July News from Information Security

Welcome to the start of the 2021-2022 fiscal year! You’ve probably been scrambling over the past few days to get all those “end of the year” things completed. I know I have. Just because the “new year” is starting doesn’t mean that we aren’t already in full swing with many summer initiatives, including the Governor’s Honors Program, preparing for the fall semester, hosting camps, and just getting those things that must be done outside of the two main semesters done. This being the start of July, the Independence Day holiday approaches as I write this newsletter, but by the time most of you read it, the day will have passed, so I hope you all had a fun, safe, and meaningful time celebrating.

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June News from Information Security

Please check the end of this article for a very late breaking notice about Amazon devices!

With the arrival of June, summer is in full swing. Welcome to the time when everyone else thinks we as a college community have it easy, when we all know that is NEVER the case. Summer is always busy, busy, busy on all fronts, but I’m preaching to the choir here. Between projects, recruitment, alumni events, college-hosted events and yes, even classes, everyone has their hands full, which makes us all prime targets of phishers and scammers.

“You say that every month!” you say. Yes, I admit I do, but I always have a new or forcibly recycled reason for why we are prime targets. I have both this time.

Continue readingJune News from Information Security”

May News from Information Security

May has arrived and if you are like me you are gearing up for summer while trying to finish up the semester. This frantic time of finals, final papers, showcases, productions, graduation, and all other manner of “showing your work” is in full swing. Good luck to everyone, whether you are taking tests, giving tests, grading tests, or something else. I know everyone is ready for a change. A change of season brings a change in many other things, including information technology and security. I have a couple of changes to pass along to the community, along with the normal warnings and reminders. Let’s get to it!

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April News from Information Security

Welcome to April and all that it means to this community! April is the month before the end of the semester in May. April means it is getting warmer and it’s time, if you haven’t already, to cycle in a new wardrobe of clothes for the fast-moving weeks at the end of the school year. I want to apologize for the tardiness of this newsletter. I was unavoidably out of work for a week due to problems caused by the massive amount rain we received back on March 25th. I know so many of you wait with bated breath for the first day of the month just to read my newsletter, so I apologize for the delay. </sarcasm>

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March News from Information Security

Whew! We made it to March!

While there won’t be some of the typical shenanigans we are used to experiencing in March, like Spring Break (sorry, I had to mention it), there are plenty of things to be aware of. This newsletter may run a little longer than most, as we are “enjoying” the result of a confluence of tax season, potential economic stimulus payments, Zoom meetings, COVID vaccines, plus all the regular stuff. As Maverick from Top Gun would say, this is a “target-rich environment”, except not for potential dates, but for phishing emails.

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January News from Information Security

Welcome to 2021! Let’s hope it goes better than 2020.

Welcome back to campus. I hope everyone had a good holiday, stayed healthy, and is ready to charge through the spring semester. As you attempt to settle back in, I encourage you to take the time to reacquaint yourself with basic information security awareness.

In the fall, the college acquired a new training platform for security awareness. This content on this platform is authored by some of the foremost security experts on the planet. This group, known as the SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, and Security) Institute, is the largest source for training and security certification in the world. They manage the Internet Storm Center, billed as “the Internet’s early warning system”, along with in-depth training and certification.

The new platform provides us with a rich set of training courses, supplemental materials, and course management options. Use of the platform is open to anyone in the active community of students, faculty, and staff. Courses for basic security awareness take about half an hour to complete, with some courses centered around specific topics such as FERPA, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS compliance taking up to an hour. You can request access to the platform by sending an email to infosec@berry.edu and stating you want access to the security awareness platform, or by filling out the training access form found here.

By choosing to take security awareness training, you can help the college fend off attackers, but equally as importantly, you can learn how to protect yourself, your home networks, your devices, and your various Internet accounts. It has never been more important to be aware of the tactics, techniques, and procedures attackers use to try and gain access to your devices and accounts. With COVID-19 came challenges to how we work, socialize, and live life, but along with those challenges came additional, and more potent attacks by the Internet bad guys. Not a day goes by without some phishing email landing in someone’s email inbox, or a text on a phone, or even a voice call, all attempting to separate you from your money, your accounts, and your peace of mind.

