Category Archives: Education

Be Android Safe on the Web

Wondering how to secure Android phone communications? You’ll want to read this blog entry!

Be sure to visit the TCEA TechNotes blog to read this entry.


“Did you know 15.2M text messages are sent every minute?” I asked my wife at evening meal. “That’s almost as many emails as our dear daughter sent the weekend after she got a smartphone!” As we laughed to ourselves, the niggling question of who sees those communications tugged at me. How easy is it to hack SMS/text messages? I often worry someone will grab my smartphone and send text messages/emails that are inappropriate. In a previous blog entry, Safeguard Your Android, I shared how to rely on a virtual private network (VPN) to protect communications. Increasingly, you must secure your communications (e.g. email, text messages, voice calls, where you go online). In this blog entry, we will explore how to better achieve security.

Did You Know?At the bottom of this blog entry, you’ll find a nifty infographic showing what sorts of data 3.7M people put online every minute. 103M spam emails are sent every minute. 527K photos are shared via Snapchat.

Why Do I need to Secure My Communications?

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear,” goes the saying. That isn’t exactly true. Consider this scenario:

You send an accidental text or email, announcing that you will be at the beach this weekend. Perhaps you go to the beach, and post pictures on social media. When you return to your home, you realize you’ve been robbed.

Tracking your movements need not result in theft. Instead, you may be the target of advertising.

There are numerous ways you can be tracked on the internet. Whenever you browse the net, you are being tracked by the use of browser cookies.
Cookies are the reason why, after you check out a new iPhone case on Amazon, you are repeatedly hit with website ads for phone cases wherever you go. Ad networks save cookies to your computer’s hard drive and then display ads based on the items you have browsed in online stores or searched for on Google. (Source: Pixel Privacy)
Whether you wish to or not, securing your communications is critical to digital citizenship. More importantly, protecting your sensitive data (and that of your students) can prevent problems before they arise.

https://youtu.be/17rykTIX_HY

Tip #1 – Two-Factor Authentication

secureWhen I first began using two-factor authentication, it was a pain. I just couldn’t pick up my phone, login to Facebook or Gmail on my computer. Instead, I had to start up my Authentication app. Now, two years later, I am grateful for the added security. About six months ago, someone tried to break into my Gmail account. Without two-factor authentication, I fear I would have been hacked. If you use Google Suites, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, you may find it worthwhile to protect yourself with the Google Authenticator app.

Did You Know?You can use a site like Have I Been Pwnd? to find out if a login (your email address) has been hacked. You can also double-check to see if a password you use is up a brute force attack with the How Secure is Your Password? website.

You may also want to take an extra step. What if your phone is stolen or lost? If someone is able to make it pass your fingerprint authentication, they can use the Authenticator app to login to your various services. On Android, it’s possible to assign a pass code to apps you choose. Even if someone has your phone unlocked in their hand, they will have to work hard to get past your pass code for individual apps. People often ask to look at my Android phone. Before, I was a little nervous about letting them look at it. Now, I can hand it over and know people will be unable to get into sensitive apps by accident. You can use BitDefender Mobile’s App Lock to assign a pass code to each app (shown above). Apps:

Tip #2 – Minimize Your Internet Tracks

Everything we do online is tracked. Forget that at your peril. While it’s one thing to have the government looking over your shoulder (not really), a more immediate threat includes hackers and vendors trying to seize your information. Use a virtual private network (VPN), and one of the browsers below to achieve some measure of anonymity (it may foil online retailers and hackers but not necessarily the FBI): Apps:

  • Firefox Focus: This app works well to block cookies and advertisements. You aren’t anonymous while using it, but it works great to block ads and keep your mobile browser light. Use it with a VPN.
  • Duck Duck Go: This search app doesn’t track your searches on the web. Use it with a VPN.
  • Orbot: This app has a built in The Onion Router (TOR) browser, and will work to keep your internet travels anonymous as possible. Use it with a VPN to achieve higher level of protection.

