Category Archives: Security

App of the Week – LiveSafe

LiveSafe_logoSo, first of all I would like to apologize for not posting anything for a while. I have been a little busy transferring from my old P14 position, to my new position as Annandale’s Webmaster (!!). Now I am situated, and ready to start blogging again.

While I was attending the orientation for this lovely job, I was told about this fantastic new app that has become available to the NOVA community and thought I just have to let you know about it immediately.

LiveSafe_ImageLiveSafe is a great app that gives you access to the right tools and information to keep yourself and your community safe. There are four main sections – Report Tips, Emergency, View Map, and SafeWalk.

Report Tips –  Send GPS tagged audio, video, picture, and text to the nearest authorities to report accidents, assaults, theft, disturbances, vandalism and suspicious activity.

Emergency – Call 911. Also call or text Campus Police.

View Map – View the latest alerts and crime reports in your area. Find the nearest medical facility, or gas station.

SafeWalk – Share your location with friends and chat on the go. Access a panic button if necessary. Walk by yourself with confidence.

LiveSafe is a free download onto your IOS or Android device. For more information go to: LiveSafeMobile.com

 

LiveSafe_Image3          LiveSafe_Image2           LiveSafe_Image4

A Meandering New Year’s Post

Well, it’s taken me nearly the entire month (it gets kinda busy around here at the beginning of the semester, as it turns out) but welcome back everyone and I hope you had a nice relaxing break! Today’s post will reflect my mental state, in that it will be disorganized and touch on only loosely related subjects.

1) Spam email. NOVA’s IT has been working overtime to advise us about the many dud emails showing up in our boxes. This is called “Phishing” and is something I covered in this blog a few months ago. Here is the link to that post: https://blogs.nvcc.edu/fsrc/?p=84. If you’re not feeling up to another post, here’s my helpful checklist for spam emails:

  • If someone asks for personal information via email, do not email it to them. If you think it might be a real request and it’s from a business, call. Even if it’s from your friend, call. Like, on the phone.
  • If there are typos or bad grammar in the email, that is a big red flag indicating it may be a scam email.
  • Just because there’s a company logo in the email or you click on a link that takes you to a website, doesn’t mean it really comes from that company. Just because the email address looks like it comes from a legitimate business doesn’t mean it does. All of these things can be easily faked in an email.
  • Be suspicious of generic greetings like “Dear Customer”.
  • Most businesses will not threaten to close down an account if you don’t provide them with personal information. They WANT you to keep your account!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • If you feel weird about an email, even if you don’t know why, trust your instincts and don’t reply. Better safe than sorry!

2) Copyright. Shirley Nuhn and I did a training on copyright for educators during the Power Up Your Pedagogy conference in early January and hope to offer it in more venues in the near future. The original blog post is here: https://blogs.nvcc.edu/fsrc/?p=41. I also found this cool resource today: http://nationalparalegal.edu/public_documents/courseware_asp_files/patents/menu_patents.asp

3) Lastly, a good article on the top 10 good tech habits everyone should have. Developing these habits can save you from the many pitfalls of computer use and ownership. And yes, the last one is true! http://lifehacker.com/5978861/top-10-good-tech-habits-everyone-should-have

Phishing and Hacking, part 2

Last week I discussed the internet/email scam known as “phishing”. Did you notice that IT sent out another message about a phishing email that’s going around? Remember, NOVA IT will NEVER ask you for personal information in an email. If you get such an email, it is probably a scam and you should not reply. If you are unsure about what to do, call the IT Helpdesk and they can tell you if the email is legitimate.

Now that we’ve recapped phishing, I want to cover malware. Malware, which is an amalgamation of “malicious” and “software”, is designed to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems. You may also hear of worms, trojans, viruses and adware, all of which are forms of malware. You can accidentally install malware on your computer by surfing the internet, downloading files, checking your email or clicking on a pop-up window.

The most important thing to remember about malware is that it is not targeted specifically at you. I know lots of people who say, “Why should I worry about malware? No one wants my computer files!”. Well, that’s correct…but what malware does want is your computer itself. Malware uses your computer’s processing power to disrupt your computer’s functions, disrupt other people’s computer’s functions, send emails (using your email account without your knowledge or permission), collect your personal information like bank accounts, contact info, etc., and passwords. Some people create malware to collect information that can be used to scam people, and some just like to cause problems for others. But the important thing to remember is that anyone can be a victim.

I know I’ve made it sound scary, and I hope I haven’t frightened you off the internet entirely, because there are ways to protect your computer from malware. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer, and make sure it is up to date! Hackers create new malware all the time. Your NOVA computer comes with antivirus software pre-installed (it’s called Symantec). You can also download this software for free if you go to http://www.nvcc.edu/about-nova/directories–offices/administrative-offices/ithd/faculty/software/index.html and follow the instructions there.  There are also lots of other antivirus programs available; I like Ad-Aware, AVG and Malwarebytes and they are all free to download.

That being said, it is not possible for any software to protect your computer 100%, which is why it’s very important to practice Internet safety. PC World has a very good article about safety here: http://www.pcworld.com/article/210891/how_to_avoid_malware.html. But, in a nutshell, if anything looks a bit unusual on a website or an email (pop-ups, misspellings, bad grammar, a file format you don’t recognize), don’t click on it.