Courses on the platform include general security awareness as well as dedicated courses on phishing, account management, safe browsing, passwords and password managers, and device management. Once you are on the platform, you can choose to complete any or all of these courses.

There are also, as mentioned before, courses that target specific compliance and regulation topics. Some of you may be required to take one or more of these courses as part of your job responsibilities. If so, you will be notified via email and be given ample time to complete the training.

The last thought in relation to this topic is this-in an effort to raise the security awareness of the entire community, we are looking to make security awareness training a regular part of everyone’s routine. The frequency of training is being discussed, but it is likely to be conducted at least annually, if not biannually. This is not designed to torture you, or simply add to your workload, but to help you be vigilant, informed and conscientious in your everyday work. The SANS training starts with a module called “You Are The Shield”, emphasizing your role in being the first line of defense against attacks on the college that attempt to bypass our security technology by attacking you directly, via social engineering. We hope that by regularly providing training to you, you will be the shield.

Don’t forget, if you are not currently using multi-factor authentication (MFA), you will be sometime in the spring semester. We are continuing to roll MFA out to everyone on a schedule, but if you want MFA faster, please email computing@berry.edu and inform them you want MFA enabled on your account. You can find more information about MFA here, and you can find information on how to set up MFA in this document.

If you are depending on Zoom to conduct classes or work, be sure to check out the Zoom resources document provided here for tips and information on how to effectively and safely use Zoom.

Finally, Data Privacy Day is January 28th. Data Privacy Day is an international effort to promote the respect of privacy, safeguard data and enable trust. According to Stay Safe Online, a project of the National CyberSecurity Alliance,

Millions of people are unaware of and uninformed about how their personal information is being used, collected or shared in our digital society. Data Privacy Day aims to inspire dialogue and empower individuals and companies to take action.

What action? The first and foremost goal is to manage your privacy and security settings for all your accounts. This page, on the staysafeonline.org site shows you how to manage your settings on many popular devices, accounts, and services. Go there first to secure your accounts and devices, then share the link with your family and friends so they can do the same.

As you are securing your accounts, if you notice any settings that you feel should be different or default to safer values, let that website or service know. There is little incentive for these companies to change their practices if no one complains about them. There should be a contact form on most sites, but if not, sending to support@whatever.site will usually get your feedback to the right place. Be sure to use the correct site address, i.e. support@facebook.com for Facebook.

Also on Data Privacy Day, which is a Thursday, I will be offering a lunchtime training event via Zoom which will cover passwords and password managers. Having a strong and unique password for every account you have is the first step in securing your data and making sure it stays private. You can sign up for the class by going to the Events calendar on this site and clicking on the event on January 28th. There will be a sign up/RSVP (Going) button once you open the event.

Look for a new Virtual Scavenger Hunt in February. It will run the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. The grand prize will be…somewhat Valentine’s Day themed. More details in the February newsletter.

If I’m not covering a topic of information security you are interested in or concerned about, please let me know. I want to be your first and best resource on information security, so let me know how I can help and inform you.
If you’re not following Berry OIT on Facebook (@BerryCollegeOIT), Twitter (@berryoit), or Instagram (@berrycollegeoit), you should be, as more information from OIT and specifically Information Security, will be provided using these outlets. Remember you can always check back here for warnings about current phishing emails, confirmations of valid emails you might have a question about, and data breach notifications. There’s also the Q&A section, where you can ask a question and get an answer directly from me.


Food for Thought

Featured Image: Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Cartoon courtesy of XKCD.com

Permalink for cartoon https://xkcd.com/2391/

November News from Information Security

We did it! We made it through October and Cybersecurity Awareness Month. I want to thank everyone who read the weekly articles, checked out the posters, and participated in the Virtual Scavenger Hunt. I want to congratulate Hanna Popa for her successful completion of the hunt and her luck in winning the Monster Clarity 102 AirLinks ear buds. She was one of the eight who completed the entire hunt out of the thirty-three who attempted some part of it.

If you enjoyed the hunt, or you missed it, but heard great things about it and wished that you had participated AND would like us to hold another one, just email infosec@berry.edu and tell us. While you’re at it let us know what information security topics you would like to see addressed here in articles or quick tips or even live (via Zoom for now) training sessions.

