Archives For February 2014

Data Privacy Month Wrap-up

John Knights —  February 28, 2014

Throughout Data Privacy Month we have covered a few important areas to help you better protect your privacy and information online. As the month comes to a close, remember to implement the tips you’ve learned and guard your information year round. Protecting yourself from phishing and other types of social engineering relies only on your vigilance. Always be on the lookout for suspicious communication requesting information, especially when there are spelling errors, mysterious links, or when something just doesn’t look or sound right to you. Ensure that trusted websites are the official versions and not just impersonations before you submit personal information. If you are suspicious of a website, link, or any form of communication, you can report it to Information Security.  To better prepare you for phishing attacks check out our Phishing page and report any potential spam or phishing emails to SPAM@wit.edu.

If you still haven’t, check your privacy settings on social networks and ensure your personal data that you do not want made available to the public is hidden. You can prevent your pictures from being stolen and used for advertising without your permission and stop future employers from scrutinizing your profile during the hiring process. Secure your account and help prevent hacking by choosing a more complex password. Don’t be convinced by scams that seem too good to be true and remember that the best thing to do is not click if you aren’t confident about the link.  For more on staying safe on social networks check out the last Information Security blog.

If you are using a public Wi-Fi hotspots, make sure that your sharing settings are off to ensure that you are not broadcasting your computer to others on the same network. Remember, if you need to check your bank account on a mobile device, use a 3G or 4G connection whenever possible as it is more secure. If you are on a laptop, connect using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to create a secure connection, which will then secure your information. (For Wentworth employees that require VPN access to the campus network when working remotely, please email our Information Security Office to find out more.) Always be cautious when in a public space, even when connecting to “secured” or encrypted Wi-Fi hotspots as they may not employ the most up-to-date settings or security. At Wentworth, our LeopardSecure Wi-Fi network utilizes strong encryption, so you can be sure that your communications are secure.  To learn more about Public Wi-Fi read the Information Security blog about it.

If everyone does their part in protecting sensitive information and following safe practices when online, all benefit. Not only are you safeguarding your information when following these practices, you are also protecting your families, friends, and colleagues. For the latest news, advisories and alerts, follow Wentworth’s Information Security Office on Twitter at @InfoSec_WIT and on the web at www.wit.edu/dts/security.

The majority of Americans online have a social networking profile that they use frequently, but far too many of us keep our information open and unsecure. Often people will feel safer on social networking sites compared to email because of less spam or the presence of their friends. Out of the over 1 billion monthly active Facebook users, as many as 11%, or well over 100 million profiles, are fake accounts. Some pet owners create accounts for their pets, while others have innocent secondary accounts created by users who got their first profile hacked. However, there are disingenuous duplicate profiles, spamming profiles created by companies, or maybe worst yet, phishing accounts from hackers.

Duplicate accounts can be used by hackers to pose as a person or business to request personal information through misleading private messages, a form of phishing. The goal is to acquire enough publically available personal information that the criminals then try to use to request a temporary password or similar access to accounts of the targeted individual, and bypass the security measures. Think of the answers to “secret questions,” such as your pets names or your mother’s maiden name. Are these bits of personal information, often used for password reset applications, accessible through your social networking sites? Remember, it is not just protecting yourself from a person with malicious intent from viewing your site directly, but accessing the information from a compromised “friend” or “connection” account as well.

Checking your privacy settings on social networks is an easy step towards protecting yourself and keeping your data hidden. You can prevent your pictures from being stolen and used for advertising without your permission and stop future employers from using your profile against you during the hiring process. Always be careful with confusing or misspelled private messages, links leading away from the site you’re on, or pages that seem too good to be true. To learn more ways to spot a phishing email read our blog about it. The best thing to do is not click if you aren’t confident about the link. Send any suspicious links or messages to Information Security at abuse@wit.edu.

Finally, remember, what you put out on the internet stays on the internet, even if you delete it-so be cautious of what you share.

Phishing is a type of cyber attack that utilizes social engineering in an attempt to steal your identity by obtaining your personal information. By impersonating a person or company you trust, the scammer tries to receive your passwords, credit card numbers, account numbers, birthdate, or other information. Phishing can also be conducted via e-mail, websites, telephone, or even postal mail.  The point is to exploit you without you knowing and with your help. Knowing how to protect yourself by learning how to spot phishing attempts can protect you against having you identity stolen.

Protecting yourself from this type of cyber-attack relies only on your vigilance online. Always be on the lookout for odd letters or emails requesting information, especially when there are spelling errors or mysterious links. Often a phishing email will pose as one company but the link inside goes to a completely different obscure website. Ensure that trusted websites are the official versions and not just impersonations before you submit personal information. If you are suspicious of a website, link, or any form of communication, you can report it to Information Security by forwarding the email to spam@wit.edu or abuse@wit.edu.

The Wentworth Information Security Office also provides more on how to better prepare you for phishing attacks at our phishing information page.

What better place to catch unsuspecting people who are bored and want to go online than the airport? Next time you’re flying be cautious of the wireless network you choose to join on you mobile device because it could easily be an ad hoc network (phone to phone connection) or another trap set by a hacker. Often times a hacker will intercept information over an unsecured Wi-Fi network and acquire people’s passwords to social media or worst yet, their credentials used to access their bank account online. Think of unprotected Wi-Fi like a mailing a letter in a transparent envelope and placing it in an unsecure mailbox, you have to leave the information in it and wait for the mail carrier (website) to pick it up. If a hacker gets to the information before the website (mail carrier), he could view the contents and even tamper with it. The safest thing is to never input sensitive information on an unprotected Wi-Fi network.

If you need to check your bank account on a mobile device, use a 3G or 4G connection whenever possible as it is more secure. If you are on a laptop, connect using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN service to create a secure connection, which will then secure your information. (For Wentworth employees that require VPN access to the campus network when working remotely, please email our Information Security Office to find out more.), Always be cautious when in a public space, even when connecting to “secured” or encrypted WiFi hotspots as they may not employ the most up-to-date settings. At Wentworth, our LeopardSecure WiFi network utilizes strong encryption, so you can be sure that your communications are secure.

A few other things to consider when using public WiFi hotspots. First, make sure that your sharing settings are off. This will ensure that you are not broadcasting your computer to others on the same network, limiting your potential exposure. Secondly, be careful even when you’re on a secure Wi-Fi network when it comes to your personal information. Chrome’s Incognito and Mozilla’s Private Browsing modes will cover your tracks on your computer but they leave the data you share vulnerable. Many sites allow for secure connections using an encrypted channel to their web site, through HTTPS. The problem is that even though it is available, many sites use the unencrypted HTTP as a default to ensure connectivity. There is a tool that you can use with your browser named HTTPS Everywhere. HTTPS Everywhere is a browser plugin that solves this problem and secures your data. Stay encrypted while browsing by default on every website that allows it. This is available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera.