Microsoft Support for Older Versions of Internet Explorer Ended

ielogo1Microsoft will no longer be supporting any version of Internet Explorer other than the most current version (version 11).

Beginning January 12, 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical supports and security updates. Internet Explorer 11 is the last version of Internet Explorer, and will continue to receive security updates, compatibility fixes, and technical support on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. For more information, go to Microsoft’s announcement.

Any University computer system running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 that is joined to the domain (you sign-in to the computer using your U of L username/password) has already been updated to Internet Explorer 11. Any Windows 7 or 8.1 computer not joined to the university domain or professional supplement devices may not have the latest version of Internet Explorer installed and action will be required on your part. Windows 10 computers running Edge or Internet Explorer browsers will already have the most updated version.

What should you do? To check the version you are currently running, open Internet Explorer and click on the gear icon gear_icon in the top right corner of the page and select “About Internet Explorer”. If your version is anything other than Internet Explorer 11, you will want to install the latest version.

To install the latest version, go to Windows Update windows_updatelocated in the Control Panel and select “Check for Update”. Internet Explorer will be one of the programs available to update. Select it and click “Install Updates”.

Why should you update? Without critical web browser updates, your PC may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software which can steal or damage you data and information. Also many software vendors and websites, such as Office 365, no longer support older versions of Internet Explorer.

Please contact the ITS Solution Centre at help@uleth.ca or 403-329-2490 if you require additional information or assistance.

Microsoft issues with El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11) resolved

On October 2, 2015, IT Services posted a notice discouraging Mac users from upgrading to Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), a version that was released by Apple on September 30, 2015.

We are pleased to announce that the issues identified in the notice regarding Microsoft Office 2011 & 2016  have been resolved.El Capitan1

Here are recommendations if you choose to upgrade:

  • If you use SMART Notebook software, please contact SMART Technologies for an update that supports OS X El Capitan.
  • If you are running Microsoft Office 2011, please install the 14.5.6 update for OS X El Capitan compatibility.
  • If you are running Microsoft Office 2016, please install the 15.16 update as well as the OS X El Capitan v10.11.1 update. These updates are available to download through the Microsoft AutoUpdate and Apple Software Update tools respectively.

…for other OS X versions, you may be required to re-install the drivers after you upgrade.

IT Services tested Follow-you printing after upgrading from Yosemite (only) to El Capitan, and the printing drivers appear to be working.  However, for other OS X versions, you may be required to re-install the drivers after you upgrade.  If you have any issues with printing after your upgrade, please contact the Solutions Centre.

We recommend following Apple’s guidance on upgrading OS X.

Please contact the ITS Solutions Centre at help@uleth.ca or 403-329-2490 if you require additional information or require assistance.

Can YOU beat IT Services in the ULSU Food Bank Challenge?

IT Services earned bragging rights last year when the department soundly thrashed Financial Services by collecting the most number of items and largest amount of cash for the ULSU Food Bank! There was a great deal of chest-pounding in all of the ITS offices.Food Bank challenge1

Financial Services has challenged IT Services again this year (to try to redeem themselves we think) – and once again we’re opening the challenge up to ALL DEPARTMENTS on campus to join us.

CIO Mark Humphries says if some departments don’t want to take up the challenge, then IT Services will personally pick up any donations and ensure each get credit. Alternatively, donations can be dropped off in the Solutions Centre in E610 of University hall. Cash donations are very welcome and the amount is factored into the challenge.

Shelley Tuff, who coordinates the Food Bank along with her other duties as Health Plan Administrator for the Students’ Union, says breakfast items are on the top of their wish list. Also greatly appreciated are granola bars, canned fruit, canned vegetables and meats, pasta and pasta sauces. She adds they currently have an overstock of soup but they won’t turn it down. Anything they don’t need can be donated to other food banks.

During these tough economic times, the next few years may be very difficult for students and their families. Your kindness and generosity will make a world of difference for many.

Food bank helpers will be collecting donations December 15th. If your department isn’t able to take the challenge, we encourage individuals to donate items to other departments who are participating. Watch for updates in UWeekly.

And again this year, the prize is bragging rights!

For more information, please contact Shelley at 403-329-2039 or at food.bank@uleth.ca.

