Guarding Against Theft of Electronics

We have seen several computer thefts this year, from public places as well as offices. What can you do limit the chance of theft, and how can you prepare in case the worst happens? Read on.

Don’t Leave Valuables Unattended
It only takes a moment for a computer to be stolen. When you’re working in a public place like the Library or a cafe, never leave your computer unattended and unlocked, even for a few minutes. If you have a trusted friend you can leave it with them, otherwise bring it with you or leave it locked. If your office is open and unattended, always use a lock. IT is happy to provide cable locks for Hampshire-owned computers.

Turn on Tracking
On a Mac, System Preferences/iCloud allows you to turn on Find my Mac, which will track your device and allow you to wipe it remotely or play an alarm if it is detected on line. Windows 10 has a “Find My Device” option in Settings/Update & Security, which will show you where your device is. There are other 3rd-party options for different platforms–Prey is one option for Android, Linux, as well as Mac, iOS and Windows.

Know your Serial Number
Your serial number will be helpful for law enforcement if your computer is recovered. Many computers have the serial number printed on the computer or a sticker attached to it; if you don’t have a sticker or can’t read it, search online for how to find it on your computer–or for a Mac just use AppleAbout this Mac. IT maintains a record of all Hampshire-owned computer serial numbers.

Know your MAC Address(es)
Your computer has a “Media Access Control” (MAC) address which uniquely identifies it on each network connection it has. For example, there is a MAC address associated with the wireless connection, and a different one associated with its Ethernet connection (if it has one). The MAC address can be used to track the computer if it’s connected to the internet. You can find instructions for determining the MAC address of many different types of devices at http://www.wikihow.com/Find-the-MAC-Address-of-Your-Computer.

If you need help finding your personal computer’s MAC addresses, the Student Diagnostic Center on the 3rd floor of the Library can help.

IT maintains a record of all Hampshire-owned computer MAC addresses.

Keep your Files Backed Up
Losing your computer can be devastating, but losing your files can be irrecoverable. Keep your files backed up either on an external drive or on a cloud service. If you use an external drive to backup, always store it separately from your computer–you don’t want it to be stolen with your computer.

What to do if your Computer is Stolen
If your Hampshire-owned computer is stolen from campus, notify Campus Police immediately; if it is stolen from off campus, call the local police. In either case it is helpful for IT to be immediately notified as well, at 413.559.5418 or helpdesk@hampshire.edu. We can provide the MAC address and serial number if needed.

If your personal computer is stolen from campus, notify campus police as soon as you realize it. If you have a record of your serial number and MAC addresses, provide them to the police. If you have taken our advice and set up a device tracker, check to see if you can locate your device, and consider other options as allowed by the tracker–for instance, to play an alarm or erase the drive.

Conference Phones

We have been adding conference calling capabilities to some conference rooms around campus, and have put together a table to help you determine which room and what type of conference phone will meet your needs. Read on.

There are two types of conference phones, “analog”–a traditional phone line–and “Voice over IP” (or “VoIP”). We have been adding VoIP ports to various conference rooms when we are able (there are sometimes technical limitations that don’t allow us to add a VoIP port), and surveying the availability of analog ports as well.

Media services loans both analog and VoIP conference phones, but the first step is to figure out which type you will need. We have put together a list of all of the conference rooms with conference call capabilities and the type of phone that you need for each. Some conference rooms have multiple ports, so there may be a choice of phone types. Check out the list before you make your next conference call.

We may be adding more VoIP ports in the future and will update the list as that happens.

Six Signs it is a Scam

It must be phishing season–several examples of scam emails have come my way this week. Here are six clues to look for to figure out if it’s legit Hampshire email.

Those of you who have been here a few years will remember how many scam emails we used to get. That number has gone way down, largely thanks to the efforts of our system administrators. There are always going to be holes in our net, though, so one or two phish may find it to your inbox. Here are some things to watch for:

  1. The email is from someone not at Hampshire. We send out our own warning messages, and they’ll always come from an address including “@hampshire.edu.”
  2. The email contains links to “hidden” web addresses. If you see a link to a website in email, put your cursor over the link without clicking. While the blue link text can say whatever it wants, if you look down at the bottom of the window you can see where it’s really going to send you to. We always show you exactly where we’re sending you, so the two should match; but even if they don’t, the real location would always be “@hampshire.edu”.
  3. The email wants you to go to a website because you’re over quota. If you’re over quota, just start deleting, no need to go off to any website other than Webmail!
  4. The email sends you someplace other than https://password.hampshire.edu to change your password. If your account is indeed “locked” (which is a pretty rare thing), the page at https://password.hampshire.edu will tell you that and instruct you to call us.
  5. The email mentions the wrong quota size. Our email quota is 2.5GB. That may change, but you can always see what it is and how close you are to it by logging into Webmail at https://webmail.hampshire.edu. It’s right there at the top of the window.
  6. The email contains gross grammatical errors. Not that we use the queen’s English or anything, but we can usually string together a group of words that include a subject and a predicate. This is becoming less of an issue, though, as scammers get more sophisticated.

If you’re unsure about an email after scanning it for signs, give us a call or send it our way; we’ll be able to tell you for sure. The Hampshire College help desk can be reached at helpdesk@hampshire.edu, or 413.559.5418.

Power Down Over Break

The IT Department would like to remind you that we live in New England where winter storms can cause power outages. These outages can sometime create problems in electronic equipment. Please take steps to minimize any problems, and as an added bonus they will help us conserve energy!

Please remember to do the following before you leave for break. Need help to remember? Put a sticky note on your door, coat, bag or another place you will see it as you go to leave.

