or looking over your shoulder while you’re typing in credit card information or viewing sensitive documents. 
  • Lock all devices with a password
    • Having a passcode on your phone and computer can stop a thief from accessing your personal photos, emails, data, etc., if your devices are stolen. Passcodes can also protect your data when you are away from your computer, tablet, or phone.
  • Change your password every few months
    • Changing your password frequently will help protect you against phishing sites and viruses that may attack your computer or other devices. 
  • Do not click on links contained in unsolicited emails
    • If you’re not expecting an email or attachment from a sender, simply don’t open it. Suspicious emails or attachments may contain viruses or phishing scams targeted to capture your personal information.
  • Do not share sensitive information over email
    • Hackers can easily steal information from your email, so please avoid sharing confidential or personal information via email when possible.
  • Clear your desk of all sensitive work and personal documents
    • Do not leave paperwork or post-it notes with sensitive information on your desk as people walking by could easily view that information. For example, passwords, personal employee data, and confidential information should be kept private and inaccessible from people walking by or visiting your desk. 

Employees play a major role in maintaining security in the workplace and must know the basics of preserving data security and spotting possible breaches. Fostering a culture of cybersecurity focuses on strengthening employees’ understanding of security issues and how their actions can help or hurt the company’s security.

 

Check out last week’s article here on the Elon Technology Blog, and stay tuned next week to learn about the risks of using smart devices! Don’t forget to keep up with National Cyber Security Awareness Month by looking for #ElonSecure on Twitter!

 

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Information Technology recognized during National Customer Service Week

Ryan Gay and IT student worker, Katie Shifflette, answering technology questions at College Coffee.

Ryan Gay and IT student worker, Katie Shifflette, answering technology questions at College Coffee.

Information Technology is proud to highlight the exemplary customer service provided by the department’s staff during National Customer Service Week.

 

Service with a smile

When it comes to offering customer service, the employees of Information Technology (IT) strive to offer faculty, staff, students, alumni, and retirees the best experience possible. From troubleshooting issues, to creating new applications and sites, to assisting faculty in integrating technology into their pedagogy, the IT staff is constantly solving new problems to help the Elon community daily.

Offering excellent customer service isn’t unique to IT. It is prevalent throughout Elon in the work that all employees, both professional and student staff, provide to the campus community. To celebrate outstanding customer service, the International Customer Service Association (ICSA) established National Customer Service Week.

 

What is National Customer Service Week?

Celebrated each year during the first full week of October, National Customer Service Week is an opportunity to celebrate customer service professionals and highlight the important work they perform. Originally started in 1984, National Customer Service Week was proclaimed a national event by Congress in 1992, thanks to the help of Former U.S. Senators Robert Dole and Nancy Kassebaum and U.S. Representatives Dan Glickman and Pat Roberts.

In addition to celebrating customer service professionals, the week also serves to emphasize the importance of offering excellent service to customers. According to John Kressaty, former ICSA president, another purpose of the week “…is to get the message across a wide range of business, government and industry that customer service is very important.”

 

What does customer service mean?

Customer service is present with everything IT does at Elon. Every staff member works with any number of University constituents to help them achieve their desired goal—whether it’s fixing a broken printer, creating a new web application, or figuring out a way to use new technology in the classroom.

“We understand that technology changes rapidly and is pervasive in our work as educators,” explained Assistant Vice President for Technology and Chief Information Officer, Christopher Waters. “We embrace a support model that is seamless in our community. The Office of Information Technology consistently adjusts our support strategy to meet the changing needs of our students, faculty, and staff. As a strategic partner with departments and offices, our goal is to listen and understand the need or innovation of our campus constituents.”

In fact, the staff in IT are extremely dedicated to making sure that those we work with have a positive experience.

“Customer service is going the extra mile to provide the customer with what they need,” explained Technology Service Desk student staff member, Janae Williams. “The majority of customers don’t come to Technology just to say hello. [At the Service Desk] many customers are experiencing issues that inconvenience them and the ability to do their job. But, we always do our best to get them to their desired resolution.”