U of L wireless network – hurdles and behind-the-scenes efforts

Last year the University committed $20,000 to upgrade the wireless in some of the older residence buildings which dramatically improved coverage for students there, plus another $80,000 to improve the coverage in classroom spaces, says Jeff Oliver, Network Team Lead in IT Services. “Over the next few months, we will be conducting tests across the campus to determine where other gaps exist.”

Wireless surveys have already been completed in University Hall and Markin Hall which has helped us to identify some issues already. IT Services staff need to physically pace off every space with equipment that measures the wireless signals which then provides visual heat maps of how well wireless signals are reaching offices and workstations. “These heat maps help us figure out where new access points will help, and where they won’t,” adds Oliver.

E8 HeatmapWi-Fi coverage in E8 of University Hall: the darker colors represent good Wi-Fi coverage and are generally closest to the access points. The lighter areas show poorer Wi-Fi signals. The green line indicates where a staff member walked the area and the dots on the line represent ‘pings’ to the access points.

Wi-Fi signals do not penetrate solid materials well, particularly steel and concrete, or fluids. A person standing between a device and an access point can interfere and simply absorb the signals. The more obstacles, the weaker the signals.

Imagine being in a room with 10 radios that are all tuned to different radio stations…

“Noise, also known as an abundance of radio signals, is also a big problem with wireless. The more noise, the worse the connection. Imagine being in a room with 10 radios that are all tuned to different radio stations – can you listen to them all, or pick out just one? Can you pick out an individual conversation in a room where 100 people are all talking at the same time? In the wireless spectrum the same concepts apply. The more conversations going on at the same time, the more noise overall.”

The number of wireless devices brought on campus is increasing every academic year. With each additional faculty, staff or student come one to three or four additional devices, all requesting network access–many at the same time. This means that every access point must support more and more individual devices, and the access points need to be closer together as each one can only service a limited number of clients.

…there are about 25,000 wireless devices on campus of which more than 10,000 can be active and connecting to the wireless network over the course of a day.

Oliver adds there are about 25,000 wireless devices on campus of which more than 10,000 can be active and connecting to the wireless network over the course of a day. “Our maximum concurrent connections this semester so far has been 7,000, and that number can fluctuate wildly depending on the day.” Early in the semester we were alerted to the fact that some of the network infrastructure supporting the Student@UofL and Guest@UofL networks was running at capacity, which prompted us to replace some equipment with newer technology.

So how much network traffic does this number of devices equate to?

Guest student before new router

The graph above illustrates the amount of Wi-Fi traffic on the network during one week in September: it peaked out at 300MB per second. Once the new router was installed, the higher demand was easily managed as shown in the graph below and no longer has “flat spots.”

Guest student after new router

Network staff have been working to add additional access points in 80 classrooms over the past year, and expect to be finished by December. The largest classroom, PE250, will have six access points. The rest will have roughly double what they originally had, which will greatly increase the number of concurrent connections available in classroom spaces. “We are targeting approximately 40 users per access point.”

It isn’t just a matter of attaching an access point on the ceilings, additional wiring must be installed as well as network infrastructure such as switches and routers to support the increase in the wireless footprint. Much of the work must be done when the rooms are not in use.

The demand is not only on campus. Last spring, outdoor access points were added at the stadium to provide coverage in the bleacher and track areas. “The University’s wireless network is in a perpetual state of upgrade.”

The team is constantly planning and preparing for future changes in technologies. Next year about 250 aging access points are scheduled for replacement to keep up with the changing technology used in mobile devices today.

The next time you use wireless on campus, whether it works immediately or there’s a delay connecting, keep in mind the hurdles and ‘behind-the-scenes’ efforts and costs to provide the service. Oliver reminds people to report any issues to the Solutions Centre (help@uleth.ca) so that steps can be taken to correct them.

Mac users – do not upgrade to Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11)

El Capitan1For those using a Mac, please be aware that we do not recommend upgrading to OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) at this time. Microsoft has posted a notice indicating that Outlook 2011 currently does not work at all with El Capitan when connected to an Exchange email system like the University uses, and Office 2016 users are reporting frequent crashes of Outlook, Word, and Excel when used with El Capitan. These issues are likely to be corrected fairly quickly, but we urge University Mac users not to upgrade to El Capitan in the interim.

We will post updates as they are learned.