Tip #3 – Protect Your Text Messages

“What’s the username and password to Netflix?” asked my daughter a few weeks ago. Since my text messages enjoy end to end encryption, I have no problem sharing confidential, sensitive information via text message. However, I would never dream of doing this using the standard SMS/Text message app on any device. Instead, take advantage of one of the apps below. The best one right now is Signal. On Android, you can use Signal for both encrypted and unsecured text messaging. Your friends who use Signal will connect securely with you, while others who are not using it will not. No matter what tool you use for text encryption, consider using the Secure Space Encryptor (SSE) app or website to encrypt text messages (and email). This will protect your messages with AES-256 level of encryption. Apps:

  1. End to end text and audio encryption with Signal, WhatsApp, or Voxer
  2. Encrypt your text messages using SSE or web encryption

Tip #4 – Guard Your Email

“With over 200 billion emails sent and received by almost 3 billion people throughout the world each day, accessible anywhere at any time by almost anyone, email inboxes present a big target,” says JJ Rosen. You should be encrypting your email whenever possible, whether you are on your computer or your Android device. You don’t have to be a professional cryptographer to use tools like SecureGmail (Watch video), Virtru Email Encryption (Watch video) or the Paranoia Text Encryptor website. Another approach you can take is to rely on a tool like ProtonMail (based in Switzerland) or Tutanota (based in Germany). Both offer secure apps that allow you to send encrypted emails to others. For example, Protonmail comes with a pass code login. This protects strangers from accessing your email app. When composing an email, you can set a password to encrypt messages for non-ProtonMail users. You can then share the encryption password with the email recipient through a phone call or text message (not email though). When they receive the email, they use the password to decrypt your email message. What a relief to know your confidential emails are encrypted while sitting in a friend’s inbox. Another neat feature is you can set message expiration to a number of hours or days. That’s pretty amazing! Apps:

Conclusion

Some may see these efforts to secure communications as so much cloak-n-dagger games for grownups. Let’s not forget that identity theft costs $16 billion dollars affecting 15.4 million people. I urge you to take every precaution possible. Only after taking proper precautions will you truly have nothing to fear. Once you have done all you can, you have nothing to fear.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Tips to Protect Your Android Phone

Wondering how to safeguard your Android phone? You’ll want to read this blog entry!

Be sure to visit the TCEA TechNotes blog to read this entry.


Did this holiday season leave you with an Android device in your hands? If so, you’re not the only one. “Between them, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016,” says James Vincent (Gartner as cited in The Verge). “Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter [2016], 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent).”According to Google, as cited by MacRumors, over two billion Android devices are in use around the world. Unfortunately, more Android devices means more opportunities for malware and hacking. Join me as we explore some of the apps that can protect you from malware, hackers, and intrusion. Don’t be afraid to pass these tips to your children/students as they begin to explore the wild, wild world of Android. After all, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD/BYOT) initiatives are ever-increasing in schools.

Note: One handy app that I used to get a list of all the apps on my Android phone is List My Apps. This app makes it simple to get your Android app list emailed to you with links.

#1- Anti-Malware Tool

While there are many anti-malware tools in the Google Play store, not all are safe. For example, some anti-malware tools may masquerade as helpful tools to capture your sensitive data. With an Android device, just like the Windows operating system, you may put yourself at risk without anti-malware tools. Tom’s Guide provides a list of tools. My favorite one, though, is BitDefender Mobile Security for $15 a year. The app offers a host of features, making sure you don’t let malware install itself or hitch a ride on existing apps. You can lock individual apps to prevent others from opening them; useful if you lose your phone while it is unlocked. This is quite important, especially if you decide to take foolish advantage of third party apps (e.g. GetJar) not approved in the Google Play store.

Did You Know?If you lose your phone, you can use Android’s Find My Device feature to locate it via GPS or remotely wipe the information on it. Wow! To turn that on, go to your phone’s Settings, then Google then Security. If you have not done so already, make sure to get the Find My Device app. Setup is a snap.

#2- Protecting Your Camera and Microphone Access

Did you know that the camera and microphone on your device can be activated remotely? Worse, once activated, you can be spied upon.

