Staying Safe Online: Password Security

You will have noticed recently that several students have had their email accounts hacked. Scammers have accessed their accounts and used them to send out emails trying to get other students to click a link or download a file. Those that do are prompted for their school username and password to access the file. As soon as they do that, the scammers now have another account they can use to scam others.

In this post I’ll cover three things:

  1. What it means to be hacked.
  2. How to protect yourself from being hacked.
  3. And what to do if you think your account has been hacked.

Getting Hacked

Movies always show hackers as being really smart nerds that use their programming skills to break into banks or hack their way into the Pentagon. There are really smart nerds out there that can hack their way into computer systems but that’s rarely the kind of hacking that we see at school. The kind or hacking we see is called phishing. In a phishing hack people are tricked into giving their username and password to scammers.

One phishing technique is to trick people into clicking on a link that is sent to them by a friend. That link then prompts them to put in their username and password. As soon as they do that, the scammers have their account.

Another way is through downloading and installing software from unsafe websites. Maybe it’s a free game that looks really good but when you install the game it also installs other programs that give hackers access to your computer. We have seen programs that claim to clean up your computer and make it run faster. It turns out they install other software on the computer that make it run worse and give hackers access to everything on the computer.

Don’t feel bad if one of these things has happened to you. It happens to a lot of us. The scammers are good at it. Lots of kids and adults get tricked. The hackers are always coming up with new ways to trick people.

How To Protect Yourself

  • Think. Be on your guard. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
  • If someone sends you a link or a file to open, don’t open it until you’ve called them to make sure it’s really from them.
  • Only install software that you know is safe. For most people that means only getting it from the App Store. If you’re not sure if some software is okay, check with one of the Learning Innovation Coaches or a technician at the Genius Bar before installing it.
  • Set strong passwords or better yet a strong passphrase. Use a different passphrase for every website. There is blog post on the Innovation Blog about setting passphrases and using a password managers. Check it out.

What To Do If You’ve Been Hacked

If we were on the school campus you could reset your password yourself via the password server. (For security reasons, that server is only available when on campus.)

For right now if you think your account has been hacked, email the helpdesk and one of the technicians will reset your password for you.

It’s unfortunate that phishing and hacking exist but by using your head and taking a few precautions you can protect yourself.

Digital Grit

We are now a little over a week into online learning. Before it started I’m sure there were many students, and even some teachers, that thought it would be easy. We can just stay home and work on our iPads? Cool!

Now that a week has passed we know it’s not so easy. It’s a lot of work. Not only do you have to learn new things and do your work, you also have to trouble shoot your technology. It can be very frustrating. It takes digital grit or digital determination. In other words, you have to work at it.

The technology we use is pretty cool. We can message people across the planet in a few nanoseconds. We can play games or stream videos online. We can find the perfect photo for an assignment. It’s important to remember that all that coolness is complicated. There are a lot of things that have to happen for the coolness to happen. If one of those things isn’t working then things are not so cool.

Below are some basic trouble shooting tips to try if things aren’t working for you but before you read them I want to remind you of that old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” That’s digital grit. If you’re having some troubles don’t despair. Don’t give up. Try again. Try again in a slightly different way. This is technology. There’s almost always a different way to do something. Reach out to your classmates. In many classes I see students are posting help requests in Teams. Other students are answering their questions before the teacher or one of the Learning Innovation Coaches has time to respond. That’s cool!

Trouble Shooting Ideas

Now for the nerdy stuff but before we start, we have a post that deals specifically with OneNote Syncing Tips. You might want to go there now if you’re having problems with OneNote.

When trouble shooting, it helps to think about three main areas that can cause problems:

  1. The system you are connecting to. i.e. a website or Microsoft Teams
  2. Your internet connection
  3. Your device–your iPad or MacBook

We’ll address each of these areas below.

The System You Are Connecting To

This applies to any website or online system you are connecting to but because we are all using Office 365 and Teams is part of 365, let’s use it as an example. Microsoft’s servers do sometimes have problems. It doesn’t happen often but it happens. You can check the status of Microsoft’s servers here. The IT Team monitors the status of Office 365 throughout the day. There’s nothing you can do if Microsoft’s servers are down so let’s move on and focus on areas you can control.