Updated Network upgrade schedule

Latest upgrade dates as of November 27, 2015  below.

The upgrade work being done on the University’s network has taken some expected twists and turns, and some not so expected.

As a result, the scheduled dates for each of the buildings and areas have been adjusted.

Below are the current (and somewhat still tentative) dates for the upcoming work:

  • University Hall – Substantially Complete
  • Centre for the Arts – Substantially Complete
  • LINC – Substantially Complete
  • Water Building – Substantially Complete
  • CCBN – Nov 30 – Dec 4
  • Anderson Hall – Dec 7 – Dec 11
  • Turcotte Hall – Dec 14 – Dec 18
  • Students’ Union Building (one room) – Christmas Break
  • Markin Hall – Jan 11- Jan 15
  • PE – Jan 18 – Jan 22
  • Students’ Union Building – Jan 25 – Feb 5

Watch for further updates as the work continues.

Read the full story about the Network upgrade here.

 

Android phones and the StageFright vulnerability

 

An issue was recently discovered on Android devices which could expose the user to potential cyberattacks. It is characterized by a specially crafted text message which attaches multimedia (video, music, pictures) data to the communication. By default, Android tries to process this information in the background so that when you open it up, it doesn’t buffer or cause delays with seeing the content. When the android device is attacked, malicious StageFright imagecommands are sent to the phone in the background and the user do not know they have lost control of the device. Risks of a compromise include stolen passwords, leaked contact information which are subject to attacks, data loss if files are stored on the device, and potential fraudulent transactions conducted in the user’s name without their knowledge or consent.

Unfortunately, fixes for android devices are pushed infrequently, but there are some steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of this type of attack until your manufacturer releases an update.

There is an option in the text messaging application used to disable the automatic retrieval of MMS (multimedia) text messages. This allows you to determine if you trust the sender of the message before opening their communication. The steps for disabling may be slightly different for various versions of the Android operating system, but typically the user can find it by following these instructions.

Google Hangouts as default SMS:

  • Open Google Hangouts
  •  Choose Settings
  •  Select SMS
  •  Scroll down and turn off Auto Retrieve MMS

Google Messenger as default SMS:

  •  Open Messenger App
  •  Go to right hand of application and select the three dots
  •  Choose Settings
  •  Choose Advanced
  •  Turn off Auto-retrieve

Other (using default messaging app):

  •  Go to Messages App
  •  Select More
  •  Select Settings
  •  Select Multimedia Messages
  •  Turn OFF Auto retrieve

In order to see multimedia messages in the future, users will be required to click on the download button and the phone will process them as usual.

We are recommending that users watch closely for an update from the manufacturer that addresses this issue and apply it as soon as it is released. For additional information on the StageFright vulnerability, please visit the website: http://fortune.com/2015/07/28/stagefright-google-android-security/

For assistance, contact the Solutions Centre at 403-329-2490, or help@uleth.ca, or visit E610 in University Hall.

Future-proofing our network

Not unlike a vehicle needing new tires, suspension, or even a new motor, the University’s network needs constant maintenance and upgrading if it is to take it longer distances while operating efficiently.

Parts of the network are 20 years old, installed when the University of Lethbridge connected to its first campus-wide data network, says Terry Kirkvold, Infrastructure and Maintenance Support Manager.

Typical network closet prior to upgrade

Typical network closet prior to upgrade

“As many of the current network switches and routers are nearing end of life, what we’re doing, in essence, is future-proofing our network. With this

upgrade, at a minimum, we’re able to maintain and increase the quality, and also improve our service. Users will probably not see a difference in their day-to-day operations, but if they were to look under the hood, they would see a very modern, clean and efficient engine.”

Over the Family Day weekend in February, new core network switches were installed and are currently in operation, as well as new Wi-Fi access points in many classrooms and learning spaces. Next will be the installation of a new Domain Name Server (DNS) and DHCP (IP address allocations).

As outlined in the August 2014 blog article, the upgrade provides a number of improvements:

  • Faster response times for core services such as email and internet
  • Increased wireless capacity which will provide better coverage in classrooms and other student spaces
  • Ability to grow and change with the University’s needs
  • Enhanced security which provides a more secure infrastructure

“We will flip buildings to the new network in a staggered manner, one at a time, over the summer,” says Kirkvold. “These moves will be during the day as a rule and IT resources will be available to troubleshoot any problems that may occur.”