Researchers have discovered a design flaw in Android that can be used to remotely capture screenshots or record audio… without the user’s knowledge or consent. (Source)

Two apps that I use on my Android phone to protect against this include Camera Blocker and Microphone Block Free. Each offers a free version that will allow you to flip the ON/OFF switch on your camera or microphone. You can turn these off when you need to snap a picture or answer your phone.

#3- Prevent Robo Spam Calls

Finding yourself receiving an unending stream of robocalls and spam? Give Hiya a try. It features “spam detection and call blocking capabilities.” These help you “avoid unwanted and dangerous calls.” This app has blocked countless calls to my mobile phone. On Android, Hiya pops up with caller ID to let me know who is calling. This allows me to decide if I want to waste my time responding. For phone numbers not in the Hiya database, I have the option of adding new numbers.

Hiya Call Block Security identifies the calls you want to take and blocks the numbers and texts you want to avoid. Hiya is free (no ads!), and is incredibly easy to use. It offers the ability to block calls, blacklist unwanted phone numbers and SMS text messages, reverse phone search incoming call information, and receive spam alerts.

The best way to win an argument with a telemarketer or spammer is to avoid it. Younger phone users may not know how to say “no.” Get them Hiya so they can avoid a data-compromising conversation.

#4 – Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you are using public WiFi, make sure to get a virtual private network (VPN) solution. You can find a great overview of why you should use a VPN over at Pixel Privacy. Here’s why a VPN is such a great idea:

A laptop and mobile device user visits her favorite coffee shop, connecting to the free Wi-Fi hotspot to access the internet. She uses the unprotected hotspot to pay bills, do her banking and shop on Amazon. Meanwhile, a quiet young man sits in the corner, sipping his latte and monitoring her internet connection, stealing valuable personal and business information.

Packet sniffing happens all the time. Use a free solution like Opera VPN or a subscription service like Private Internet Access (PIA).

#5- Password Manager

Keeping track of a million passwords can be quite a hassle. Two tools I have found helpful include Secure Space Encryptor (SSE) and/or KeePassDroid. Both work on your mobile phone. You can keep track of your usernames and generate more complex passwords than “password” or “dragon.” In future Android-related blog entries, we’ll take a look at additional tools you can use to safeguard your data.  


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Q&A with a CTO: Striving for Balance

A few weeks ago, I received a Twitter DM from a colleague in another state. After going back-n-forth in Twitter DMs, I decided to explore the topic as a full blown blog entry. Here’s the lead for the TCEA Technotes blog entry that just came out earlier this week:

Dear TCEA Responds:

I am a new CTO/Tech Director and love this article at TCEA’s Technotes blog (First Things First). I need to better understand how my staff works. A part of that involves tracking their work to better understand the organization as you recommend. We have the break fix tracking software. I’m thinking more of something project oriented and time tracking. My concern is my coaches are spending too much time on fixing broken equipment and not enough on curriculum support. My network and hardware specialists may be spending too much time waiting for things to go down, if that makes sense. Do you have any software recommendations for doing that?
Thanks, Mike

Dear Mike:

Thanks for the wonderful feedback about the First Things First blog entry. Now, on to your question, What’s the best way to track your staff’s work?  Several approaches can work. Before we jump into those, it’s worth asking the question, “What will you do with the data you gather about your staff’s work tasks?”

If you want to read the rest of my response, you’ll want to read the complete blog entry.


Dear TCEA Responds:

I am a new CTO/Tech Director and love this article at TCEA’s Technotes blog (First Things First). I need to better understand how my staff works. A part of that involves tracking their work to better understand the organization as you recommend. We have the break fix tracking software. I’m thinking more of something project oriented and time tracking. My concern is my coaches are spending too much time on fixing broken equipment and not enough on curriculum support. My network and hardware specialists may be spending too much time waiting for things to go down, if that makes sense. Do you have any software recommendations for doing that? Thanks, Mike

Dear Mike:

Thanks for the wonderful feedback about the First Things First blog entry. Now, on to your question, What’s the best way to track your staff’s work? Several approaches can work. Before we jump into those, it’s worth asking the question, “What will you do with the data you gather about your staff’s work tasks?” You need to ask that question. You can’t tell your end users (e.g. teachers, principals, central office staff) that your team needs to focus only on completing work orders. That would send the wrong message about your department’s customer service. You can provide valuable data and information to your stakeholders. Valuable information about their own practices can help them make connections about their own needs. It will also make it easier for your to provide informed customer service.

