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Start the School Year Securely

As another school year begins, staff and students will be bringing their educational tools like laptops, tablets and smart phones into the schools and classrooms.  They will as well be using the Internet and sharing files as always.  The last statement is what opens the door for trouble if they haven’t protected these computing and communications devices. Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding Malware Threats for TRIO Programs

With Summer TRIO Programs about to begin, I thought it might be a good idea to review some simple practices that can help your staff and students to avoid the persistent threats that can create total havoc due to computer malware (i.e. malicious software). The best practice is prevention through both simple practices and decision making by both students and staff. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Hotmail and GMail to require HTTPS

With the growth of utilities like FireSheep, people can view login information on unencrypted network connections.  Stealing login information opens the door to identity theft and using compromised accounts for SPAM and Denial of Service (DOS) attacks

We have recommended that if you use Hotmail or GMail or any other mail service that you set it to use a secure HTTPS connection that will encrypt your communications with that site.  It has come to my attention that some people are having difficulty finding out where you go in Hotmail and GMail to set this setting.  This post will hopefully clarify what you need to do to get there.


After logging into Hotmail, you will see a headline near the top of the page that says: “Hotmail highlights“.  In the small print under that is a link called “Options“.  This will take you to a page called “Windows Live Options” and you will find on the left of that page a selection under “Show options for” that says “Hotmail“.  Click on the “Hotmail” link.  This will take you to a page called “Hotmail Options“. Look for the section entitled “Managing your account” and click on the link called “Account details (password, aliases, time zone“. You will be redirected to a page called “Account overview“.  At the bottom of that page click on the link called “Connect with HTTPS” that will redirect you to a page of the same name.  On this last page, look for a radio button towards the bottom in front of a statement that says “Use HTTPS automatically“. Kind of a long journey but that’s it.


If you want to do this for a GMail account, it’s a lot shorter journey to get to where you need to be.  Starting from your GMail account, click on the arrow next to your account name on the top right side of your web browse and select the “Account settings” option. This will take you to a general “Google accounts” page.  Find the link called “Settings” next to the GMail icon on the right hand side of the page. Clicking on that link will result in you being taken to a page called “GMail – Settings” with lots of options. One of the options is called “Browser connection“. Make sure the radio button in front of “Always use https” is the option that is selected.  Finally at the bottom of that page, make sure you click on the “Save Changes” button.

That’s it, hope this was helpful.

Using Encryption to Protect Your Data

As mentioned in an earlier post, encryption can play an important role in protecting sensitive data that may be on your computer workstation, laptop or backup drives.  Encryption makes data unreadable unless you have the key that unscrambles the information according to some algorithm.  Think of it like a combination lock that can only be opened if you have the right sequence of numbers.

Encryption plays a key role in both the transmission of data between systems as well as the storage of the data itself. You are probably familiar with Web browsers and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connections that use the https:// instead of just http:// in their web addresses. If you are connected to a secure Web site, then all data being transmitted between your computer or smartphone and the server on the other end is encrypted. Always make sure any of your connections to financial institutions or email have https://at the beginning of their Web address.

To protect data itself, encryption can be used to protect a single file, a file folder or even an entire data drive such as on a laptop or USB drive. A popular open source solution that works on Macs and PCs is TrueCrypt. Most operating systems for the Mac and PC also come with the ability to encrypt specific files or folders.  FileVault on the Mac and BitLocker on Windows are ways to protect files on your workstation or laptop. Both Microsoft and Apple provide brief tutorials how to use their encryption tools. You can find them by searching their respective sites with the name of these tools or to see a sample click on the links above.

Google Promotes New File Synchronization for Google Docs

As many of you know there are a lot of online file synchronization solutions out there that help you keep files and data updated and backed up.  Some of the ones that have been discussed in various presentations include:

Google used to use for synchronization but has just now released their new relationship with Insync.

Like other cloud based file synchronization and file backup solutions, Insync has different plans depending on the number of users and how much space you might want or need.  This includes:

  • Cheapskate -1GB syncing limit for unlimited computers – Cost: Free
  • Pro -16TB syncing limit for single user and unlimited computers – Cost: $25/year  (introductory offer)
  • Business -16TB syncing limit for unlimited computers with centralized billing and user administration for 5 users minimum – Cost: $3/user/month  (introductory offer)

So, if you have a Google account and files in Google Docs, you can now collaborate and share those files with others with greater ease using this new Google service.

Important Update (12/12/11): Just got word from Insync that they are reworking their pricing. Now if you have a Google account, Insync is now free with no limits on storage.

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