The current closets  are a complicated maze of organic growth that accommodated previous upgrades over the years.

Teams of Infrastructure staff will be required to visit each of the more than 70 network closets to completely reconfigure the network devices, cabling and fiber connections. The current closets  are a complicated maze of organic growth that accommodated previous upgrades over the years.

“With 5,500 connections and more than 27 kilometers of patch cables that have to be moved, each closet, depending on its size, could take two to four hours a day to re-configure and turn up the new infrastructure. For example, the CCBN has three closets and our staff could spend a full day or more in just that one building.”

The move will consist of first moving the wireless access points to the new network followed by the wired computers, phones and other devices attached to the network, and cleaning up all of the cables which could take up to two or three hours to complete.

Go here to see the tentative schedule of the planned work.

For more information, please contact Terry Kirkvold at kirkvold@uleth.ca, or 403-329-2720.

Network upgrade at full throttle

Did you know?

  • Portions of the University’s current network date back to 1995 when the first fiber connection went live.Fiber_optic_illuminated
  • More than 5,500 wired users are connected to the network.
  • There are more than 600 wireless access point on campus.
  • On an average day, the wireless network is accessed 17,000 times.
  • If the network cables were attached end-to-end, they would stretch out 27 kilometers—the distance from Lethbridge to Welling.

Why are we telling you this?

IT Services’ Infrastructure team has been working on a major network upgrade project on the Lethbridge campus during the last nine months, and now is preparing to do the heavy lifting required to move all users from the old network to the new, says Terry Kirkvold, Infrastructure and Maintenance Support Manager.

For the next two months, Infrastructure staff will be visiting more than 70 network closets situated throughout campus to completely overhaul (move and/or replace) the switches and cables. This may or may not impact individual users. (see schedule below)

As buildings and areas are scheduled to be switched over, Information Technology will be emailing notices to users, posting up-to-date information to the Notice Board and sending out reminders of installation and completion dates. It will also provide an explanation of the changes, suggestions on how to fix known issues, and who to contact with questions or concerns.

Kirkvold adds that the upgrade will only affect devices attached to the current network. IT Services is aware of most but there are some that will be discovered as part of this migration process. “For example, we have to find all of the non-central printers that are hidden away in many offices in campus. We do not have a good idea of how many exist or where they are – but we’ll certainly be finding out once the new network is configured; these devices may need IT’s assistance with new configurations.”

By completing these upgrades during the day…we will be better able to respond to issues as they arise.

The other expected issue may only require a simple reboot of machines in order to bring them online with the new network. If users are experiencing any connection issues, they should first try to reboot their computers to see if the issue resolves. If not, IT Services will be available to assist. “While we have attempted to minimize the impact of this change on University clients there is always the risk of unanticipated issues.   By completing these upgrades during the day in manageable chunks we will be better able to respond to issues as they arise.”

Although exact dates and times are not yet confirmed, below is a rough schedule of the work. Service Notice updates will be sent to users as they are known.

Please contact Terry Kirkvold at kirkvold@uleth.ca, or 403-329-2720, with questions or concerns.

Go here to see what the current network closets look like, and read the full story on the network upgrade.

Planned migration dates:

University Hall……………………July 8 – 31
Centre for the Arts………………August 4 – 7
LINC………………………………….August 10 – 14
Students’ Union Building……. August 17 – 18
Turcotte Hall…………………….. August 24 – 28
Anderson Hall…………………… August 31 – Sept 1
PE……………………………………..September 2 – 4
CCBN……………………………….. September 7 – 9
Water Building………………….. September 10 – 11
Markin Hall………………………. September 14 – 18

NOTE: As of October 19th, this schedule has been updated. Please view it here.

Data Storage Standard – what it is and why you need to care

Before your eyes glaze over, answer these simple questions:

  • Where do you store your University data?
  • Does it contain personal or highly sensitive information?
  • Do you use a cloud-based storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive?
  • What types of documents do you share with people outside of the University, or in another country?

As technology continues to evolve and our dependency on information sharing increases, it is becoming increasingly critical to ensure that academic and administrative staff classify, store and share their data appropriately.

