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Students advised to take action after extensive online theft

As widely reported in the news, a Russian crime ring has allegedly stolen more than 1.2 billion username and password combinations, leaving the personal information of a large number of Internet users exposed. The stolen records, discovered by a security firm based in Milwaukee, include confidential information taken from roughly 420,000 websites varying in size and scope.

At this time there is no indication Penn State has been affected by this breach. University IT staff continue to monitor Penn State systems and services for any sign of attack.

The University advises students, faculty and staff who have used their Penn State Access Account password for such non-Penn State services as personal email, financial institutions or online shopping websites, to change their Penn State password immediately to protect the privacy of their confidential information. Users can change their passwords by visiting https://www.work.psu.edu/password/.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to change all other passwords to further protect secure information. University guidelines for creating and saving strong, easy-to-remember passwords are available at http://its.psu.edu/be-safe/password-best-practices.

Penn State is dedicated to protecting student, faculty and staff information. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), a security protocol used to verify user identification, is being explored for wider University implementation in the future. This protocol adds an additional step to the traditional login system (username and password only), requiring users to verify their identity with an additional credential. This robust, easy-to-use authentication service will provide an additional effective layer of protection to University information.

If you have questions or need assistance changing your password, contact the IT Service Desk at 814-865-4357.

 

MorningStar Solar Home

What if I told you Penn State students designed and built an environmentally-friendly home? What if I also told you that not only does it produce as much energy as it consumes, but pushes the extra energy it creates back onto the Penn State grid? How about if I told you that you can take a tour, where Penn State students who currently work there will walk you through all the technology making this possible? It’s called the MorningStar Solar Home, and it’s located at University Park. Built in 2007 for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathalon (Penn State placed 4th!), MorningStar “creates a vision for 21st century homebuilding that encompasses communities of all cultures, climates, and incomes,” according to the website. The home is a model of a self-sustaining living space, and is chock full of technology that is available for consumers right now! Check out the photos below, and visit the MorningStar Solar Home’s website for more information and to schedule a tour.

Quck Tips: Penn State email on your mobile device

Email: It’s our lifeblood. We use it to stay connected with friends and family, to communicate with professors and classmates, and to score great deals online. Being able to check email at any time is almost as important as eating.

Almost.

There’s a quick and easy way to set up your Penn State email on your mobile device so it’s always at your fingertips. The ITS Knowledge Base can show you how.

 

ITS Knowledge Base home page.

The ITS Knowledge Base home page.

 

Once you’re there, scroll down and click on the Email link on the left side of the page. Then choose IMAP. A list of available email configurations will appear. All you need to do is choose your email provider!

 

List of email configurations.

The Knowledge Base contains email configurations for several mobile devices.

 

 

Organized Curiosity: Penn State students help inspire the next generation of science thinkers

If Michael Zeman had his druthers, Penn State would have its own science theme park.

“It could be located just past the botanical gardens on Park Avenue,” he says, smiling and pointing behind him. “We’d have a haunted forensic mansion, and you’d have to solve science puzzles to find your way out.”

Zeman, director of outreach and science engagement in Penn State’s Eberly College of Science, didn’t set out to be the Walt Disney of science. After earning his master’s degree in kinesiology from Penn State, Zeman acquired a teaching certificate and spent six years as a middle school health teacher, eventually becoming an assistant principal. He also coached boys’ and girls’ varsity volleyball and organized volleyball camps for his players.

So when a position at Penn State opened that needed someone with experience in both education administration and running camp programs, Zeman saw a perfect opportunity. That was six years ago, and the college’s youth programs have thrived ever since.

Now, the college’s Science-U summer camps are using technology to develop the next generation of science thinkers.

Science-U students participate in camp activities. Photo credit: Michael Zeman

Science-U students participate in camp activities. Image credit: Michael Zeman

Science-U may not rival the crowds at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but each summer Zeman and his colleagues regularly instruct between 500 and 600 students, making this the college’s largest youth offering.

Depending on age and area of interest, campers engage in activities that teach them how to amplify targeted DNA strands with capillary electrophoresis software, use LEGO toys to learn the fundamentals of computer programming languages, and work with the latest solar cell technology to see how photons move through a solar field — all before some campers learn to drive a car.

“These camps are designed for students in second grade through high school,” explains Zeman. “We work to promote their career pathway development while fostering their curiosity.”

And curiosity, according to Zeman, is what drives science. The excitement behind a discovery can spark a child’s love for science, even if they don’t realize it.

“If you put kids in a room with a problem and you don’t tell them it’s science, solving that problem would feel very natural to them, “ says Zeman. “That’s what science camp is, really. Organized curiosity.”

