Data Privacy Day: Wi-Fi Networks

data privacy day logoThis year one of the focus points of Data Privacy Day is ‘Safeguarding Data.’ To help you safeguard your data, we encourage you to use the SamNet Wi-Fi network and other secure Wi-Fi networks rather than SamNet Guest and unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

When using unsecured Wi-Fi networks, you run the risk of having your data intercepted by malicious people that are able to place themselves between you and the hotspot. These bad actors can easily see emails, passwords, and instant messages. (Read an eavesdropper’s account of what he was able to see and do in a June 2013 article in PCWorld.)

In addition, using a secure protocol (such as HTTPS when browsing the web) helps to reduce your risk. However, this does not protect you fully on unsecured networks. Use of sophisticated hacking tools on unsecure Wi-Fi networks can attack some of these protocols and intercept personal data.

Bottom line: It is always best to use a secure Wi-Fi network if one is available to you.

Hacked? Data Breach? What to do to protect yourself and SHSU

Seems like every week there is at least one headline reporting a security breach. In fact, Forbes recently reported a file located on the Dark Web contains 1.4 billion stolen passwords and usernames.

At the SHSU Information Security office, we constantly monitor these reports and assess threats to our campus community.  In this case, we reviewed the information and found no notable impact; however, a few accounts did appear on the list and were immediately disabled. IT@Sam is working with the account owners to reset passwords and reactivate access.

Data thieves and hackers are becoming increasingly aggressive and sophisticated. It is more important than ever to protect yourself and the university.  Below, are recommended best practices when creating passwords for online accounts:

Best Practices for Passwords

  • Use a unique and strong password for each site you use.
  • Use a password manager (i.e. KeePass, LastPass, 1Password, or Dashline) to keep track of all of your passwords and help you generate random, strong passwords when you need to.
  • Change all your passwords regularly, even if the site does not require you to do so.
  • Setup Two-Factor authentication if the site allows for it. This will add a layer of protection as the site will ask you to use a code sent to you via a text message or smartphone app as a second password.

We are here to help! If you ever suspect that you may have been hacked, contact (936) 294-HELP for immediate assistance.

Campus Phishing Alert July 17, 2017

An e-mail sent today claimed that your account was recently signed in from an unknown location. The e-mail had a subject of “Account Verification” and looked like the example below.

Screenshot of the phishing emailIT@Sam has blocked the website contained in the message as well as the delivery of additional e-mails to prevent the disclosure of additional login credentials.

If you still have an e-mail in your inbox with the subject of “Account Verification,” please delete the e-mail. No further action is required.

If you have already visited the site and entered your username and password, please

  • change your password as soon as possible at https://samweb.shsu.edu, by clicking on the IT@Sam menu, then on Account Password Change; and
  • contact the Service Desk (this will help us determine the magnitude of the Phishing incident).

Please contact the Service Desk at (936) 294-1950 should you have any questions, concerns, or trouble resetting your password.

A Message Regarding Ransomware

Below is a message from Steven Frey, SHSU’s Information Security Officer. This is a good time to remind you to exercise good judgement when opening email or browsing the Internet. When in doubt of a message’s or site’s authenticity, please contact the Service Desk at (936) 294-1950 or by email at servicedesk@shsu.edu.

News headlines are referencing a global ransomware attack.  Ransomware is a type of malware that is usually delivered via an email attachment or link to a malicious website.  When this malware is unintentionally activated by a user, it begins to encrypt all the files that the user has access to and then informs the user that they have to pay a ransom in bitcoin (an online currency) to decrypt the files.  Until this is done, the only recourse the user has is to restore the files from a backup if there is one available, or if not, the user unfortunately pays the ransom.  Often times, even when the ransom is paid, the hacker does not decrypt the files.  This is why it is imperative that users backup their data, like IT@Sam does with the SHSU servers.  Previous ransomware attacks against the university that made it past security controls were thwarted by IT restoring files to a previous version, usually from the day before.

A key difference with these ransomware attacks (yes, there are multiple variants from different hacking groups) is that they are not just encrypting files that the user have access to, rather they are exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows to encrypt all files hosted on every server or workstation that is vulnerable.  Microsoft released a patch for this vulnerability in March 2017.  At that time, IT@Sam patched systems that were know to be vulnerable.

However, on April 14th, 2017, a group of hackers known as The Shadow Brokers released a set of hacking tools that were stolen from the NSA.  These hacking tools contained an exploit for the Microsoft vulnerability, meaning that with a push of a button, anyone could attack vulnerable servers and workstations, even if the user doesn’t have permissions to the files.  IT@Sam decided to take immediate action on all servers to ensure they would not be vulnerable.  This critical updated occurred during working hours and did disrupt a few services on campus last month, but they were quickly rectified.

These current ransomware attacks are using these hacking tools to encrypt all files they can where Microsoft has not been patched.  Many organizations have not yet applied patches and are being negatively impacted.  SHSU takes its security posture seriously, and makes it a point to be better safe than sorry.  IT Security has rescanned the entire campus network, and no servers are reporting as vulnerable to this attack. A handful of workstations are vulnerable and are under investigation.

It is important to practice caution when opening attachments in emails or clicking on links as these are the methods used to begin these attacks.  IT Security has taken the threat intelligence it has at this time to block known email subjects from entering SHSU’s email system and the campus Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) has rules in place to detect and block the malware that is currently known at this time.  However, these can change rather rapidly which is why the IPS system gets updates automatically from the vendor to stay up to date.  No security is 100%, but we will continue to monitor the situation as more information is released and take the appropriate actions to swiftly protect the students, faculty and staff of the SHSU community.

Steven Frey
Information Security Officer, IT Security

 

Campus Phishing Alert 4/1/2017

Many people received an e-mail this morning claiming to have been sent from the Sam Houston State University Technology Department concerning a login alert with a subject of “Alert!!!”. (See image below.)

Screenshot of campus phishing attempt.

The link included in the message appeared to have been a SHSU Online link, but was directed to a malicious site that requests your username and password. IT Security has contacted the appropriate parties in order for them to remove the malicious site.

If you still have an e-mail in your inbox, please delete the e-mail with no further action.

If you have already visited the site and entered your username and password, please change your password as soon as possible at https://samweb.shsu.edu, by clicking on the IT@Sam menu, then on Account Password Change.

Please contact the Service Desk at servicedesk@shsu.edu or (936) 294-1950 should you have any questions, concerns, or trouble resetting your password.

Unfortunately, this is not an April Fools joke.