Got Backup?

Hard disks fail. If you don’t back up your data on a regular basis, we can help you get a system set up.

If you’ve experienced a data loss due to hard drive failure, chances are that you’ve got a backup system in place. If you haven’t experienced a data loss, don’t worry, you’ll be a member of the club some day–unless you’re backing up your data on a regular basis.

These days a backup system is pretty painless–you can either back up to an external drive on an automatic basis, or sign up for an online backup system such as Carbonite.

If you need to put a backup plan in place, we have backup drives available for purchase through a departmental charge. A 1 Terabyte backup drive (sufficient for the vast majority of users) is $60 and a 2 Terabyte backup drive is $100. To buy one of these drives contact the IT Helpdesk, give us a departmental charge number, and you can stop by and pick up your drive. If you’d like assistance setting up the drive and starting the backup, make an appointment with an IT technician through the IT help desk.

Using a Password Manager

Whether you’re reusing passwords (a definite security risk) or trying to keep track of a multitude of passwords (a definite sanity risk), a password manager is a great help.

I finally reached the tipping point with passwords a few months ago. I had been using an encrypted file to keep track of passwords, but it just became untenable with multiple devices. I also wasn’t happy with the lack of complexity of the passwords I was using.

After some research I settled on LastPass, a free utility that is web based with apps available for iOS and Android OS. Once I came up with one super-strong password (the “last pass” I’ll have to remember), I set it up to generate random passwords for some sites, and left other (less important) sites as they were.

Things I love about LastPass

  • It’s really easy to have it remember and retrieve passwords when I’m using a computer browser.
  • My passwords are (securely) accessible from any device I use.
  • The security level is highly customizable.
  • I can designate certain passwords to be shared with other LastPass users–my family for instance, can use their own LastPass account to access my Verizon password, so they can log into our shared family plan. This feature requires one person (me, in this case) to buy the premium service, which costs me $12 per year.

Things that I don’t love about LastPass

  • It’s a bit cumbersome on my phone. While the new version provides its own browser that will automatically invoke LastPass when needed, that doesn’t help with apps that require passwords. Getting to my LastPass passwords from an app on my phone requires launching the LastPass app, copying the password, pasting it into the password field, and then going back and clearing out the clipboard so the password can’t be pasted in again.
  • The base settings for LastPass aren’t as secure as I’d like (it stays logged in too long, for instance), so I spent some time tweaking them to my liking.

Choosing a Password Manager
When you’re choosing a password manager you should consider several factors:

  • It should use at least AES 256 encryption.
  • It should be able to generate random, secure passwords for you.
  • It should work on all the devices you use to access secure sites–your smart phone, tablet, and computer–and any browser.
  • Two-step authentication is a security feature that makes it more difficult for someone to break into your password vault.
  • If you need to share passwords with friends or family, can it do that without compromising passwords that are just for you?
  • A helpful rundown of password managers can be found at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp.

Congress Approves Rollback of Internet Privacy Protections

Amidst all of the other chaos surrounding the new administration, you could be forgiven for not being aware of an alarming reversal in internet privacy policy. Here’s what you should know.

In October 2016 the FCC voted in new regulations to require broadband internet providers to receive permission from consumers before collecting and selling individual subscriber usage information. Protected information included web browsing, location information, financial information, personal information, and more. The regulations were slated to go into effect later this year.

Earlier this month the Senate passed a repeal of the rule on a strict party-line vote, and the House did likewise this week. There is little mystery about the next step, as the White House has stated that the President will sign the bill. Once that happens the FCC will be powerless to recreate the rule.

What this means is that your internet provider will be able to sell the data it collects on you without your permission. And this isn’t just your web browsing data, it includes any information you enter online, including personally identifying and health-related information. Since there is really no competition in local broadband providers, consumers have few options for direct action.

If you’re as outraged as we are, consider some of the following ideas:

  • Get informed about the issue. Good starting points include op-eds from March 29 in the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as https://www.fightforthefuture.org .
  • Let your cable company know that you do not want your information collected or sold. Although though they are under no obligation to heed your wishes we can hope that many voices will make a difference.
  • A petition for the President is available to sign at http://savebroadbandprivacy.org .
  • Helpful information about protecting your digital information is available at https://www.letsgetsafe.org/ . Please note that if you desire to encrypt your Hampshire-owned computer that IT should initiate the encryption to minimize the potential for data loss.
  • Watch for future erosions of your online rights. Negation of net neutrality rules promise to be the next digital battleground.

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.

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).