Penn State students play an important role in that organization. The Science-U camps employ 40 students each summer to help campers connect the proverbial dots. Zeman and his staff regularly interview upward of 200 students for the camp positions.

A Penn State student assists campers with an activity. Image Credit: Michael Zeman

A Penn State student assists campers with an activity. Image credit: Michael Zeman

“Their role is to serve as the conduit between the highest form of curiosity, like running a full-fledged research lab, down to the kid who just wants to figure out how the magic trick works,” says Zeman. “They are the guides who bring campers through their journey.”

Ashley Clauer is one of those guides. Clauer, an undergraduate student in Penn State’s College of Education, became involved in Science-U in 2012 after her first year at Penn State. She’s been hooked ever since.

Clauer, who is currently studying abroad in Montpellier, France, is excited to come back for Science-U this summer to work with campers again.

“I love seeing their eyes light up and their interest in science grow,” she explains.

Clauer credits technology with giving Science-U campers a way to explore science topics they’re interested in, even after they go home for the day.

“Many mornings started with my students telling me about the research they did at night based on what we did the day before in camp,” she says. “It makes them excited to come back each day and discover more.”

Conor Higgins agrees. Higgins, an undergraduate student in Penn State’s Eberly College of Science, started working at Science-U after his sophomore year. He credits the state-of-the-art technology labs the campers use with elevating their level of learning and enjoyment.

“These students are using equipment I didn’t get to use until I came to college, like gel electrophoresis and micropippets,” Higgins explains. “In the energy camp they visit the nuclear reactor, power plant, and green energy home on campus. It’s an amazing chance for these campers to be exposed to so many different things at such a young age.”

It’s not just the Science-U campers who are benefiting from technology. This year the Penn State student employees are receiving their training through an online active learning module with material adapted from a traditional binder stuffed with papers.

“We keep trying to advance our training process with technology every year,” says Zeman. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we’re able to do in the future.”

Perhaps a Penn State science theme park isn’t such a pipe dream after all.

University to begin blocking Microsoft Windows XP machines from network

As of June 1, 2014, any computer determined to be running the Microsoft Windows XP operating system that attempts to connect to the Penn State network will be blocked and users will be unable to access University systems and services such as personal records, email and course registration. Penn State has determined that systems running Windows XP represent too significant a risk to allow them to remain on the University network.

Earlier this year, Microsoft ended support for the Windows XP operating system and Microsoft Office 2003 software and will no longer release security updates or provide technical support for either product.

While Windows XP and Office 2003 will continue to function, computers running either product will become increasingly vulnerable to malware and other forms of cyber attack. Antivirus software and other security technologies will not be able to fully protect computers from compromise.

It is important for Penn State students, faculty and staff to upgrade existing operating systems and software to better protect personal and University data. Students, faculty and staff can purchase the latest versions of Windows and Office at a discounted rate from Software at Penn State.

Users with University-owned devices that need to be upgraded should contact their local IT staff or system administrator to discuss the best course of action.

Microsoft has created an easy-to-use website to determine if computers are running Windows XP. Users who find they are still running Windows XP should be aware their computer and/or peripherals may not be compatible with newer operating systems or software and may need to be replaced. Compatibility tools are available from Microsoft.

If you have questions or need assistance, contact the IT Service Desk at 814-865- HELP (4357) or itservicedesk@psu.edu.

 

An Update on Heartbleed

The Heartbleed Bug, an Internet-wide vulnerability of a popular website security tool, has left the personal information of a large number of Internet users exposed. This vulnerability permits attackers to sidestep website encryption and gain access to information that may include passwords, credit card information, and other personal data.

If you have used your Penn State password for services external to the University such as personal email, financial institutions, or online shopping websites, you are strongly encouraged to change your Penn State password to protect the privacy of your confidential information. You can change your password now by visiting work.psu.edu and clicking on “Change your password.” Penn State strongly recommends never using your Penn State Access Account password for non-Penn State services.

The University is evaluating the Penn State network and mitigating vulnerabilities and active exploits. Information Technology administrators are replacing website security credentials for all vulnerable Penn State systems.

The following can help keep your personal and Penn State information safe:

  • Change your passwords for web-based services after security patches are updated. If you change your password before these updates, your information will remain vulnerable. Please visit the LastPass Heartbleed Checker website to search for websites with updated security patches at https://lastpass.com/heartbleed/.
  • Be aware of an expected increase in fake emails asking users to change their passwords. If you receive an email asking you to change your password, do not click any links provided in the message. Instead, visit the website directly. Members of the University community should never share their Penn State Access Account user IDs and passwords with any individual and should never provide such information to any website or service not associated with Penn State.
  • Follow University guidelines for creating strong, easy-to-remember passwords by visiting http://its.psu.edu/be-safe/password-best-practices. Robust passwords are important to help keep your personal information safe.