Providing the Best Customer Service

As a new CTO, put the following strategies in place. The strategies may better address the needs of those you serve. These strategies are multi-faceted and can help you overcome the challenges of a beginning CTO.

Strategy #1 – Implement a Single Point of Contact

tcea respondsEstablishing a single point of contact, such as an online system, eliminates the confusion that results from incoming phone calls or in-the-hallway interruptions. The main benefit is that it ensures prompt access for the end user, anytime and anywhere. This solution should meet the following criteria:

  • Work on a variety of devices, including iOS/Android devices
  • Allow for the end user to check the status of their problem
  • Email-to-ticket conversion
  • Active Directory and LDAP authentication
  • Auto ticket routing
  • Parent/child ticket mapping
  • Balancing/re-assigning tickets
  • Graphs and reporting
  • Ability to rank the importance of incoming calls
  • Make it easy to set up types or categories of work orders that are understandable to end users

A few possible solutions widely used in Texas school districts include:

Of course, you can also take advantage of free solutions, such as Google Forms and/or Microsoft Forms.

Strategy #2 – Differentiate Between Jobs

If your instructional technologists, a.k.a. digital coaches, are performing technical support, why are technicians needed? Or if technicians are serving as digital coaches impacting instruction, the district is wasting critical funding. While it’s nice to have a jack-of-all trades staff member, you need to remember that the more specialized your team members are, the better it is for your district. Instructional technologists and technicians should train together, learn new technologies, and be able to solve problems. When you do this, you are growing future CTOs. But if a significant amount of time is spent with crossover duties, then you are under or over paying someone. Here is one example document aligned to Texas objectives: tcea responds Below is another example from Beaverton Public Schools (Oregon-based): tcea responds These charts establish a clear separation of the work to be done and better define the job roles. Communicate this information to all stakeholders. Sharing this information on social media, at superintendent’s cabinet and principals’ meetings, can speed this process.

Strategy #3 – Clarify Expectations for Response Times

Defining job roles is insufficient. In addition, you need to set up a service level agreement (SLA). This agreement lets everyone know what is critical and what is not. Without an SLA in place, you will have technicians running from one campus to district office, then back again. Is a computer lab top priority at the high school or is the superintendent’s locked iPad top priority? tcea responds

Final Thoughts

As you plan, remember the cardinal principle of your work: relationships matter. Move forward with care, building and deepening relationships as you go. Cut loose those on your team who refuse to embrace better customer service for those you serve. Be transparent about what you do, and revisit those SLAs. Be fearless in holding yourself accountable and make it safe for your team to hold themselves accountable.  


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

AL DíA: The Value of an Education

In the Huffington Post piece, Has higher education lost the battle of public perception?, a question is asked that some already have answered. “No,” said a 10K student district superintendent, to my great disappointment, “our kids need to look at other opportunities aside from college.”

Part of what made America’s world leadership possible is that higher education provided a safety valve that prepared millions of Americans for the change from a manufacturing to a post-industrial global economy.

As America evolves, there is no single straight or even clear path toward the future. Some Americans have been left behind, economic disparity has grown, and a growing split between economic classes – represented by the chasm between the rhetoric and reality in the current national tax plans – are persistent issues. It may be that higher education has lost the battle over the language that describes what its colleges and universities do in this hyper-charged partisan environment.

Yes, higher education has lost the battle of public perception. Getting a college degree, including graduate degrees, may become harder and tougher for middle class families. This is true as the Republican tax code sets out to slay tuition waivers and scholarship options that affect my own children.

Of my family of three (Mom, Dad, and I), I am the first to earn a Master’s degree.
In my wife’s family, she was the first generation to earn a Master’s degree.
In my family (two kids, my wife and I), my children hope to earn a graduate degree, if not a doctorate, before entering the workforce.

