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  Admin I.S. Newsletter
3/16/2005

You're reading the first of what will be, time permitting, a regular series of newsletters from Administrative Information Services. We plan to use this method to keep you informed of important technology-related activities both at Dowling and on the Internet at-large. Please contact the Help Desk at x3445 if you'd like to discuss the items below or any other technology issues.

Feature Article:
SpySweeper: Anti-Adware for Dowling

Before long administrative and faculty desktops on campus will have additional protection against adware. WebRoot's SpySweeper removes adware, but it also tries to prevent it from being installed. Its detection capability will be updated automatically, in the same way that our antivirus (Computer Associates' eTrust v7.1) auto-updates: by periodically, silently "pulling" signatures from our servers. After some in-house testing, full deployment is expected to be underway by the end of March.

What's adware? Sometimes called "spyware" or "malware," it's software designed to surreptitiously monitor your actions in order to present targeted advertising to you. Here's a good, short description.

How does it get into my PC? Usually it is installed when you install some other program; for example, you may install a music download program, and it will come with adware. Sometimes just visiting a web site will cause adware to be installed: we call this a "drive-by install" (just like a "drive-by shooting"). Adware can also be installed by viruses - evidence that some adware vendors and some criminals are working together.

Why is it bad? Adware is usually installed without your knowledge or permission. Multiple installs of adware cause your PC to slow down as they all compete for your attention and for operating time in your PC. Often there is no way to remove the adware, and if you try, it comes back. The worst adware is really spyware: it "phones home" to report your behavior and...what else might it be reporting? In effect, your PC is no longer yours - it belongs to the adware purveyors.

How do I get rid of it? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

  • Don't visit shady sites like gambling, pornography or certain filesharing sites.
  • Don't accept any software installs offered by popups. These are usually adware or spyware.
  • Use a program that blocks popups. Many personal firewalls do it; the latest version of Internet Explorer does it, as do many other browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari.
  • Don't install a program without carefully reading its license agreement (usually displayed during the installation process), because many adware programs "ask" for your permission to be installed in those agreements - if the program includes adware, find another program.
  • (Applies to your home PC:) Install anti-adware programs, many of which are free, such as SpyBot Search & Destroy or AdAware; you'll get even better protection with commercial programs like SpySweeper, CounterSpy, PestPatrol. Make sure you install a reputable program, not one of these. (Note: don't install software on your Dowling PC - contact Admin I.S. to take care of that.)

We hope you'll do whatever it takes to keep this sludge off your home computer, while we work diligently to remove it from Dowling PCs, and prevent it recurring. Much more information is at these and other sites:

  

Policies: Using Dowling's information technology resources is a privilege granted on condition that you agree to adhere to policies spelled out at http://www.dowling.edu/mydowling/tech/itpolicy.html . Since we are all interconnected by technology, we all must utilize it in ways which maximize the community's efficiency and support the community's goals to the greatest degree possible. Please take the time to read this policy, and consider how it applies in your activities. Thank you.

Alert: student accounts to expire: The day after a student enrolls in a class, he or she gets a network, email and Student Information System account, all using the same userid and password. (Blackboard account names are the same but passwords may differ.) Several weeks into the SECOND major semester after s/he leaves Dowling, we delete his/her account. The next cycle of account expirations is scheduled for March 31 - targeted accounts will be alerted by email beginning March 17.

BannerWeb Access for Alums: We recently changed BannerWeb (a.k.a. Student Information System, Web for Faculty, Web for Students) to use network/email credentials. But alumni don't have accounts...how do they get in? We grant temporary access: have them call the Help Desk at 244-3445 to request an account.

Voicemail Message Retention: we recently sent out an email about our voicemail retention policy. In short, your voicemail box will stop accepting new messages when the limit of 25 is reached, so please don't let it get anywhere near that limit. A copy of the notice is here. Note that you can have us forward selected messages to your GroupWise email by "Copying" them to x5999. There, you thought this was just another dull email newsletter, didn't you?

Annoyed by spam? So are we. This Spring we plan to change the way our systems handle it: most of it will be blocked from ever reaching your mailbox. Some will still arrive but be tagged "spam". Keep it out of your sight by setting up a rule in your mailbox to trash it.

What is Phishing? It's email that tries to trick you into giving your personal information to a phony bank or other web site (definition ). You won't fall for it because you know that reputable companies don't ask for confidential information via email. (More info: FTC) Can you tell legitimate emails from phishing emails? Take this quiz: http://survey.mailfrontier.com/survey/quiztest.html.

Pharming: Next Rotten Thing after Phishing? Technical Details: It's not easy, but a hacker might be able to trick your PC into sending you to a phony site, by lying to it about the addresses of web servers. This scheme is currently only theoretical, but we'll be watching for signs of mischief. Update: not theoretical any more: http://isc.sans.org/diary.php?date=2005-03-04

This Just In: Spyware Vendors Stoop to New Lows. One purveyor has begun sending cease and desist letters to anti-spyware vendors who classify the purveyor's software as spyware: see this article. At least one other vendor has apparently bought its way off some anti-spyware vendors' lists. Another adware vendor joined an anti-spyware industry group, which disbanded shortly thereafter as members disdained having an ad-supported software vendor as a member. (Story here)