Your Internet Connection

  • Do you have an internet connection? If you can’t connect to something in O365, open a web browser and see if you can connect to other websites. If you can connect, how fast do they load?
  • If you’re at home, is someone else in the house playing online games, streaming movies or music? In other words, are they hogging all the bandwidth? If so, ask them to pause what they’re doing and see if it helps. You may need to decide as a family to limit all non-essential internet use during the times when people are working.
  • A word about the internet in China. The government chooses to filter and monitor the internet. We know this. It’s the way it is. The school does not use sites that are blocked but filtering will still slow things down. How much it slows things down will vary. We need to be patient. Sometimes stopping a slow loading page and hitting refresh is enough to speed it up–not always but sometimes it helps.
  • Restart you WIFI router. Sometimes this can help get your internet working again. Before restarting your router, check with your mom, dad or whoever “manages” your internet connection at home. Make sure it’s okay to restart it. You don’t want to restart your WIFI router right in the middle of your brother or sister uploading their homework assignment!

Your Device

  • If you’re on an iPad check how much free storage space you have. If your iPad is almost full it won’t run well. Freeing up space can make your iPad run like it’s brand new! It may be time for a clean up. Delete old unneeded files and move ones you might want later to your OneDrive. The same holds true for those using a MacBook.
  • On a MacBook, quit unnecessary programs and close unnecessary apps. If you’re on a laptop and you have 800+ tabs open you’re not helping yourself 🙂 Open tabs are probably using your bandwidth even when you aren’t using them. If you’re in the habit of keeping a bunch of tabs open you might consider using a browser add-in like OneTab. (OneTab works in Chrome or Firefox.)
  • Restart your device. As we move around from school, to home or to restaurants, our devices get “clogged up” with all the network settings. Restarting your device can help. It gives your iPad/MacBook a fresh start.

This is a long post. If you’ve made it this far, well done! You don’t have to know everything that’s here. The important thing is that you remember that it’s here. Then, if you have problems, check back, read it again and use it to trouble shoot.

Office 365: Changing Your Time Zone Settings in 365

Normally your time zone settings change automatically when you travel but sometimes they do not. Here’s how to check to see if they are correct and change them if they aren’t.

Log into Office 365 and open the Outlook Online Calendar.

From the calendar click on the gear icon.

 

Check your current time zone setting listed on the right panel.

 

If it’s not correct click on the drop down menu and change the time to your current time zone.

 

Click the “X” to close the Settings area.

 

That’s it! You’re done!

 

 

OneNote Tips: Syncing

A OneNote Notebook is a bit like a whole website in a notebook. That’s great. It means it’s packed with a variety of content like text, photos and video but when one syncs a notebook it checking every page on a website for changes and downloading all the pages at once. That can take a while. Here are some tips to make it less painful.

If a notebook is slow to sync or appears to not be syncing at all there are three systems that could be causing the problem:

  1. Microsoft’s servers
  2. Your internet connection
  3. Your device–your iPad or laptop.

Microsoft’s Servers

Occasionally Microsoft does have problems with their servers and systems but it’s not common and there’s nothing you can do about it so we’re  going to focus on to the other systems that might be causing your syncing problems.

Your Internet Connection

  • Do you have an internet connection? Open a web browser and see if you can connect to other websites. If you can connect, how fast are they?
  • If you’re at home, is someone else in the house playing online games, streaming movies or music? In other words, are they hogging all the bandwidth? If so, ask them to pause what they’re doing and see if it helps.

Your Device

  • Quit unnecessary programs and close unnecessary apps. If you have a bunch of tabs open they are probably using your bandwidth even when you aren’t using them. If you’re in the habit of keeping a bunch of tabs open you might consider using a browser add-in like OneTab. (This tip is for laptop users running Chrome or Firefox.)
  • Restart your device. As we move around from school, to home or to restaurants our devices get “clogged up” with all the network settings. Restarting your device can help. It gives your iPad/laptop a fresh start.
  • “Close” old notebooks you’re not currently using. “Closing” notebooks doesn’t delete them. They stay in your OneDrive or your teacher’s OneDrive if it’s a class notebook. “Closing” a notebook means OneNote won’t try to sync notebooks it doesn’t need to.

One More Thing

If you’re adding content to a OneNote notebook, think about the size of what you’re adding. Text is fine but think about the size of the photos and other files you’re adding.

  • Re-size photos in apps like Preview or Photos before you add them. It will speed up syncing and the images will still look good on screens.
  • Rather than putting pdf’s or other docs in the notebook, put them in OneDrive and add a link to the notebook. That way people only have to download the file when they need it.
  • If you’re in a class trying to sync your notebook with 20+ other people, it’s going to be slow. Move somewhere so you’re using a different wireless access point. As a student you might sync your notebooks when you first get to school. That way they’ll be up to date and ready to go when you get to class.