Without scholarships, tuition waivers, not one of us would have made it. That is, “but for the grace of Government, we would be mucking it out with America’s forgotten.” No doubt, we’d have voted for Trump, fallen for his lies and those of the Republican administration.

Thank goodness, I went to college. I can usually see a lie coming.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

AL DíA: STEM Tools, DIY Projects and More

Wow, I had a lot of fun putting this blog entry together on a subject that is near and dear to many people’s hearts. I was trying for a blog entry about STEM toys, but failed miserably. Instead, I stumbled on a treasure trove of STEM DIY projects in Pinterest. A second grade teacher in San Angelo, Tx had hinted that such troves were the source of her STEM awesomeness.

Here’s the excerpt where I share that story in the blog entry, along with a kazillion DIY ideas in Pinterest for STEM Projects:

“Where did you get your idea for that project?” I asked a second grade teacher who was sharing a STEM project at a San Angelo, Tx TCEA area conference. “Pinterest!” she replied with a smile. “I find most of my ideas there.”

You can also find a STEM Awesomeness Padlet featuring lots of great ideas online. I’ll be adding to it over time.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Thirteen Insights for CTOs

Ok, I’m sure you are just dying to know what I’ve written about that Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), Technology Directors/Coordinators need to know about. I’m particularly pleased because this series enabled me to tap into my actual experiences as a Director of Technology for a 10K student school district. These were all published at TCEA TechNotes’ blog.

Wait, did you really just write about 20 blog entries? Actually, I wrote about 10 more that were classified as CTO/CIO but I didn’t include them here. You can read them online yourself.

CTO Related

  1. Tracking Digital Coaches and Technicians – Scheduled for 12/20/17 publication
  2. Strategizing Your BYOD Implementation
  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  • When Disaster Strikes Series:
    1. Part 1: Insights One and Two
    2. Part 2: Insights Three through Five
    3. Part 3 – The Game
    4.  Heat Sensitive: Server Room Temperature Gauges
  • Time and Attendance Tracking
  • Securing Data in the Cloud 
  • Digital Fax Solutions 
  • Saving High School Seniors’ Digital Work 
  • Keys to the Kingdom 
  • Grants and Tech Planning 
  • Video Surveillance Solutions 
  • Choosing an Online Payment System 
  • When People Fail Technology: Digital Evidence Search 
  • Surviving a Leadership Transition
  •  I can’t wait to write a few more blog entries on this subject. Time just ran out on me this year.  Sigh.


    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

    AL DíA: STEM Innovators VIP Breakfast

    On January 5, 2018, there will be a STEM Innovators VIP Breakfast in San Antonio, Tx. If you are free, you may want to attend. Here’s the full text of the invitation:

    I’d like to invite you to attend the STEM Innovators-in-Training Experience VIP Coffee & Conversation on January 5, 2018 from 8:00 – 9:30 am at Sunset Station, 1174 E. Commerce St., San Antonio, TX 78205. The VIP event aims to strengthen the STEM ecosystem in the region by bringing community members from all industry sectors together to share ideas and best practices to maximize our collective impact in helping students engage in, love and learn from STEM education opportunities. Time permitting, stay to observe the STEM Innovators-in-Training Experience in action.

    Making the STEM ecosystem stronger certainly seems like a worthy goal. And, the event is FREE.

    Register for this free event at https://www.ten80education.com/vipreg/Select “SAN ANTONIO” from the dropdown menu Don’t forget to invite colleagues, partners and friends that might be interested as well!

    The event also supports students:

    Join Ten80’s team of STEM professionals, regional leaders and professionals in a one-day version of the STEM Innovators-in-Training Challenge.

    On event day, students attend workshops that focus on content & skills related to one of the three critical aspects of innovation: the engineering process, enterprise process and leadership.  They come back together to share lessons learned and to begin collaborating with one another in the challenges posed in each workshop. The challenges overlap so students will be stronger if they work together.

    All students that attend the Experience are invited to continue working on their ideas through the Student Innovators-in-Training Challenge or Community Leadership Challenge.  Students earn prizes tailored to each challenge such as mentoring and/or cash awards to work on their ideas.

     Learn more here


    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure