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Five Wi-Fi Mistakes in the Connected Classroom

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Written by Vivek Mistry, Manager, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Higher education has paved the way for many of the technologies we use today. With a unique set of demands and workloads comes a unique set of problems. Laptops and mobile devices have infiltrated the classrooms causing a distraction in the teaching process. The future classroom is well connected with professors utilizing Wi-Fi to their advantage to create an interactive learning experience. As we prepare for this shift, we look at some mistakes that must be avoided.

Not Getting Buy-In
When it comes to Wi-Fi in the classroom, you must get buy-in from the right people. Meet with building management about installing a Wi-Fi solution to help professors use technology in their teaching. It’s difficult for building management to visualize new Wi-Fi hardware. Bring APs and mounts that would be used in the classroom. Remind them it’s to new teaching and learning methods.

One of the easiest supporters will be the professors. Professors are your best resource in acquiring funds for new Wi-Fi deployments. Once the service is requested by more teachers, the campus budget committee begins allocating more funds to the project.

Everyone must have the common background to reach the end goal with minimal pushback. Start here, with buy-in for any classroom Wi-Fi project.

Disregarding Aesthetics
It’s almost a cardinal sin to install an AP that clashes with architectural design. Installing new Wi-Fi in historic buildings can be extremely complicated and frustrating. The campus wants to maintain the original look and feel but you’re tasked with ensuring the campus is moving forward with new technology.

Ignoring the aesthetics of a building is the quickest way to get left out of future project planning. You will want to work with the architects and their team members to prevent less-than-ideal cabling locations. Help educate them on why you need APs placed according to a design.

Giving the architects options shows them you’re a resource willing to help lend to their architectural designs without compromising the quality of Wi-Fi.

No Planning & Design
The Achilles heel of Wi-Fi is one no plan and design. Classrooms and lecture halls are dense with devices. Start by speaking with the professors. Understand how they want to use Wi-Fi. The challenges are increased with students bringing in their own devices, creating a BYOD environment. Wi-Fi is being used to create an interactive learning experience.

The approach we must take is to design and architect a Wi-Fi network to meet the requirements of classroom activities using capacity planning, predictive and validation surveys, and the selection of proper antennas and mounting solutions. You wouldn’t build a house without planning it and making a blueprint first.

Misconfiguration
The most common mistake in configuration is to allow a WLAN system to automatically make configuration decisions without tuning. Many engineers leave auto-RF settings to their defaults. The configuration must be based upon the design for the classroom. And knowing what exactly those knobs do is just as critical as the design.

Understand what results there may be for specific settings, such as using higher minimum data rates, disabling low data rates, transmit power selections, wider channel widths, etc. Poor configuration and optimization lead to a poor user experience. Upon completing configuration, perform a validation survey to ensure the deployment matches the design and meets the requirements.

No Monitoring
Working with unlicensed spectrum will gather its own set of issues. In order to support teaching and learning in the classrooms, we must be proactive. Having no monitoring in place is a big mistake for a large environment supporting professors and students.

There are certain metrics and thresholds to monitor which will indicate the overall health of the Wi-Fi network. More advanced tools can drill in further to specific APs and groups of APs for accurate results down to near real-time. Monitoring will reveal issues which may not be apparent to the end users. Issues such as retry rates, poor roaming, and average throughput. Have a system which can monitor end-user experience so IT can respond quickly.

Wi-Fi is not a “set and forget it” technology. The unlicensed spectrum is susceptible to a variety of issues. We must treat it as a lifecycle – from planning to design, configuration, monitoring, optimization, and back again to planning. Buy-in from stakeholders help Wi-Fi objectives get closer to completion. Let everyone know how APs affect the aesthetics of the environment. It’s important to respect the look and feel of a room. Once we get past those hurdles, don’t forget to plan and design to requirements. Identify the everyone’s needs. Audit configurations of your WLAN infrastructure. Understand what each setting does and what the ramifications are. Then validate the implementation with a survey. Continue to monitor closely and make changes to improve the experience.

