CAT Prints - the online newsletter of the Department of Computers and Telecommunication Services

VOLUME 7, ISSUE 2

September, 2006

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Protecting sensitive data

Last month, we discussed the nature of portable computers and how they make it easier to lose confidential data. 

If you were to lose your laptop (or for that matter, if your desktop machine were stolen) you could and should have your files backed up.  Secure Desktop users have their data backed up automatically if it resides in the My Documents folder or the Desktop. 

Another option and layer of protection involves portable media - in the old days (has it been ten years already?) this meant floppy discs, holding 1.4 megabytes of data on an unreliable magnetic media.  Today you can pick up a USB Flash Drive that holds more than a thousand floppies' worth of data for well under a hundred dollars.

Besides being a convenient way to bring large data files back and forth from your office to your home machine, they also offer a way to backup your entire collection of important documents and keep them in a location away from your office. 

Even more importantly, many flash drives come with encryption software built in.  Using a suitable password, you can (and absolutely should) secure the files saved on the drive so that if you lose it, no one will be able to read your documents.  Remember, as easy as it is to lose a laptop, it is even easier to misplace a flash drive.  They are about the size of a pack of gum - and you sure wouldn't want to take your filing cabinet and fling the contents out on the sidewalk - so use that file encryption!

If you need help choosing a flash storage device or the encryption capabilities many offer, contact Phil Bidwell through the Help Desk at 4567.

Next month - more about file encryption

 

Network Intrusion Prevention


According to the National Vulnerability Database maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (http://nvd.nist.gov/statistics.cfm) at the time of writing, there have been 4522 computer vulnerabilities discovered in 2006. 1586 of those are considered of “high severity.” In addition to these vulnerabilities and exploits thereof, there are viruses, Trojans, spyware and other malware that can be contracted by computers. What does that mean for SUNY Oneonta? It means that we need to take a strong stance against threats directed at our computer network from the Internet.  Certainly, we don’t have to be concerned about every one of those vulnerabilities – we don’t use every piece of hardware or software they represent.  Nor are there exploits available for every one of them.  But there are enough to make a security administrator lose sleep! The hackers and crackers are busy and they love to target a network like ours with lots of Internet bandwidth and lots of potential host computers.  Their goals may include stealing information, tracking Internet usage, sending spam or launching denial of service attacks.  Their main goal is probably to make money.  Stolen information can be sold and compromised computers can be “rented” for sending spam or displaying ads.

We have adopted a layered approach to security, developing initiatives to protect our data from the Internet to the desktop. Our latest tool in this effort is a Tipping Point Intrusion Prevention System. This device guards the border of our network; it stands right behind our connection to the Internet and examines traffic before it enters our firewall (or vice-versa – we need to guard against infections on the inside as well).  It detects traffic that meets the signatures of enabled filters for exploits, attacks, spyware and reconnaissance scans.  When it finds such traffic, it blocks it from entering or exiting the network.  The definitions are updated regularly as threats are discovered or change.

The Tipping Point IPS was implemented this summer after an evaluation in the spring.  In addition to blocking malicious traffic from our network, it has provided insight into the threats directed at us through detailed reports.  This, in turn, helps us decide where to concentrate our security efforts. It has proved to be a valuable addition to our infrastructure and added an important layer to our defenses. If you have any questions, please e-mail Lesley Bidwell, bidwella@oneonta.edu.
 

Trouble with Faxing!

In early August, the College's long distance carrier made internal changes to the way they transmit phone traffic. As a result, facsimile (fax) traffic stopped working.  A quick work around was implemented by Telecommunications that required anyone sending a fax to use the digits “809” instead of our traditional “9” dialing pattern for off-campus long distance fax calls.

A permanent solution was put into service on Thursday, August 17th. Since this date, fax calls have been working properly via the traditional “9” dialing prefix code. Telecom left the “809” dialing in place to insure that the permanent solution was working properly. To date, we have no open issues with the permanent solution.

Since the temporary “809” dialing solution needs to be removed from our phone system programming, this temporary dialing code will stop working on Monday, October 9th. Anyone still using the “809” code should immediately begin using the traditional “9” prefix code only and report any trouble with fax calls to the Telecommunication Office at extension 2577 or e-mail telecomm@oneonta.edu.
 

Banner Users - Banner 7 coming soon to a computer near you.

The time has come for us to move to Banner's newest version.  Besides being a web interface (as opposed to an application installed on your computer), there are a number of other new and different features as part of this release:

New features on the Main Screen are:
  • Menu Bar
  • Tool (icon) bar
  • Title Bar
  • 'Go To' Field
  • My Links
  • My Institution
  • Banner Broadcast Messages

 

Enhancements…

  • The look of Banner has changed
  • Recommended display resolution is 1024 X 768
  • Basic functionality of Banner is similar
  • New navigational features to assist users
  • Access forms from the ‘Go To’ field by either entering form name of placing cursor in field and using the arrow key to view forms already accessed
  • Expand folders by using Products search feature
  • ‘My Links’ allows users to provide quick link to frequently used web sites through Personal Link
  • ‘My Institution’ link is a quick way to go to the Oneonta.edu home
  • Enhanced Users Preferences allow users to customize their display
  • Additional navigation method while in Next Block area
  • F5 key will display the ‘Go To’ field at any time
  • Tabs on several forms allowing users to view information without exiting form and accessing a separate form
  • New Search Icons

Our campus upgrade is scheduled to begin Sunday, October 1, 2006 following month/quarter end processing. The installation will require Banner being unavailable for 3 days. Banner will be available at noon, October 4, 2006.
 