If your NOVA computer starts acting strangely and you suspect you got a virus on it, back up your important files on a flash drive and contact the IT Helpdesk immediately. They can come remove the malware from your machine before it causes further damage. If you leave it alone, the malware can infect other computers, the network, your flash drives and your files. So get help right away!

Sea Creatures in your Email?

We recently received yet another email from the IT Helpdesk informing us that more “phishing” emails have been getting into NOVA email boxes. So what is “phishing”, why is it bad, and what do we do about it?

“Phishing” describes methods employed by scammers to get you to divulge your personal information, like your social security number, credit card number, or the logins and passwords to websites you frequent. It’s called “phihsing” because it’s like “fishing”…the scammers are throwing out lots of lines and hoping someone bites. No matter how convincing they sound, they don’t know who you are and they don’t know anything about you. You are not being targeted specifically; they got your email off the internet one way or another and you are just one of millions of people they emailed. But if you “bite”, then the scammer has phished successfully. Why the “ph” in “phishing”? No idea. Maybe it just looks cooler.

Email phishing involves email messages designed to make you give up some personal information. One of best-known scams is the Nigerian Letter scam, in which the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly. The scammer begs you to help him claim this money and offers a reward. This is also called the “advance-fee” fraud, and though most of us know we aren’t really being emailed by a rich foreign government official in exile, this scam can take many other forms. If someone makes you any kind of offer that involves wiring money or sending you a check to cash on their behalf, be suspicious. Do not trust any links or phone numbers in these emails; these will all lead you to false information.

Some scammers even make the email sound like a cry for help from a friend or relative of yours (they do this by hacking your friend’s email account and sending messages to all of the contacts). Never ever send money (especially through a wiring service) to someone who emailed you without calling them personally to see if they really sent the message.

The most recent phishing attempt at NOVA informed users that their email box was over the storage space limit, and asked the user to click a link to “fix” the problem. The email appeared to come from NOVA IT, but it didn’t. It came from scammers who were using that link (which they created) to collect personal information from NOVA employees. This example shows us how convincing a phishing scam can be. Along the same lines, scammers may send out emails telling you that your credit card account/paypal/amazon/bank account will be shut down if you don’t provide your password/credit card number/pin number/social security number. Some emails provide links to websites that look like real businesses. These are fake. No legitimate businesses will ask you for personal information in an email. If you believe one has, call them to verify (using the phone number listed in the phone book, NOT one in the email).

I know this is a lot of information but it’s very important to be safe when you’re using your email. Here’s my quick advise for dealing with phishing attempts:

  • If someone asks for personal information via email, do not email it to them. If you think it might be a real request and it’s from a business, call. Even if it’s from your friend, call.
  • If there are typos or bad grammar in the email, that is a big red flag indicating it may be a scam email.
  • Just because there’s a company logo in the email or you click on a link that takes you to a website, doesn’t mean it really comes from that company. Just because the email address looks like it comes from a legitimate business doesn’t mean it does. All of these things can be easily faked in an email.
  • Be suspicious of generic greetings like “Dear Customer”.
  • Most businesses will not threaten to close down an account if you don’t provide them with personal information. They WANT you to keep your account!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • If you feel weird about an email, even if you don’t know why, trust your instincts and don’t reply. Better safe than sorry!

For even more information about phishing scams, check out http://computer.howstuffworks.com/phishing.htm.

 

 

 

Learning to Live with Copyright

When I was earning my Instructional Technology stripes in the Masters of Library and Information Studies program at UNC Greensboro (we’re unranked! Woo!), I discovered that I had a surprising fascination with copyright law. So when I saw an entire seminar on Copyright and Tech Law Issues at New Horizons this year, you can bet I stuffed my tote with free snacks and grabbed a front-row seat. Because of my job, I create and/or edit a fair bit of web content, so I have to be careful of copyright when selecting pictures and text for websites. Since NOVA is a college, and most website content is not used for marketing and profit, we’re more or less covered by a handy copyright exception known as “Fair Use”. However, Fair Use is not a free-for-all opportunity to use copyrighted materials with impunity, so I like to err on the side of caution.

A few things of note:

  • Copyright can apply to any “original works of authorship” that is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” A “work is fixed…when its embodiment…is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration…” In English? Anything you write OR TYPE can be copyrighted. Even your emails.
  • If you save a copy of a computer file, that is the same, as far as copyright is concerned, as if you took that file and xeroxed it. Copies are copies, no matter how easy it is to make them.
  • If you teach, and the content you share is in Blackboard behind password protection (ie. your students have to log in to get it), you are PROBABLY okay.
  • Just because it’s on the Internet does NOT mean you can use it without permission or attribution.
  • When in doubt, ask if you can use something. And always give credit. If you can’t find the owner, find something else to use.
  • If anyone can benefit materially from what you’re doing in any way, be extra extra careful about copyright.

The woman who taught this seminar, copyright attorney Madelyn Wessel, was kind enough to post her resources and make them available to everyone (with attribution!). Here’s her very useful outline and list of copyright resources:

VCCS 2012 Outline

COPYRIGHT RESOURCES WEB APPENDIX 3.2012