We would like you to turn OFF and UNPLUG power on all computers, monitors, printers, copiers, external drives and other large electronic equipment prior to leaving. This is to protect them from electrical damage during any outages, power surges, or when power is restored. To simplify the process, if several devices (e.g. monitor, computer, printer) are connected to a power strip, just unplug the power strip, not each device.

We would like you to do this even if you have power strips on all of your major equipment. The reasoning is because not all power strips are surge protectors, or they may not offer enough protection for all the equipment plugged into them. We understand that not everyone will be able to physically unplug all of the equipment for one reason or another. In those cases, devices should be powered off completely and not left in a sleep or low power mode.

A special note about refrigerators. Do not unplug them, but remember that if you have ice built up in the freezer portion, it may melt and leak out on the floor during an extended outage. Please make sure there are no electronics or other items nearby that may get damaged. You may want to consider placing a towel or something under the door to absorb any leaking.

We have generators and back up power to keep the servers and some network equipment running so off campus access to most systems are not effected by outages unless the outage is significant or extensive.

Thank you for your assistance. If you have questions concerning the protection of your computers and other equipment, please contact the IT helpdesk at helpdesk@hampshire.edu.

When Windows 10 Does Not Play Nice with our Networks

We were stumped this week by a Windows 10 computer that had to re-register with our wireless network every day. Turns out it’s a “feature” that was turned on in Windows 10.

Our Wallace network for faculty & staff and Gromit network for students both require that computers using them go through a registration process once a year. To register a computer you enter your Hampshire username and password, and once it is verified your computer is granted access to the network for the rest of the academic year. To accomplish this, behind the scenes we record a unique identifier for the computer so that the computer will be recognized the next time it connects to the network. The unique identifier is called the “Media Access Control” or “MAC” address for short.

Every device that connects to the internet has a MAC address that doesn’t change over the lifetime of the computer; Windows 10 adds a feature that allows the computer to make up a new (fake) MAC address every day. I won’t bore you with the details of why this might be desirable, but if you’re on the run from the FBI or hiding from the NSA you might want to consider it. On the other hand, if you’re on campus and want to use wireless, you definitely should make sure it’s off.

The consequence of this being turned on at Hampshire is that every day you will have to re-register your computer with the Hampshire network. Painful.

If you have a Windows 10 computer and have trouble connecting to our network, you might want to check the MAC address settings:

  1. Open up your Start menu and choose “Settings.”
  2. Select “Network and Internet.”
  3. In the panel on the left click on “Wi-Fi.”
  4. In the panel on the right select “Manage Wi-Fi settings.”
  5. In the “Random hardware address” section and under “Use random addresses for this network,” select either “On” (for a randomized MAC address that will stay the same) or “Off” (to use the computer’s actual MAC address).

Deleting Old iTunes Backups

If you’re concerned about storage space on your computer, consider removing old iTunes backups.

If you’ve ever looked at the Apple–>About this Mac/”Storage” section on your computer, you may have noticed that there is a chunk of storage space being used by “Other” files. One thing that is grouped in this category is old iTunes backups. On a Windows computer it’s not so easy to see exactly how your files are using up disk space, but it’s easy to check in iTunes to see if there are any backups you are ready to get rid of.

Seeing Exactly how Much Space iTunes Backups are Using (totally optional, for the curious)

If you want to see how much space is being used by iTunes backups on your computer:

On a Mac:

  1. Click on the desktop to make sure you’re in the Finder, hold down the Option key, and choose “Go–>Library”.
  2. Find and select (single click) the folder “MobileSync”.
  3. Select File–>Get Info and look at the “Size” figure.

On a PC the backups are stored in “Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup”. To navigate to that folder:

  1. Find the Search bar:
    • In Windows 7, click “Start”.
    • In Windows 8, click the magnifying glass in the upper-right corner.
    • In Windows 10, click the Search bar next to the “Start” button.
  2. In the Search bar, enter “%appdata%”
  3. Press “Return”.
  4. Open up the “Apple Computer” folder
  5. Right-click on the “MobileSync” folder and select “Properties” and look for the folder size.

Checking & Removing Backups in iTunes

When you are ready to remove iTunes backups:

  1. Open up iTunes.
  2. On a Mac choose iTunes–>Preferences, and on Windows choose Edit–>Preferences.
  3. Click Devices.
  4. Choose the backup that you want to delete. If you have several devices or backups, hover the mouse pointer over the backup to see more details.
  5. Choose “Delete Backup”, then confirm.

Cleaning out your Thunderbird Address Book

If you’ve been using Thunderbird for a while it has probably built up a good-sized address book for you. Cleaning it out every now and then is a good practice to avoid making addressing mistakes.

Auto-fill of known addresses is a handy feature, but if you’ve got lots of old addresses hanging around it can cause headaches and mistakes if you’re not paying attention. For instance, usernames at Hampshire should always be unique, but email aliases, which are composed from the person’s first initial and last name, may be re-used. It’s also easier to type the first few letters of someone’s name and home in on the right correspondent if your address book is in good shape.

When you open up your address book in Thunderbird, you will notice there are at least 2: Collected Addresses and Personal Address Book. There may be more, including Mac OS X Address Book, depending on what type of system you’re working on and whether you’ve imported any address books in the past.

Open up each address book, and just scan the list quickly, looking for people who have moved on & with whom you no longer correspond. You can select a name and press the Delete key (Mac) or Backspace key (PC) to remove it. This can be a tedious project, but you can break it into different sessions if need be.