Speaking of live training, here in November there will be another opportunity to attend (via Zoom) live one-hour-ish lunchtime training on account management, covering everything from picking good passwords to using password managers, to enabling multi-factor authentication on all your accounts, particularly your Berry account. The event will be posted to the Event Calendar this week, once a final decision is made on the exact date, so check it out and sign up.

Our primary topic for this month is multi-factor authentication or MFA. MFA is now required for all Berry accounts and the Office of Information Technology (OIT) is rolling it out in phases. You will receive, if you haven’t already, an email detailing when MFA will be enabled on your account and how to set it up. The Network Operations group is holding training on MFA setup via Zoom, so if you have issues with the setup, be sure to attend. Details should be in the email you receive.

Why are we requiring MFA? You could potentially blame it on the corona-virus or COVID-19, but our attempts to require MFA have been in the works for many months before the virus hit our community. MFA places another layer of security on your Berry account, preventing someone who guesses or steals your password from accessing your account. It does this by requiring a second piece of evidence or a second “factor” in addition to your password to prove that you are you. That factor could be a fingerprint, or a temporary six-digit code texted to you or found in an app on your smartphone. In our case, the default second factor is just an approval via an app on your smartphone.

With MFA enabled, when you log in to your account, you will be required to enter your password, then a notification will pop up on your phone asking you to “approve” or “deny” the login request. You just touch “approve” if you are attempting to log in, or “deny” if you see a request when you haven’t tried to log in to your account. Without this second factor, the approval, or if you deny the login attempt, the login fails and the incident is logged so OIT can follow up and mitigate any potential threat to your account. This protects not just your email, but any web-based service you use here at Berry, from VikingWeb to the financial aid portal to the health center portal, so it is vital MFA is enabled on your account.

We’ve mentioned Zoom twice already in this newsletter, and we’re going to circle back to it now. One of the most critical aspects of using Zoom effectively is securing your Zoom sessions from “zoombombers” and others that wish to disrupt sessions. We depend on Zoom far too much these days, so we want to offer some information about how to properly secure your Zoom sessions.

Here is a Zoom document that discusses most of the security settings for Zoom. Don’t be daunted by the fact it is twelve pages long, there are pictures and cover pages and large type galore. Here are the high points, in a simple list:

      • Use the waiting room feature if your meeting is not too large. This lets you control who actually gets into the meeting, albeit manually.
      • Use a passcode for all meetings and use randomly generated meeting IDs, NOT your personal meeting ID.
      • Only allow registered users to attend. Be careful with this setting, but it is useful if done correctly.
      • Lock your meeting. Once everyone who is supposed to attend has arrived, you can lock the meeting to prevent anyone else from joining.
      • Know how to manage users during the meeting. Understand the settings to control screen sharing, mute everyone, remove participants, and configure chat and annotation to prevent abuse.

Our current environment can prove difficult to navigate at times, but making sure you know how to manage a Zoom session will go a long way to make sessions requiring Zoom effective and secure.

One last thing before we wrap up. I want to encourage you to report ALL phishing emails you receive, using the “Report Email as Phishing” button available in the email browser interface (https://mail.berry.edu), on mobile devices using the official Outlook mobile client, and on the desktop using Outlook 2016 (Click-to-run version only) or Outlook 2019 (all versions). Doing so will help OIT protect the community by mitigating dangerous phishing emails identified by you, our first line of defense against phishing.

I normally wrap up the newsletters with a pitch for you to sign up for MFA, and I still encourage you to do so, but if you don’t, understand you will be required to use MFA at some point in the next few weeks. If you’d like to get ahead of the curve, request MFA for your account by emailing computing@berry.edu.
If I’m not covering a topic of information security you are interested in or concerned about, please let me know. I want to be your first and best resource on information security, so let me know how I can help and inform you.
If you’re not following Berry OIT on Facebook (@BerryCollegeOIT), Twitter (@berryoit), or Instagram (@berrycollegeoit), you should be, as more information from OIT and specifically Information Security, will be provided using these outlets. Remember you can always check back here for warnings about current phishing emails, confirmations of valid emails you might have a question about, and data breach notifications. There’s also the Q&A section, where you can ask a question and get an answer directly from me.

Photo Credit: Photo by Plann on Unsplash