Instructional Technologist, Sara Vanderpool, noted that IT staff strive to go the extra mile when working with customers.

“Customer service means being kind, patient, and a good listener,” she said. “It also means assisting the client until their problem is solved, their question is answered, or until you’ve pointed them to the person who can help. This may mean that you have to do things that are out of the scope of your job.”

 

How do we provide customer service?

IT staff provide customer service in a variety of ways. Several members spoke on how they strive to provide users with the best experience possible.

“You have to show willingness to help solve an issue,” explained Assistant to the CIO, Mel Brown. “You get the answers the customer needs and you follow-up with them.”

Service Desk Analyst, Ed Williams, noted that he always puts his best foot forward when working with users.

“I provide my best customer service skills—you have to be patient, communicate clearly, and inform them of what’s going on,” he said.

Janae Williams agreed, noting it’s important to stay positive in conversations (particularly when a user is frustrated) and sympathizing when things have gone wrong, like when a student’s hard drive has crashed.

Michelle Woods, Manager of the Technology Service Desk, added another layer.

“I give each customer my undivided attention and put forth my best effort to resolve their issue as quickly as possible,” she explained. “If I’m unable to resolve the issue, I ensure the customer that I will document the issue and get it to the appropriate area that will be able to provide a solution.”

 

The best parts of customer service

Certainly, there are difficult customer service experiences. People may be frustrated or not able to achieve their desired results, which can complicate things. However, the joy of being able to help others is what stood out most when discussing customer service.

“I love the fact that each user is unique,” Ed Williams said. “Each one needs to be addressed in their own way. I just really enjoy helping others. My favorite moments are when a user will call in and begin a conversation with, ‘I’m not tech savvy,’ or ‘Forgive me for taking up your time.’ I always respond: You know what? I’m here for you! You know, if I were attempting your job, I’m sure I’d need help, too!”

Vanderpool noted that what she enjoys most about providing users the best customer experience possible are the relationships.

“By providing the best customer service experience, I’m allowed to get to know the clients a bit,” she explained. “I am able to ask the client about their day or about their course, which allows me to further provide the best customer service I can.”

“I just enjoy helping people get the things they need,” Brown noted.

Learning how to provide customer service has also been beneficial for students in their experience at Elon.

“I believe that (we) want to leave a positive and lasting impression on the Elon community,” Janae Williams said. “I just enjoy how appreciative customers are when I provide great customer service. I’ve learned that I can directly impact how others feel for the remainder of their day. So, in my mind, I believe I’m helping customers feel better.”

 

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Cybersecurity 101: 5 Quick Tips For Staying Safe Online

To kick off National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’re sharing five simple tips for keeping your personal information safe from cyber attacks. While you may feel that you’re not at risk for a cyber attack, keep in mind that over 1.9 billion data records have been hacked during global cyber attacks in just the first half of 2017.  It’s even possible that your information has been hacked without your knowledge. Luckily, there are several ways to protect yourself from the threat of cyber attacks.

Here are 5 tips for staying safe on the web:

  1. Create secure passwords

    • Want to create a secure password and, most importantly, remember it? Check out LastPass, a password manager that will help you create strong passwords and remember them for you! Test your password strength and find out how secure your password is here!
  2. Lock your devices

    • Lock all of your devices with passcodes to keep intruders out. Even if your device is stolen, a passcode will stop the thief from accessing your personal photos, emails, data, and more.
  3. Look out for email scams

    • To avoid phishing scams and increase your email safety and security, don’t open attachments or links from senders you don’t know. Rule of thumb: If you’re not expecting an email or attachment from a sender, simply don’t open it.
  4. Keep personal information personal

    • Just like in real life, there’s such a thing a sharing too much information. Don’t post sensitive information to social media, such as your phone number or where you live. Also, be sure not to share private information over an unsecure public network, such as credit card information or bank logins.
  5. Backup your information regularly

    • Be sure to backup your data, contacts, files, photos, etc. in case your device is lost or stolen. Learn how to backup an Apple device here, or an Android here.