New technologies and the network

Many new office technologies offer lots of capabilities that rely on the campus data network for their functionality.  If you are contemplating the purchase of any device (other than a computer) that attaches to the network, please contact the Network Operations people through the Help Desk at 4567 - they can help you by determining whether the new device will operate as advertised with the network configuration the College uses.  If special provisions need to be made to allow your device to function correctly, some lead time may be required to scheme out and implement those changes.   Don't take the vendors' word for it - give us a call!

 

Outlook Mail Tips - Archiving your mail

We get a lot of email, no question about it.  Besides the spam and junk mail, we send a receive hundreds of email messages every month. 

Both received and sent messages remain in your mail account unless you do something with them, and eventually you reach the quota for how much mail can be stored in your account. This quota is 45 megabytes, and how quickly you reach this limit depends largely on the size of individual messages. Naturally, if someone sent you a message with a 50 megabyte attachment, it would immediately overflow your account.

One way to handle old mail is to AutoArchive it. AutoArchive is a mechanism where you tell Outlook; “Please take any messages that are older than a certain number of days, weeks or months and transfer them to a folder on my computer.” Every time you open Outlook it will go through your mail and do exactly that. Mail that is moved from your mail account on the Exchange Mail Server to your personal computer no longer counts against your account quota, but it can still be accessed.
Setting up AutoArchive is easy. In Outlook, go to Tools- Options- and click on the “Other” Tab. Click on the AutoArchive button. Make sure the box is checked next to “Run AutoArchive every (you decide) days”. Then check the boxes next to “Archive or delete old items” and “Show archive folder in folder list”. Next, decide how long you want to keep items on the mail server before they get archived – typically users will decide to archive items older than three months, but the best length of time will depend on the volume of mail you get and your personal preferences. The idea here is just to keep your mail account from overflowing. Finally, make sure that you have clicked on the radio button next to “Move old items to:” – the other choice is to permanently delete old items, and you probably don’t want to do that.  Mail will start AutoArchiving the next day. A new folder item will appear in your folder list called Archived Items. It will contain all the mail that is archived on a daily basis. This folder is located on your computer, so it cannot be accessed unless you are working at your computer here on campus.  Otherwise, it can be accessed, searched and used just like any other mail folder. 
 

Or, you can do all of this manually:

If you don't already have one, you can create a Personal Folder by selecting File- New- Outlook Data File.  Choose to create a Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst) and let the computer call the file name Personal Folders.pst.  There's really no need to encrypt the file, so click OK on the next step.

Once created, you can treat the Personal Folders just like any other folder in the list.   You can right-click on it and create a new folder - call it Saved Mail or something.  Inside this folder make a new folder - call it 2005.  Inside that one create yet another named 200509, for September.  Make a bunch more for the previous months - 200508, 200507 and so on.

Okay, now go back to the Inbox where you have 85,459 messages saved up since the first Clinton administration.   Presumably they are sorted in the order in which they were received.  Select the first one (which is the most recent message) and then scroll down until you find the first message sent in September.  Hold down the shift key and select it.  This will select all the messages in between and so you have all the messages for September selected.

Now left-click and hold on any of the selected messages, and drag it to the new folder you created for 200509.  Let go.  All of the September messages will get moved to that folder.  Now do the same for all the previous months for which you have messages laying around.

Meanwhile you probably have lots of messages sitting in your Sent Items folder.  A copy of every message you send winds up in there, unless you have explicitly chosen not to do that.  You should move everything in there to the month folders, too.

Once that's all done, you should now have more or less empty Inbox and Sent Items folders, and everything filed away in your Personal Folder. 

When October gets here, right-click on the top of your folder list (where your name is) and make a new folder - called 200510.  As October passes, drag email to this folder after you have read and dealt with it.  In November make another one.  And so on.  Now, these folders still count toward your mail quota limit, so eventually you will have to drag the October folder to the Personal Folder- 2005- folder.  This will take it off the mail server and relocate it to your personal computer.

You will rapidly accumulate email in these archive folders.  The author has over 50,000 emails stored this way, but it is possible to search for messages pretty quickly.  At the top of the Outlook window you will see a Find button. 

Click on the Find button and then the Options Button - and choose Advanced Find.  Here you can choose which folder(s) you want to search by clicking on the Browse button, and then you can enter words to search for in all your messages.  In this example we recall that somebody sent a great recipe for chicken salad last Christmas.  Make sure you select to search in the subject field and message body.  If it's there, Outlook will find it fast, checking around a thousand messages a second.

If you have any trouble using this technique to manage your mail, contact Phil Bidwell at 2710.

 

Speaking of Spam

There is certainly an ebb and flow in the quantity of illegitimate mail we receive on a daily basis.  But it can seem like the rate is staying more or less the same.  Isn't Computer Services doing something about this?  Well, sure!  The reality is that the total amount of undesired mail flowing across the internet is increasing all the time.  Our mail administrators have instituted several different technologies to block spam - and are constantly fine-tuning them.  As a result, we are blocking an increasing percentage of an increasing volume of spam.  Net result?  You still get a dozen spam messages a day, but we're holding back an increasing flood tide.
 

If you have a question for Computer and Telecommunication Services about:

Computer Problems or Related Issues - Call the Information Technology Help Desk at 436-4567

Telephone Service or Problems - Call the Office of Telecommunications at 436-2577

Directory Assistance - call 436-3500