Computer Security

Computer security is the most important aspect of responsible computing and often the least executed.  There are a number of parts to security, but I’m going to discuss three areas: Backups, Passwords, and Anti-X.

Backups

This is the single most important area especially in a business environment. Your security preparations are only as strong as your most recent USABLE backup. Why do I emphasize the word usable? Because backups aren’t worth anything if they aren’t successful or if the backup includes the infected files.  It is important to have a backup rotation that gives you a week or two at least to discover a problem and restore a good file. Backups should be tested periodically by restoring a file or two and then opening those files to make sure they are readable. I have spent hours going through customer backup files only to find that they weren’t able to be restored.

Passwords

Use strong passwords! I cannot emphasize this enough. Sports teams, people’s names, animals, words with simple number replacements are all VERY easy to hack with something called a dictionary attack. A dictionary attack uses a file that contains common passwords and basic variations to try and log into someone’s account. Let’s say you love the Bengals (sorry for your delusion) and you say, hey, I’ll be clever and make the ‘e’ a 3 and the ‘a’ an @ sign giving you B3ng@ls. Don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly. This is a very common replacement scheme and one that is covered in nearly every dictionary attack.  I personally use a program called Keeper Security which can be found here. I love this program. I use a relatively complex password for this program and then I allow the program to generate really complex passwords for all my other sites. The nice thing is that I can access this from any computer via the website and I can also access it on my mobile devices via apps for Apple and Android operating systems.  There are browser plug ins for both IE and Chrome that make it easy to use Keeper on the go and save the complex passwords. I highly recommend using something like this for your passwords.

Finally, let’s look at anti-x software. This is used to include the array of anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam, etc. software that is available out there. In today’s world, it is imperative that you have some type of decent anti-x software installed. Microsoft, Symantec, TrendMicro, and McAfee all make high quality anti-x products that are suitable for both the home and business user. These software packages will check your device to make sure it doesn’t have any viruses on it at that moment. You can then enable some type of active monitoring that will check files, email, websites, etc. as you are working to try and prevent infection from occurring in the first place. Make sure the virus signatures are set to update at least once a day. I typically set mine to 11pm and 11am (every 12 hours). This helps make sure I’m as up to date as possible.  If you hear of a new virus variant coming out, please check one of the vendors websites mentioned here to verify if it is a real issue, or just spam email. If it is a real virus that is new (generally these are referred to as ‘zero day’ viruses the day they are publicized) be extra cautions of anything even remotely suspicious that you get until your anti-x vendor provides updated signatures to handle the zero-day virus.

I hope you find these comments useful and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

WebQuests

WebQuests

This week we looked at WebQuests. These are kind of like online treasure hunts where students are given a situation and task to complete using online resources.  I think these are great. Not only does it build content knowledge, it also teaches online searching skills which is critical in today’s society.  The WebQuest I found online that I really liked was a Small Business WebQuest at http://imet.csus.edu/imet1/peaty/webquest/

I think this WQ does an excellent job of laying out the situation and providing an interesting topic to research.  It provides examples of other small businesses and really walks students through the process.  The scoring guidelines are clear and easy to understand.  I think this could be made better by tying in to a segment of the TV show Shark Tank to show how pitching a business and understanding the business can really make a difference in getting funding.

The WebQuest that I created for this class can be found at http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=253034

This WQ is about creating effective fliers using MS Word. There are several things that I look for the students to get out of this lesson. First off, I want them to understand what goes into making a good flier to catch people’s attention. That’s the obvious one. Next, I want them to learn some MS Word skills that they may not already have, like adjusting margins. Then, one of the most important skills, knowing how to search for information on the web and then finding that credible information. Too often I work with students and adults who have no real idea how to word their search queries to return what they are really looking for. I remember as a child going to the library so the librarian could show us how to use the library to research information. These days, so much of that has been replaced by the internet.

Zunal is a great tool for creating WebQuests. It walks you through the creation process as well as providing a really useful set of tools to embed content and make the WebQuest interface much more interesting for the students.

Online Communication Tools

1. What did I learn that was totally new to me?

This is a tough question given my depth of technology background. I’m not really sure that I learned anything totally new to me. Online communication is critical to todays education systems. Both synchronous (i.e. chat, video conference) as well as asynchronous (i.e. e-mail, blogs, YouTube) are valuable for education. Educators should not lean on only one area, but be sure to utilize both types of communication.

2. How can you use this information to inform your instructional strategies with your own students? 

I really enjoyed learning a bit more about the importance of communication tools for interacting with students. I think it will be important in the future to integrate multiple communication strategies into my instructional design.  I personally tend to shy away from direct communication styles like phone conversations. I prefer email and chat communication. One of the big reasons is that this leaves a record of what was discussed that can be referenced at a later date. I often forget parts of verbal conversations, particularly when I’m on the phone. I think this may be because the phone provides no visual linkage to what’s being said. Without some type of visual linkage, I find it difficult to recall information.  It is strange that someone who spends so much time on computers would have this type of issue, but typing words helps provide the visual link for me that is simply not there on the phone.