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Encryption | Phishing | Spam | Spyware

What is Encryption

Encryption is a process which when applied to messages or other important data alters it to make it humanly unreadable except by someone who has access to decrypt it.  Be aware that email sent over the Intranet is not encrypted.

For information on how encryption works see:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encryption

or refer to MNSCU Guideline Encryption for Mobile Computing and Storage Devices http://www.mnscu.edu/board/procedure/523p1g2.html


Phishing is a scam where Internet fraudsters send messages to lure personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims.

What you can do?

Look: Look closely at the claims in the email, and carefully review ALL links and Web addresses.  Often words are misspelled and can contain bad grammar.

Call: DO NOT RESPOND if you get a message by email, text, pop-up or phone, which asks you to confirm account information or give your personal information.  When in doubt call or email the company in question to verify the message is legitimate. 

Remember: Metropolitan State University will not ask you to provide your password.

If you are shopping online, don't provide your personal or financial information through a company's website until you have checked for indicators that the site is secure.  Some indicates include a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a website URL that begins "https:" (the "s" stands for "secure"). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof.  Some scammers have forged security icons, and some hackers have managed to breach sites that normally take appropriate security precautions.

For more information on phishing and how to recognize phishing scams:

What is SPAM

Spam is the term widely used for unsolicited e-mail and is also referred to as junk mail. Spam is usually sent indiscriminately to hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of inbox's simultaneously.

What can you do?

Practice internet behavior that lowers your risk.  Watch out for spam scams and ignore them by deleting spam without opening it and NEVER reply to spam. Metropolitan State University is a participant in the State of Minnesota spam mail filtering system which filters thousands of spam emails per day.

For more information, visit the State of Minnesota spam-filtering and statistics website. Despite these efforts, many spam emails still manage to get through. Outlook provides a second layer of spam filtering which blocks many of the remaining unwanted emails. You can find more information on how to change the level of protection in Outlook's junk e-mail folder here.

Never buy anything from a spam e-mail. Think before you click! 

What is Spyware

Spyware, also called adware, is used for programs that collect information about you or your computer. These programs do a variety of things: some simply sit in the background while they collect data and send this information to marketing companies while others display unwanted pop-up ads. Other types of spyware will redirect your web browser to unwanted web sites, or add unwanted toolbars and icons to your web browser.

Spyware is often bundled with free programs such as file-sharing programs or programs that offer services to display weather information in your toolbar. The programs may even tell you what information being collecting and how the information is being used when it installs.

What can you do?

Be careful what software you install on your home computers and do not install software on university owned machines. Spyware frequently comes with free screensavers, weather bugs, games, and file-sharing programs. Do not download software from web sites you don't know and trust. Don't click on links inside pop-up windows or ads, including buttons that say 'Close'. Even ads that offer anti-spyware products may install spyware.

While most spyware requires you to download or click something before it can be installed, some programs take advantage of security holes in software on your computer. Keep all software on your home computer updated with the latest patches available from the vendor. 

Using a personal firewall can also help. A firewall is a program that watches how your computer connects to the Internet and what other computers are trying to connect to your computer. One may be installed by default with your system; Mac OS X and Windows XP come with a built-in firewall. There are also commercial and non-commercial products available.  For all University owned machines the firewall has been configured and automatic updates are run periodically for you.

How do I know if I have spyware on my computer?

Common symptoms of spyware are: a computer running slowly, a barrage of pop-up ads, new toolbars or icons in your web browser, your web browser visiting sites you didn't select, or changes in the homepage you set in your browser. Even if you haven't noticed any of these symptoms it is a good idea to scan your home computer for spyware on a regular basis.

A number of tools are available that can be used to scan your computer for spyware. Products like Ad-Aware, released by Lavasoft, have a version that is free for personal use. SpyBot Search & Destroy is another available product. For Macintosh computers, a product called MacScan is available.

See the following link for more Spyware quick facts: http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/spyware.aspx

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