The border between work life and personal life is becoming blurred.”

“People are demanding 24/7 access to their information—both personal and professional,” says Kevin Vadnais, Information Security Manager in IT Services. “Consequently, they have turned to cloud-based services which can provide constant availability to all of their information. The border between work life and personal life is becoming blurred. Perceived security and acceptable use of cloud-based solutions is often flawed and the University is taking steps to bridge that knowledge gap so that users are aware of the risks and benefits.

“There is also a difference between personal storage and work-related storage. Some personal storage solutions are free to a pre-set limit, and users pay over and above that, as is the case with Dropbox and Google Drive. Users are asked to either accept the end-user license agreement, or not use it. Most people do not take the time to read them and just accept the terms. Work-related, or enterprise, storage solutions are better protected through contracts between the enterprise or business and the cloud provider. Specific services are spelled out and privacy implications are assessed for that business or enterprise.”

To assist in educating the University community, IT Services has created and authorized a Data Storage Standard which is available on the University Policy website. This standard provides four points of guidance and expectations regarding the secure management of information with which individuals, departments and faculties have been entrusted.

We want people to balance the convenience of a cloud storage vendor with the risks of potential data loss, and to make the appropriate decision.”

“We want people to balance the convenience of a cloud storage vendor, such as Dropbox, with the risks of potential data loss, and to make the appropriate decision,” Vadnais adds.

Below are the highlights of the Standards. Faculty and staff are encouraged to not only review the document, but to download it or bookmark the page so that it is a constant reminder of their responsibilities.

  1. On-campus storage should be utilized for information that has specific requirements or constraints specifying it cannot be stored on systems outside of Canada, e.g. research funding requirements which mandate where resulting data is stored. These solutions typically include network shares (research drives, department shares, etc.), and P Drives.
  2. Cloud storage, commonly provided by third-party vendors such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive’s personal and enterprise solutions, and Google Drive, etc., host users’ data in a robust data centre environment which is not located on campus. This environment typically resides in one or more geographic locations outside of Canada and, as such, subjects that data to the legal jurisdiction of the hosting country. Depending on the sensitivity of data being stored, additional security measures, such as encryption, may be required. (Selection of a third-party encryption tool is underway to support secure usage of cloud storage.)
  3. IT Services is currently developing online training on data storage and selecting the appropriate storage location for your data based on sensitivity. Staff and faculty will be asked to complete the training every two years, and again when significant changes are made to the data storage standard. This will ensure their knowledge is up to date on the latest technologies, threats, privacy implications, and best practices for data management. Training is not expected to take longer than 10-15 minutes.
  4. The use of email as a data management tool is a common practice at the University but is an unsustainable and risky strategy. Lost devices, compromised passwords, and human error (accidently sending the wrong information) can all lead to inadvertent data loss and possibly privacy breaches. While email is generally secure it is not appropriate for sending all types of data. Faculty and staff should become familiar with the data storage standard and use the appropriate storage and sharing technologies based on the data they are working with. The University is also exploring the use of email encryption services if sensitive information must be shared via email.

In addition to these four points, IT Services has implemented a data classification strategy to assist University users to determine the level of rigour that should be applied to specific pieces of information. These definitions classify the four types of data as follows:

  1. No/Low Risk – Category 1
    Information that is publicly available and poses little to no risk of negative consequences should it be seen outside the University:

  2. Medium Risk – Category 2
    Information typically used and shared in daily operational activities by University staff and faculty. This is not data we would normally publish outside of the businesses, but is not considered sensitive:

    • Meeting Minutes
    • Student coursework submitted to instructors
    • Preliminary research reports/results
    • Operational budget items (travel costs, office supplies, etc.)
  3. High Risk – Category 3
    Information that, if compromised, would be harmful to the University’s reputation or to an individual:

    • Employee/Student records
    • Payroll/Budget reports
    • Personally Identifiable Information (SIN’s, tax information, FOIP-related data)
    • Contracts and Terms
    • Passwords/Authentication information
  4. Critical Risk – Category 4
    Information in this category would cause significant damage to the institution if disclosed. Any data classified as a Category 4 should be given special attention as to its storage location, storage method and distribution channels:

    • Legal Proceedings/Appeals
    • Medical/Health information
    • Criminal Investigation results

(more…)