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Top 10 Steps to Securing Your New Computer

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Written by Phil Muncaster, guest writer at ESET

With Windows 11 making headlines for all the right reasons, it could be a great time to invest in a new PC for the family or the home office. But any new household computing device should come with an attendant safety warning. Hackers will be after your data the minute it’s connected to the internet. And they have numerous ways to get it.

That’s why you need to think about cybersecurity even before plugging your machine in and switching it on. Take time out now to refresh your memory and make cyber-hygiene a number one priority.

What are the main threats to my PC?
As soon as you’re connected to the internet, malicious actors will be looking to steal your data, encrypt and hold your machine ransom, lift financial details, secretly mine for cryptocurrency, and much more. They’ll do so via some tried and true methods, which often rely on cracking, stealing or guessing passwords, or exploiting software vulnerabilities. Top threats include:

Phishing: One of the oldest con tricks in the book. Cybercriminals masquerade as legitimate and trustworthy sources (banks, tech providers, retailers, etc) and try to persuade users into clicking on links and/or open attachments in emails. Doing so will take users to a spoofed site requesting that they fill in personal information (like logins and/or address/financial details) or could trigger a covert malware download.

Drive-by downloads and malicious ads: Sometimes merely visiting an infested website or a site running a malicious ad could trigger a malware download. We may think that well-known sites may be less compromised in this way as they are better resourced and can afford enhanced protection. But there have been plenty of counter-example through the years showing that it’s not always the case. That’s why its essential to invest in security software from a reputable provider and ensure that your browser’s security settings are correct.

Digital skimming: Hackers may also compromise the payment pages of e-commerce sites with malware designed to silently harvest your card data as it is entered. This is difficult to guard against as the issue is with the provider. However, shopping with better-known sites can reduce risk.

Malicious apps and files: Cybercriminals also hide malware inside legitimate-looking applications and downloads. Many of these are posted to online forums, P2P sites, and other third-party platforms. That’s why it makes sense to download only from trusted sources, and to use an effective security software tool to scan for malicious software.

Ten tips to keep your computer safe
Many of the below steps may be taken care of automatically by your PC manufacturer/Microsoft, but it pays to dig a little deeper to make sure all the settings are as secure as you need them to be. Here are our top 10 tips for computer safety:

  1. Apply automatic updates for the OS and any software running on the PC
  2. Remove bloatware that often comes with PCs. Check beforehand if you don’t recognize any software to ensure removing it won’t degrade the performance. The fewer pieces of software on the machine, the less opportunity for attackers to exploit bugs in it
  3. Install multi-layered security software from a reputable third-party vendor and keep it up to date
  4. Configure backups, and ideally back up a copy of data to a remote storage device kept offline
  5. Secure the browser by adjusting privacy and security settings and ensuring it is on the latest version
  6. Switch on and configure your firewall on the OS and home router, ensuring it is protected with a strong password
  7. Download a multi-factor authentication app in order to help protect your accounts from being hijacked via phishing and other attacks
  8. Avoid using USBs that you don’t own, in case they are loaded with malware
  9. Use a password manager to ensure that all your credentials are unique, strong, and hard-to-crack
  10. Only download apps/files from trusted sources and avoid pirated material, which can often be booby-trapped with malware

It goes without saying that, even by following these best practices, you could still be at risk when browsing online. Always proceed with caution, don’t reply to unsolicited emails/online messages, and ensure device encryption is switched on.

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Why You Should Use a VPN While Traveling

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According to a survey conducted by NordVPN, 50% of travellers use public Wi-Fi while on the road. However, only 20% of them use a VPN (a virtual private network) to protect themselves while being connected to a public network. “Travelers connect to public Wi-Fi in airports, cafes, parks, and trains. Some even use public computers to print their visa information or flight tickets. A VPN in those cases is crucial if you want to make sure that your vacation will not be ruined by cyber criminals. Nobody wants to lose access to their device or their bank account during a trip to a foreign country,” says Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.

As International VPN day (August 19th) is just around the corner, Markuson lists all the benefits offered by the service.

