Internet risks pose a problem to many web users, but university students and faculty are particularly vulnerable, having essential academic files saved to their computers.
With numerous potential cyber threats out there, university students could be an at-risk group for nasty malware or viruses says University Technology Services.
A fairly recent concern is Cryptolocker, malicious software that can enter your computer and encrypt your important documents or pictures. The software will then make you pay to get your pictures and documents back.
“Once you pay, you set up all your colleagues as targets,” says Richard Godsmark of UTS. This could affect your contacts directly because Cryptolocker criminals assume they are easy targets.
The payment issue presents itself in two ways, either in a phishing email or an illegitimate website. Godsmark suggests that if an email or a website looks suspicious, to use caution when giving out personal or credit card information.
Godsmark believes that even when an internet criminal is caught, like the recent arrest of a malware author in Russia, another is bound to emerge. “It will never be perfect, the bad guys will be able to convince you to install software if people are unaware,” said Godsmark.
Recently, Yahoo! in Europe experienced a waterhole attack where their ads were compromised and began installing malware into users computers.
“The vast majority of compromises will occur because of no anti-virus or firewall protection,” said Godsmark.
There are tools available to Internet criminals that allow them to hide viruses so your anti-virus will not be able to detect them. Viruses can disguise themselves as Adobe Reader or a Java Update very easily.
Anti-virus alone is not enough, it is important to also install a system firewall, run regular updates, and turn on web reputation.
Viruses are more common on Microsoft operating systems, because of their large market share. However, with the increasing popularity of Apple and Android, new viruses are likely to ‘pop up’ on these operating systems, in Godsmarks opinion. “We shouldn’t work under the basis that there is something magical working for us.”
Godsmark believes that the most important thing is a general awareness about these problems.
There are a number of ways to recognize if a message is not safe, such as the presence of grammatical errors or abnormal logos. With a combination of protection techniques and general awareness, viruses and malware can be prevented.
For the MSU, paper balloting is a thing of the past.
It’s been that way since 2011, and the students union intends to keep using Simply Voting, a digital balloting software that the MSU used in the last presidential election.
“We’ve seen an increase in voter turnout over the past couple of years,” said Steven Thompson, chief returning officer for the MSU’s elections department. “Online voting helps with that. It’s more convenient since there are no crazy line-ups. It also saves [the MSU] money and is more secure.”
Voter turnout at McMaster was at an all-time low in 2009. Only about 13 per cent of the student body casted ballots that year. The number nearly doubled the following year, reaching 22 per cent.
Voter apathy among students has been a long-standing challenge in universities across the country. At the University of Manitoba, voter turnout has averaged about 10 per cent. Queen’s University, with some of the higher turnouts in Ontario, has had more than 30 per cent of its student body vote in each of the past five years.
The MSU hoped to engage more students when it introduced online voting in its 2011 election, using UTS’s MacVote software. They switched to Simply Voting last year, and turnout rose to 33.4 per cent – the highest in a decade.
But online voting doesn’t always run smoothly.
Some McMaster students didn’t receive e-mails with voting passwords last election, even with multiple emails sent.
“I believe there were about a couple hundred e-mails that bounced last year,” said Thompson. “We re-sent e-mails to those who may not have received them, but some people just had full inboxes.”
Although 200 people doesn’t seem like a huge number, it’s worth noting that David Campbell, who’s running again this year, lost by only 47 votes to Siobhan Stewart in 2012.
That election took place before the mass Mac email system switchover from MUSS to Gmail. Thompson explained that limited storage space was the main cause of some technical glitches, adding that the MSU doesn’t anticipate any this year.
A more serious online voting malfunction happened earlier this week at the University of British Columbia, whose students union also use Simply Voting.
An overloaded e-mail server on the voting system resulted in 1,171 students not being able to vote for their board of governors and senate for more than 24 hours. A makeup ballot has since been made available.
At McMaster, online polling will open on Jan. 29 at 9 a.m., about three hours before the all-candidates debate hosted by the MSU.
While there will be no voting booths, laptops will be stationed in the Student Centre from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Jan. 29 to 31.
Following an announcement of a $100,000 pilot project by UTS to improve wireless internet service on campus, the MSU has released a list of facilities that will receive wireless upgrades or expanded service. The Wi-Fi expansion will prioritize classrooms, lounges, meeting and conference rooms.
Feedback gathered in a student survey played a significant role in the decision-making process, said Huzaifa Saeed, VP (Education) of the MSU.
The survey garnered about 900 votes when the Wi-Fi working group met to discuss funding allocations, and has since reached more than 1,200 responses.
