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Technology Tips

The KCTCS Technology Solutions department empowers employees and students with helpful information to ensure computer safety and useful recommendations and guides for hardware/software:

ComputerChoosing a Computer for College

KCTCS strongly recommends that students come to college with their own laptop or tablet.

Laptop/Tablet Recommendation

Your program requirements, budget, and preference should be the primary factors in choosing a laptop/tablet. Most laptops on the market will meet basic needs; however, KCTCS offers a few guidelines. You should consider the program of study you will be pursuing, as some areas of study may have more stringent requirements than the recommendations listed below.

Minimum suggested laptop computer hardware:

  • Processor: dual Core 1.3 Ghz or higher
  • RAM: 4 GB or more preferred (minimum 2 GB)
  • Hard Drive: 250 GB or larger preferred (minimum 100 GB or larger)
  • Wireless card: 802.11n preferred (minimum 802.11 b/g compatible)
  • Operating system: Most recent version for your hardware (for example, Mac 0S 10.8 or Windows 7)
  • Up to date virus software, preferably installed before coming to campus
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse (or equivalent)
  • Webcam (some laptops come with an integrated webcam and will not require an external device)
  • Headphones or headset with microphone
  • Other helpful options: DVD/CD drive/burner, external hard drive (for data backup/extra storage), and laptop security cable

Minimum suggested tablet computer hardware:

  • Processor: dual Core 1.3 Ghz or higher
  • Storage capacity: 32 GB or larger
  • Wireless card: 802.11n preferred (minimum 802.11 b/g compatible)
  • Operating system: Most recent version for your hardware (for example, Windows 8, Windows RT)
  • Keyboard
  • Trackpad (or equivalent mouse)
  • Other helpful options: Many tablets have HDMI or USB ports for connecting external monitors, keyboards, mouse, headset, and other devices.

Other Considerations

Other considerations when purchasing a computer include warranty, accidental damage plans, display size and resolution, weight of the hardware, battery life, and charging options. A warranty may help if the laptop/tablet experiences problems in the first years of ownership. You should consider the most appropriate warranty for your needs, and should consider whether an accidental damage plan would be beneficial. You should also consider where and how you will carry and use the laptop/tablet and how to keep it charged.

Software

Visit http://kctcs.edu/en/email/FAQs.aspx to learn about software available free of charge or at a discounted rate.

Microsoft offers some very useful quick reference guides for both employees and students for Office 2013.

SecurityComputer Security

Computer security is important for a computer’s life and health and for protecting valuable personal data.

Password Security 

Strong passwords are required by KCTCS. They need to be in accordance with your domain policy and also be unique, never before used passwords: 

  • Non-dictionary words 
  • Use upper-and lowercase letters
  • Use numbers and special characters (!@#$%...) 
  • Avoid common phrases, famous quotes, song lyrics, family and pet names
  • Don't use the same password everywhere (E.g. Facebook and email account)
  • Don't share passwords with anyone

Email Security 

  • Don't open attachments from unknown senders
  • Be careful about opening attachments from known senders
  • Don't respond to emails that ask for a password
  • Don't click on the links in an email

Malware, Spyware, and Viruses 

  • Employee Antivirus solutions will be supported, managed, and updated via System Center Endpoint Protection
  • The alternative solution to Non-employee / Personal devices is Forefront Client Security from Microsoft for Windows based Operating Systems
  • Mac/Unix/Linux based device antivirus solutions are more subjective and less promoted, but there are available options through Apple and open source solutions 

File Encryption 

Optionally, software can be utilized to protect a laptop, should it be stolen. Both Windows and Mac platforms have software available that will encrypt data. 

Windows 

  • Windows EFS 
  • Built-in BitLocker 

 Mac 

  • FileVault 
  • TrueCrypt

Physical Security

Don't leave laptops, cell phones, or any other electronic devices unattended.

EmailPhishing Scam Emails

Many KCTCS account holders have received false and potentially damaging "service" or "maintenance" emails indicating that their email accounts will be deactivated unless account password information is "confirmed." Please be assured that any email asking for an individual’s KCTCS password is a phishing scam. Do not reply to any email asking for passwords. 

Some types of phishing emails require a click on a link to open a web page for "validating"   information. These links can be disguised to appear to be sent from a kctcs.edu domain website, but they actually open a site from a non-KCTCS-affiliated website. Clicking on these links may inflict a "drive-by" infection on a computer, which may result in compromising personal information and requiring a rebuild of the PC. 

What to do if an account holder has replied to a phishing email

  • Employees may change their KCTCS password immediately via the Password Reset Portal 
  • Students should change their KCTCS password immediately via the User Account Center 
  • Use a unique password that has never been used before 

How to detect a potential scam

  • Poor English syntax and/or grammar within the message
  • An unspecified sender or links that indicate “click here” on any address (a kctcs.edu or a non-kctcs.edu address) or any web site URL for "secure verification."  