Enhanced online security
The main purpose of a VPN is to keep its user’s online connection secure even when they are away from home. Hackers can set up fake hotspots or access unsecured public routers and this way monitor users’ online activity. Once a user is connected, criminals can intercept their internet traffic, infect the device with malware, and steal their victim’s personal information.

When authenticating themselves on public Wi-Fi, users often need to type in their email address or phone number. However, if a user has accidentally connected to a hacker’s hotspot, they could be exposing themselves to real danger.

A VPN hides users’ IP addresses and encrypts their online activity. That means that, even if a user is using a malicious hotspot, the hacker behind it won’t be able to monitor their activity. Therefore, getting a VPN for travelling abroad is essential if you want to stay secure and private online.

Grab the best deals
Depending on the country in which you’re located, the prices for airline tickets, car reservations, and hotels might vary. That’s because businesses know that people in different countries can and will pay higher amounts for certain products and services. If you use a VPN for travel, you can hop between servers in different countries and find the best deals available.

Make the best of additional VPN features
As the industry is evolving, many VPN providers add new features to make their users’ experience even more wholesome. NordVPN, for example, recently added the Meshnet feature that lets travellers connect to other devices directly no matter where in the world they are. This enables users to form a remote connection with their home or office PC from anywhere in the world to share files or for other uses.

However, having said that, please check local laws and regulations about using VPN services on your devices, before you do.

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Social Media Data Leaks Account for 41% of All Records Breached

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Written by Edward G, Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN

Social media is quickly turning into a primary security weak point. A single data breach within one of the major social media networks can result in millions of records being stolen. Within the past few years, we have seen multiple large-scale data breaches involving companies like Facebook and Twitter. Yet, we rarely see the bigger picture.

Luckily, data presented by Atlas VPN gives insight into the scope of the issue. It turns out that 41% of all compromised records in 2021 originated from social media data leaks, which is a significant upsurge compared to 25% in 2020. The data presented is based on the 2022 ForgeRock Consumer Identity Breach Report, which gathered data from various sources, such as 2021 Identity Theft Resource Center, IBM Ponemon, TechCrunch, Forrester Research, as well as UpGuard, and IdentityForce.

A few other factors make social media a security weak point within the current online landscape. First, criminals can prey on business clients by posing as the company in order to obtain credentials. This is becoming especially prevalent since companies increasingly use social networks to communicate with customers.

Second, fraudsters frequently attempt to infiltrate businesses by leveraging mutual connections, which create a false sense of security. Moreover, people who overshare on social media make it simple for thieves to locate personal information that aids in company breaches.

Besides social networks, another major source of leaked information is the retail sector, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all records breached in 2021. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Retail Indicator Division, e-commerce sales increased by 50% during the pandemic. Retail data breaches increased in frequency and severity during the same period.

While the average cost of a retail breach was $2.01 million in 2020, it increased by 63% to $3.27 million in 2021. Customer credit card, payment information, and personal data were the principal targets of retail data breaches. E-commerce websites and applications sometimes skip security precautions like two-factor authentication (2-FA) as they seek a simple user experience.

When the enormous volumes of personal data that retail websites collect are not adequately protected, it creates the ideal environment for breaches and subsequent fraud. Finally, the healthcare sector is worth mentioning with only 1% of records, yet, at the same time, the information leaked is usually particularly sensitive.

Data compromised from healthcare institutions tend to include name, address, SSN, date of birth, and, in two-thirds of the breaches, actual medical history information. With this information in hand, cybercriminals can blackmail companies or even particular individuals.

To round up the findings, it’s obvious that retail and social media companies should go the extra mile in securing their customer information. In addition, even though healthcare providers leak only a fraction of the data, they should still safeguard their client data with particular care due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Some services offer data breach monitoring tools. Data breach monitors track any data breaches related to your online accounts. It automatically scans leaked databases and informs you of any past or recent breaches where your personal information was exposed.

As always, we must mention the most effective countermeasure against data leaks. It is advised to enable multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts that offer the functionality. This way, even if your credentials are compromised, threat actors will not be able to access your account unless you lose your phone, and it is also found by ill-meaning individuals, which is less than likely.

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