Notable service upgrades will take place in the basement and first level of BSB along with several rooms in TSH. The entire Student Centre is also expected to receive wireless internet connection.The working group comprised members from UTS, CLL, the University Library, Facility Services and the Registrar.
Originally, rooms 264 and 376 in the John Hodgins Engineering Building (JHE) were not included in the project despite many student survey-takers identifying JHE as needing Wi-Fi. The building will now be considered in the pilot project.
Ken Coley, associate dean of Engineering, explained that the faculty had spent a portion of their budget upgrading Wi-Fi throughout JHE in the past two years, so the faculty was not interested in allocating their own funds for further Wi-Fi enhancements in the building. However, the faculty has clarified that they will not impose restrictions on the pilot project.
“Wi-Fi in classrooms has not been a priority for Engineering but we are not going to stand in the way of UTS putting in upgrades in JHE,” said Coley.
Saeed said there will be extra funds freed up from the $100,000 pot if the MUSC Board of Management agrees to cover Wi-Fi in the Student Centre with the $1.1 million surplus in student fees collected for the building in 2010. That motion will be presented at the Board’s next meeting the second week of December.
Ron McKelvie, director of UTS, said final approval for the project will occur in December. It has not yet been confirmed when updates will be complete.
The list of building upgrades is below:
DeGroote School of Business
UPGRADE: B105, B106, B107
Kenneth Taylor Hall
NEW: B104, B105, B102, B135
UPGRADE: B110, B121, B123
Togo Salmon Hall
NEW: B105, B106, B107, B120, B126, B128, B130, B125, B180, 122,187, 512
Chester New Hall
NEW: B107, 102, 106, 104
UPGRADE: B180, 183
Alumni Memorial Building
NEW: B130, B130/E, B130/A
McMaster University Student Centre
UPGRADE: B107, B109, Council Chambers, 203, 206, 212
NEW: 136, 162
Burke Science Building
NEW: B119, B103, B155, B135, B136, B139, B142, 119,120, 117, 121, 115, 108, 106, 137, 138, 145, 147
The MSU is bringing back the #WheresTheWifi hashtag after partnering with UTS on a $100,000 Wi-Fi pilot project on campus.
New surveys on the MSU’s website and Facebook page were released Monday to gather feedback on which areas of campus are most in need of Wi-Fi.
Huzaifa Saeed, VP (Education), who sits on the Wi-Fi working group and is spearheading this year’s pilot project, says it’s an important step towards a larger-scale initiative.
The Wi-Fi working group consists of UTS, CLL, Library, Facility Services and the Registrar.
“I will be reporting to UTS later this week, and we will work out where we can spend the money,” said Saeed.
“I think it’s important for students to contribute, especially since Wi-Fi was such a big issue in the last [MSU] election,” he said.
In less than 24 hours, over 600 votes were casted on the MSU’s channels. So far, the Burke Science Building and Student Centre seem to be where most students have identified the greatest need for Wi-Fi.
The survey on the MSU’s website differs from the one on Facebook, providing a longer list of choices and asking for student satisfaction with Wi-Fi on campus.
Mukhtar Galan, current SRA representative (Engineering), ran with the slogan ‘Where’s the Wi-Fi?’ in his presidential campaign this past January.
Galan said he is very supportive of the pilot project and student poll.
“There are a lot of empty tables and study spaces on campus that can’t be used because there’s no Internet connection,” he said. “We have good space, we just need to optimize it.”
“I was surprised to hear from so many first-years last year that they couldn’t connect to Wi-Fi in some common rooms,” said Galan. “I think that’s a problem.”
However, the cost to expand Wi-Fi in residences is closer to $500,000, says Saeed, so it wouldn’t be feasible as part of the pilot project.
“After the project, [the MSU] will be submitting a multi-million dollar proposal to the University for Wi-Fi upgrades on campus,” Saeed said.
UTS’s website states that areas eligible for University funding are public gathering areas for students where there is seating or workspace. This includes lobbies, libraries and lounges.
‘Out of scope’ areas for Wi-Fi funding by UTS are classrooms, administrative areas, and faculty and staff offices. Wi-Fi improvements for these areas can be secured through departmental or project funding if available.
Discussions to improve Wi-Fi on campus, in addition to other technological services on campus, have been ongoing for years.
Last year, MSU President Matthew Dillon-Leitch and executives worked to get UnivMail undergraduate e-mail accounts migrated to Google.
The University’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) project was also announced last year. The purpose of the five-year project is to modernize and streamline McMaster’s outdated business processes.