If in doubt about the validity of an email message, please contact the local IT staff or Information Security Officer.  

LockSecurity of Flash Thumb-Drives and Mobile Devices

KCTCS policy 4.2.5 does not endorse the use of USB thumb drives.  Email enabled mobile devices have become extremely useful tools for keeping up with important data and transferring it between computers. They can become a liability, however, if they are lost, stolen, or damaged. 
  1. Users wishing to maintain institutional data on thumb drives or mobile devices should follow these rules of acquisition to encourage and maintain the proper handling of such devices: 
  2. While KCTCS and campus networking/technical support services take reasonable measures to protect the security of its information technology resources and accounts assigned to individuals, campus technical support does not guarantee absolute security for personal devices used outside of the campus domain environment.
  3. Campus technical support services provide industry-standard security on all devices accessed and managed within the campus environment. Users are responsible for properly safeguarding the information technology resources under their control, specific to files associated and stored on their personal devices that are used outside of campus management and control.
  4. Users may request that arrangements be made to protect information stored on such resources. These requests may be honored at the discretion of the department unit that manages these resources. 

To increase the ability to recover a lost device, follow the owner’s manual instructions to set up owner information on the device. If the device does not contain a method for doing this, create a text file in the main folder called “Return-to-Owner-Information.txt”. The file name could be different if desired, but be sure to start the file name with a word that quickly identifies the content. In this file, include the current contact information and how the user could return the device. 

If the device supports it, enable encryption or locking features to protect sensitive data on the device. Should an account holder forget an encryption key, it may not be possible to recover the data. For devices that do not directly support encryption, obtain software from a vendor that can provide these services. Encrypting or locking the device will also require users to decrypt or unlock it before the contents can be accessed, so this may require  special software on the machine(s) that is attempting to access the data. 

Make regular backups of any critical data on the device by copying it to a KCTCS supported server or an approved medium. 

Tablet with PencilSecurity of Smart Phones and Mobile Storage Devices

Smart phones, USB thumb drives, and cloud computing storage are all very useful tools for accessing email and transferring data between computers; however, these tools can be a liability if they are not managed appropriately.
  1. Password Protect It – Almost all new smart phones support “login passwords”; however, some users don’t like the hassle of having to type or “swipe” in their password before using the phone. If the device accesses KCTCS data it is required by KCTCS Policy 4.2.5 that the device be password protected. If the device/phone is ever lost the information will be more safely secured. 
  2. Encrypt It – Many mobile devices support encryption. Many smart phones support the encryption of both the internal storage and removable storage chips. Such encryption rarely interferes with the device’s/phone’s operation and it will provide   another layer of assurance if the device/phone is ever misplaced or stolen.
  3. Remote Wipe – Many mobile devices also support the ability to erase the contents remotely (i.e., delete the contents from somewhere else, like from a laptop computer with Internet access - if the device is ever lost or stolen.) This is another layer of security. Most remote-wipe products require the owner to register well in advance of ever permitting someone to login and order a remote wiping of a smart phone’s memory.
  4. Anti-Malware – Many mobile devices also permit the installation of anti-virus or anti-malware software (or it may come with such software pre-installed.) Such software may scan applications that the user may try to install or scan email that is received on a mobile device – looking for computer viruses, etc.  Every piece of anti-malware software is different.
  5. Back It Up – Many mobile devices support the “backing up” or copying of certain data to another location or another device so that in the event a device gets stolen or lost or simply quits working properly.  Data can be restored when the device is returned to the rightful user.   Please note that some back-up applications only make a copy of your phone’s address book and others only make copies when you explicitly tell it to do so. It is the responsibility of the user/employee to understand the fully understand how the device works and how to secure critical business or personal information. Data on a device should always be backed up to a KCTCS secured server or an approved device.
  6. Buyer Beware – More and more malicious software (aka “malware”) is being embedded in mobile device applications. These applications, applets, or “apps” can often be downloaded from the Internet for free or shared by some other mobile device owner. Account holders or users should always:
    • Research the application to learn what it does and the website from which it is being downloaded,
    • Understand what private data it wants/needs to run
    • Know how it is supported and how much it costs, research the website or application through which you downloaded the software. 

User commentsStaying Safe with Social Networking

Social Networking Sites are a favorite of Internet users. Network World has an informative article containing 12 tips on how to protect yourself. Read the article by clicking here.

Question MarkOffice 2013 Quick Reference Guides

Microsoft offers some very useful quick reference guides for both employees and students for Office 2013. If you’re new to Office 2013, you can download any of the free Quick Start Guides. These printable guides contain useful tips, shortcuts, and screenshots to help you find your way around.