Password Managers and Security

How many online accounts do you have? How many passwords? I have over 99. I’d be more specific about the number but I don’t want to count them, and the counter in my PW Manager Dashboard only goes so high.

Dashlane 2015-05-22 15-50-00

Admittedly, I probably have more accounts than most faculty and administrators. My job involves experimenting with online tools and teaching teachers how to use those tools should they pass muster. As education moved online, I found myself creating more accounts. Around the core set of accounts and passwords we pretty much all have (work and personal email, a couple bank accounts, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) I’ve piled up a mountain of new accounts that I’m not even going to try to list here. Right now I feel pretty secure about all these different faces I’ve created online, but that’s not always been the case. In order to keep track of all the usernames and passwords, I used to keep them more or less all the same. I don’t think I was, or am, alone in this. In fact I know otherwise after helping so many university employees with technical assistance. Most everyone not only ties all their online accounts to the same central email address, they also recycle the same password over and over. I did the same thing. I figured I was safe in the the crowd.

And then some former colleagues of mine, teachers and administrators, got hacked.

It could have been worse. As soon as their email accounts began spewing out identical, sketchy emails containing the same incomplete English and the same link to everyone in their Contacts lists, IT figured out what was going on and went through the proper channels to seize back control. A few Facebook accounts mutated into spam bots. I think I remember some money was spent on mysteriously spendy “furniture” in Asia. But in the end, at least officially, everything was salvaged.

More than anything else, what we had to thank for things not being worse was the hacker bot’s error of sending out all those phishing emails from the newly compromised accounts. The hackers could have been quieter about the whole thing and given themselves much more time with the accounts they’d stolen, and maybe we would never have discovered the breach.

Think about what was at stake for each of these people and for the school at which they worked. In addition to my former colleagues’ bank and web presence accounts, their logins for Blackboard and Banner had also been compromised. The hackers had access to student usernames, emails, grades, names, etc. Should the right administrator or advisor have been compromised, the hackers would also, potentially, have access to student physical and mailing addresses, next of kin, and more.

This isn’t meant to be a nightmare-scenario scare-tactics post (well not entirely), but neither is it meant to advertise on the part of any particular password manager. I can tell you that I use Dashlane, and that I like it quite a bit. However, it is only one among several recognized password managers that are highly recommended. You can see a short list of those I found in my research to be trustworthy at the end of this post.

The purpose of this entreaty is to remind everyone working at this university, and at others, that our permissions in the various school-related tools (Blackboard, Banner, Outlook) make us responsible for more than just our information. Consider trying out a password manager, so that each of your passwords can be entirely unique, and the failure of one doesn’t mean the failure of them all.

Password Managers

Check out this overview provided by LifeHacker on their favorite password managers. It’s more thorough than anything I could write on the subject, as I’ve found the one password manager that I’m going to use for the foreseeable future and I’m sticking with it.

How to Work with Google Drive Folder Shared with You

We have been trying to streamline the process of storing and sharing files, especially in document-intense courses like Field Seminars and Practica. While there are a number of advantages to setting up our system this way, there has been some difficulty navigating around the shared folders as they don’t always feel intuitive for a particular task. All of the course documents are shared to allow anyone who has the link to view the contents of the folder. You can also download certain types of files without as much as logging into Google.

1. In the Course Navigation Menu on your left, click on Course DocumentsIn your course click on Course Documents in the navigation menu2. You will be able to view documents all at once either as a grid or a list. You can click on any of the documents and get an instant preview.

580_Course_Documents

3. Close the file preview, and add documents to your Drive. If you are not signed in already, click on the blue [SIGN IN] button on the right, then after you have signed it, click on [ADD TO DRIVE], and then [OPEN IN DRIVE] for full features. You will only need to “ADD TO DRIVE” once. After that, [OPEN IN DRIVE] will be available to you any time you access these documents from the course link – as long as you are signed in Google Drive.

Sign in Google Drive

580_Course_Documents 2

4. Click on desired files to open.

Google_Drive5. Once you are in the file, you may either copy it to your own drive and then make all sorts of edits, or download it to your computer and then make all sorts of edits.

make a copy or download a Google file

Note: You can also print any printable file, and when it comes to PDF and Word Files, even download them without logging in.

View Any File and Download PDF

Analyze My Writing

analyze my writing word cloudThanks to another mention by FreeTech4Teachers.com, I have looked into this Analyze My Writing engine. In the past we have talked about Wordle and Tagxedo, which are both fine word cloud generators, which in addition to making long pieces of text look pleasant, highlight most commonly used words in a chunk of text. The idea behind these is that you can manage and introduce large boring text without scaring off your readers/audience, and possibly generate some conversation in the process.

With Analyze My Writing, you can go several steps further and analyze your own writing or another person’s writing and “gain a wealth of information about your text including word and character counts, word and sentence lengths, the readability of your text, and other analyses”. The site offers a few pre-selected sources for your viewing convenience.

Why use it?

You may want to use this to gain insight into your own writing style, find words and phrases you mostly use, and see if your writing appropriate for your audience (according to AMW, of course). If your sentences are too long, and you intend your writing to be more of the bite-size consumption, then it’s possible you went off wrong somewhere. The opposite is true as well, if you are shooting for some decent, journal-style article, or just even college level writing, and the analysis tells you your piece is at a high-school level, well, it’s time to spruce up your writing (and maybe contact our Writing support to seek help). I see how this could be helpful to students if their instructors find their writing is not up to par yet.

As always, let us know what you think about this piece, whether more info is needed, or if you would rather read about some other things, like exotic flowers and Middle-Eastern recipes! 🙂

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Video Everywhere Workaround UPDATED

Hello again all. Unfortunately, some faculty have reported ongoing issues using even the Video Everywhere workaround we posted last time around. Therefore, we’ve come out with an updated Video Everywhere workaround that takes these issues into account. The above video is the same workaround as last time with a segment tacked on at the end. I suggest that users try the original workaround, as we see that still working in many instances, and then if that isn’t working move on to the augmented workaround. We are unsure of Blackboard’s schedule for addressing this issue, but we’ll try to stay on top of it. Thanks for your patience 🙂