The initiative entered the ‘fit-gap’ stage earlier this month. During this stage, members of the implementation team will examine how the selected PeopleSoft software fits McMaster’s business process needs, and where there are gaps.
In retaliation to perceived decline of post secondary education and inflation of tuition rates, a team of anonymous hackers has directed their animosity at the top educational institutions across the globe, including McMaster.
McMaster was one of 100 universities worldwide whose servers were compromised last week in a mass scale hacking scandal known informally as “ProjectWestWind.”
Four McMaster servers were hacked into, along with more than 120,000 computer accounts and over 35,000 e-mail addresses from other universities, including Harvard University, New York University and Tokyo University. Secure information has leaked onto approximately 120 cyberlockers and mirror sites splashed across the Internet.
McMaster University Technology Services reported security breaches pertaining to The Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy, Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, the Origins Institute, and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
According to an update by the Office of Public Relations, most files that were accessed contained information that is “older and, in most cases, publically available.” No credit card information, user names or passwords were disclosed, but information such as degree dates were.
The information that has been acquired from these departments following the security breach has been leaked to a vast number of publically accessible large scale “data dumps” online.
“No sensitive information was pulled from our server: only the data from the database tables … only public information was exposed,” said the McMaster Department of Mathematics and Statistics on their website. The site has been progressively disabling parts of their website in attempts to fully secure all student information from future attacks.
The hackers allegedly have access to high security information from a number of other universities, including stolen student and faculty passwords, student IDs and other personal student documentation, hundreds of thousands of secure records and university credit card information.
The group responsible for the high security breach is infamously known as Team GhostShell, a “hacktivist” group black listed for their notorious wide scale security hackings aimed at protesting social and political issues.
The group gained notoriety and public exposure after executing “Project Hellfire” last August which allegedly exposed millions of secure records and accounts from high profile companies and agencies including breaches to the Pentagon, the CIA and numerous banks.
The hacktivist group reportedly works in collaboration with the infamous group identified as “Anonymous” a larger hacktivist group known for high profile government website hackings, such as the one in April against surveillance policies, and hackings in support of the Wall Street Occupy Protest.
On a post released earlier this month by Team GhostShell, the hackers announced that the global scale university security breach was in direct protest to the increasing inflation of post-secondary tuition rates and the dramatic decline in education quality seen in higher education systems around the world.
Aaron Titus, Chief Privacy Officer for Identity Finder, an Internet security firm responsible for looking into the mass scale hackings, stated in a news release that “Based upon casual sampling of time stamps in the data set, it appears that the hackers spent at least four months aggregating the information prior to the release.”
Of the 120,000 student and faculty accounts breached, Identity Finder has reportedly only confirmed approximately 40,000 exposed accounts.
McMaster’s Technology Services Department has proceeded with system-wide scans and implementation of preventative mechanisms to ward off future hackings aimed at the University’s servers.
Not only did the hackings draw attention to the lapse in overall university security across the board, but the group also stated that malicious malware had been plaguing a vast amount of the servers prior to their executed security infiltration, further calling into question the extent to which student information is secured
The breach posed a strong warning to the universities whose security was compromised regarding the states of their networks.
On Sept. 19 UTS and the Systems Renewal Steering Committee unveiled current and proposed new business processes at an Open House.
The Open House sought to gauge faculty, administrative and student input on the mapping and allow interested parties to speak with team members and learn about the proposed changes. The Open House broke the business process maps into finance, student administration, research administration, human resources and business intelligence modules.
The business process mapping has been an ongoing project throughout the summer and is part of a larger long-term plan which will incorporate industry best case practices with the intent of creating more efficient information management and processes throughout the university. The entire mapping project is part of VISION 2020: Technology Strategic Directions, which was adopted as McMaster IT strategy in 2010
Following the mapping process, McMaster has hired The System Integrators, a consulting group, to analyze the business process maps and apply a Fit-Gap analysis to map where McMaster’s processes currently have gaps, in terms of performing tasks efficiently.
The student administration module mapped out current practices and where issues currently lie in processing. The various maps displayed touched on processes such as those governing student records, funding and awards, convocation, program registration cycle, student registration and teaching & grading systems. Systems that could be changed in this process include SOLAR, OSCAR and MUGSI.
While this process is ongoing, students cannot expect to see the after-effects of these changes until further down the road. Wendy Finemore, Business Analyst with the Office of the Registrar, stated that the system process changes will be more evident within the next several years.
“The idea is aligning processes with systems,” said Finemore.
McMaster has selected Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise Resource Planning System to transition its business processes. The project website suggests that by 2013 the Systems Renewal team will be moving towards implementing the new systems.