For the most current information about the Heartbleed Bug and Penn State, visit http://sos.its.psu.edu/2014/04/the-heartbleed-bug.html. For general information about the bug and how it might be impacting your use of the Internet, visit the following websites:

If you have questions or need assistance changing your password, contact the IT Service Desk at 814-865-4357.

Penn State responds to Heartbleed Bug

A recent vulnerability in a popular website security tool has impacted Internet users throughout the world and could leave Penn State student, faculty and staff information exposed. Called the Heartbleed Bug, this Internet-wide vulnerability allows attackers to bypass OpenSSL, the secure form of communication most websites use to keep information safe. The Heartbleed Bug permits attackers to sidestep website encryption and gain access to information that may include passwords, credit card information and other personal data.Heartbleed Bug logo

Penn State’s Information Technology Leadership Council (ITLC) and Information Technology staff across the University are supporting Security Operations and Services in their effort to scan the University network to identify and mitigate vulnerable OpenSSL instances and active exploits.

Penn State users are strongly encouraged to watch for notifications from password-protected web services such as financial institutions and email providers. These services may ask for or require a password change if an exploit has been detected.

Area network administrators at the University are being given information to fix the Heartbleed Bug vulnerability and encouraged to replace website security credentials. The replacement of credentials will be required if there is evidence of any exploit.

Penn State is assessing the extent of any possible damage from the Heartbleed Bug and will provide Penn State users with updates and recommendations as they become available.

For the most current information about the Heartbleed Bug and Penn State, visit the SOS Heartbleed Bug website.

Please contact the IT Service Desk at (814) 865-4357 or itservicedesk@psu.edu with any questions.

eLion makes the move to mobile web accessibility

eLion just got easier, with a new responsive design that will allow students and advisers to access the same features as the web version of eLion on a variety of mobile devices. The changes went into effect on March 10.

eLion is Penn State’s web-based service that provides students, advisers, faculty and parents with secure, real-time access to academic and financial records.

The new layout features a more responsive streamlined design and user experience, with menu items listed across the top of the page to provide more screen space for compact viewing areas. On most smaller screens (such as cellphones), the navigation bar collapses down to a single button to toggle the menu display. Students and advisers can more easily access eLion to check grades and view the schedule of classes wherever their smartphone or tablet can go.

Student using eLion on mobile phone.

Hayley Ferguson, a junior in Management Information Systems, checks her eLion account on her iPhone between classes. Photo credit: Jennifer Struble

“I carry my cellphone with me all the time so having my eLion information available to me on my iPhone will be a plus,” said Hayley Ferguson, a junior in Management Information Systems.

A quick look around campus shows that more students than not carry and use mobile devices. According to a 2012 survey, 70 percent of Penn State students own a mobile device.

“Students want to access their records in a format they prefer, and for many today that format is mobile,” said, Carol Findley, IT director, Office of the University Registrar.

In addition to making the site design more usable on mobile screens, the eLion site is also more accessible to students and advisers with disabilities. According to Penn State’s Accessibility website, Penn State’s standards for accessibility require web pages and applications to be readable by everyone, regardless of physical ability.

The eLion pages have been screened to make sure that the content doesn’t have “blockers,” or barriers to screen readers that would prevent those who are visually impaired from using the service.

For now, the improvements, which the eLion team began designing in May 2013, will only show up on student and adviser accounts. Faculty, parents and former students can expect to see the changes in their eLion accounts in the future.

For comments and feedback regarding eLion, contact elionfeedback@psu.edu or follow eLion on Twitter (@eLionPSU). For technical issues concerning eLion, contact the AIS Support Center at ais-support@psu.edu.

 

Originally published in Current on March 7, 2014.

How Amazon’s warehouse works

Ever wonder what it looks like inside an Amazon warehouse? How do they get your items packed and shipped so quickly? And just how sore do worker’s feet get?

Turns out Amazon automates the process with robots, enabling them to be incredibly efficient. Take a look at a day in the life of a Kiva robot:

Get charged for free

Free mobile charging stations are now available in Penn State Harrisburg’s main classroom building! The stations, which include adapters for most mobile devices, can be updated as standards, and adapters, change. Penn State Harrisburg plans to install two additional charging stations in the Dining Hall and the Library.

Mobile charing station