Beyond having a large scale impact on major corporations and databases, cyber attacks can impact our daily lives as well. Hackers can tap into emails with personal information, bank accounts, social media, and much more. Make sure to follow these quick tips and do your part in protecting your devices from viruses and hackers. To learn more, read next week’s article on cybersecurity in the workplace and follow #ElonSecure on Twitter!

 

 

 

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NCSAM 2017: Cyber security is our shared responsibility

This October marks the 13th anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM)!  Since its creation in 2004, NCSAM has been a respected source of cybersecurity tips and information for staying secure online. Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook this month as Elon shares advice and resources for keeping your personal information safe. #ElonSecure

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Keeping your data secure when using cloud services

Cloud network graphic via LinkedIn

What are cloud services?

If you’ve ever streamed a show on Netflix or Philo instead of watching a physical DVD or VHS, you’ve used a cloud service.  The ability to access data from virtually anywhere and from any device is made possible by the use of cloud services. Thanks to cloud services, data can live on one or more servers, often called “the cloud,” instead of residing on just one device (like a computer, phone, hard drive or DVD).  Devices can connect to the cloud to access text files, emails, movies and shows, and more. Some well-known cloud services include Google Docs, Dropbox, and the Office 365 suite.

Here are just a few ways you’ve probably used cloud services:

  • Syncing the photos on your phone to an online file storage app, such as Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud
  • Collaborating with other people on a single Google Doc or Word Online
  • Typing a note on your computer and it automatically syncing with your phone
  • Sharing files with coworkers using Office 365 or Sharepoint.

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Hurricane Harvey disaster relief scams

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured this image of Tropical Storm Harvey over Texas on Aug. 27 at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 UTC).

While Hurricane Harvey has slowly begun to subside, the storm’s destructive effects will continue to be felt across Texas and surrounding areas for years to come. Unfortunately, when natural disasters strike, malicious cyber scammers consider this a prime time to capitalize on those wanting to help disaster victims. Donating money to disaster relief charities and other help organizations can be helpful for victims in need, however please be aware of fraudulent emails asking for money or credit card information to protect yourself from cyber scams.

Emails requesting donations from deceptive charitable organizations may appear over the next several days, weeks, or even months. Fraudulent emails often contain links or attachments that are directed to malware-infected or phishing websites. Exercise caution when handling any email with a subject line, hyperlinks, or attachments related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to come from a trusted source.  Verify the legitimacy of any email solicitation by contacting the organization directly using a trusted contact phone number.

Before giving to a charity, consider these tips advised by the Federal Trade Commission to avoid any charity or fundraiser that:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it or do any research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
  • Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. (By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.)

If you’d like to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, check out this list of reputable organizations where you can get involved.

Tips for Email Security:

  • Do not click links in unsolicited email messages
  • Use caution when opening email attachments
  • Check out these articles on the Technology Blog to learn more about malware and email phishing schemes.

 

Image credit:  NASA/NOAA GOES Project

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5 Moodle tips to start the semester

Image of a start lineIt’s time to get your Moodle courses ready! Here are five helpful (and short) tutorials for building your Moodle course at the start of the semester.  Continue reading »

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What is malware?

Malware is software used to perform malicious actions.  You may have recently heard about one type of malware called ransomware during the WannaCry attack.  Read an in-depth analysis of WannaCry.  There are several actions you can take to help protect against malware attacks.  One action is thinking before clicking on attachments or links in unsolicited emails.  The Securing the Human series from the SANS Institute, a respected source for information security training has created an informative video which talks more about malware. Read more about the SANS Institute.

Watch this video to learn more about what malware is and how to help protect yourself from a malware attack seeking to compromise your devices and data.

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Remember passwords easily with passphrases

We already know the common best practices when it comes to passwords like creating a long password, using a unique password for each account, and changing passwords often.  But… how do we remember all of these long, unique, and changing passwords?  If you are not using a password manager like LastPass consider using passphrases to help with remembering these passwords.  The SANS Institute, a respected source for information security training has created an informative video about passphrases. Continue reading »

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