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

NUMBER 91

January, 2008

Click here to see an Adobe Acrobat PDF version of this newsletter, suitable for printing.

Archives of CATPrints are available at http://www.oneonta.edu/technology/comptech/newsletter/
 

Technology Training

There's lots of training available for our technology users - we can provide you with informal one-on-one sessions to cover a few specific topics and we also have a great deal of more formal classroom-style training scheduled.  See the most recent Spring Training Scheduled from the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center at:

http://www.oneonta.edu/academics/training/Calendar.aspx

If you have questions about training, contact Deb McClenon at 2684 or Phil Bidwell at 2710.

 

Getting help with your website

If you need assistance in keeping your site up-to-date or in totally revamping its style and content, help is just a phone call or email away.  The Web Development Office is ready to work with any administrative office - besides full-scale redesign, they can make arrangements to carry out periodic updates on your site or, if you prefer, train you to do the edits yourself.   The Teaching, Learning and Technology Center provides similar services for the faculty and academic departments. 

Call Jennifer Knapp at the Web Development Office at 3031 or email her at smithjl@oneonta.edu - or contact the TLTC's Deb McClenon at 2684 or email her at mcclendl@oneonta.edu.

 

Disposing of that old home computer

So you got a new computer at home recently - and now you want to get rid of the old one.  There are a couple of important things to consider before you do: 

Your personal data

There is the potential for all kinds of personal data to remain on the hard drive of your old computer, and it is critical that you thoroughly erase it.  There are people out there who make a living out of "data mining" old hardware - recovering personal information that could potentially make you a target of identity theft or worse - and you should take steps to prevent it from happening. 

The most definitive way to secure that data is to remove the hard drive and physically destroy it.  An enterprising youngster with a screwdriver and some time to spend can find it, remove it and then take it apart for fun.  There's all kinds of neat widgets inside plus a pair of incredibly strong magnets.  Those more inclined to a brute-force approach can just go at the hard drive with a big hammer.  Wear your safety goggles.

If you are more interested in allowing someone else to use the computer without having to buy a new hard drive, then you could use one of the available "disk cleaners".  There is a good summary of the issues involved at http://www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/personal/oldpc.mspx, where Microsoft makes recommendations on good applications for disk wiping.  It does assume a certain level of skill with the computer, though, and you may prefer to spend a few bucks and have a local commercial outfit do it for you.  Look in the yellow pages under "Computer Service and Repair" for reputable companies who can help you out.

What to do with the carcass

If the computer is old but still has some serviceable life left in it, you may want to consider donating it to a local school district or not-for-profit organization.  If you contact them with the specifications of your machine (make, model, how much memory and hard drive it has, plus accessories like monitor and printer) they will be able to decide pretty easily if they want it.

If the machine is broken or is too old for anyone to want it, then you should contact one of the local repair and service companies for help on recycling the hardware.  Computer equipment is not like other kinds of recyclables - it has valuable materials in it but also lots of scary chemicals and metals.  See http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2003/01/57151 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_waste for discussions on the perils and possibilities for recycling.  When you contact a company that offers recycling of electronic equipment, make sure to ask them questions about the ultimate destination of the material.

If you have further questions about disposing of your home computer or other electronic equipment, call Phil Bidwell at 2710 or Tim Ploss at 2053.

 

IRS Refund by email?  Not likely...


Recently, at least a dozen college employees received an e-mail, ostensibly from the Department of the Treasury, alerting them they were eligible for a refund.   Fortunately, they were netwise enough to recognize a phishing attempt.  The e-mail included a link to the IRS site to fill out an online form and claim the refund. The site looked just like the legitimate IRS site, but wasn't - it led to the phishers' site.  Here is a link to the IRS warning taxpayers of the scam: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=170894,00.html.

The users that reported the e-mail knew enough to realize that the IRS doesn’t operate this way. There was another clue in the text of the e-mail, though, and that was the link. The link looked something like this:

www.companyname-co.uk/home/www.irs.gov/refund/12345678.

For the purposes of this example, we have rendered the address unclickable.  However, take a look at the first part.  Why would the IRS have a web address that originates in the UK (or any other country for that matter)?   In fact, upon investigation, we found that the company listed in the first part of the link, appears to be legitimate with a website and of course, the IRS is a legitimate organization with a website.   Clicking the link brought the victim directly to a form soliciting personal information, but the form was not hosted by either the British company or the IRS.

This serves as yet another example of how education and personal vigilance are the best protections against on-line scams.  Here at Oneonta, we have several systems in place to guard against SPAM, Phishing attempts, Trojans and viruses delivered via e-mail.  In fact, the e-mail had been marked **Possible SPAM** by our SPAM filter. 

Now that we have received examples of the e-mail from recipients, we have taken steps to block similar phishing attempts in the future.  However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the user to be aware of the risks of online activity and protect themselves (after all, this would have been YOUR personal information at risk if you had followed the link) against identity theft or malware infection.  

If you have any questions, please contact the Information Technology Security Administrator, Lesley Bidwell at x4567 or bidwella@oneonta.edu.

 

PDF Fill-in Forms

Many of our offices have put their collection of forms online for the convenience of their users.  At first these forms were available pretty much like a photocopy - you printed it out, filled it in and submitted it by mail or in person. 

Another option now available is to provide the form with fields that can be filled out on the screen before it is printed.  You can use text boxes for users to type in, and you can also use check boxes, radio buttons and drop-down menus of choices.  These enhancements produce forms that are cleaner and easier for you to read, and also help the user by giving examples of choices from a list or by providing default answers.  Users can do this with the ordinary Adobe Acrobat Reader software freely available on most computers.

In addition, these completed forms can be submitted electronically instead of being printed and mailed.  The only data we advise people not to require on electronically submitted forms are Social Security Numbers or Student/Faculty "A" numbers.  We're still working on a mechanism to deal with forms that need a signature, but otherwise we are working toward an improvement in the way forms are handled - and goodness knows every little bit helps.

We can help you convert existing forms to an electronic version, and training courses exist to help you learn how to manage forms editing on your own using Adobe Software.  If you have questions or would like to take advantage of this capability, call the Help Desk at 4567 and ask them to open a ticket - we'll be glad to work with you!

 

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