The move this semester to Office 365 as Eastern’s student email utility may be a factor in a reduction in compromised accounts, says the university’s information security officer.
“It’s been pretty good since the start of the school year,” said Assistant Director of Information Security Mike Gioia. “We haven’t had any compromised accounts for a month or two now, and it seems like phishing attempts are down, too.
The switchover from Zimbra to Office 365 to handle student email could be a reason why, he said.
When Eastern administered its own student email service, it had limited information about the most current email hacks and scams. But Microsoft, which operates Office 365, has comprehensive, up-to-the-minute information about email security threats and so is better able to protect against them, Gioia said.
“With the move to Office 365, under Microsoft’s phishing rules, which could be stricter than ours, they could more easily identify what’s phishing and what’s not,” he said.
Payment card breaches, such as those at Home Depot and Target, have been grabbing national headlines when it comes to security concerns in recent months, he said.
“There is a lot of money to be made in accessing someone else’s banking and credit card information,” he said.
The black market price for credit card account numbers can be as high as $100. Hackers sell them in bulk after obtaining them through fraudulent means, then buyers use them to make big-ticket purchases. When they are found out and a card is shut down, they simply move on to the next one.
There is little consumers can do to protect themselves against such breaches and identity theft, Gioia said.
“Unfortunately, unless you go back to using cash to buy everything, there’s nothing you can do about breaches. They focus on payment devices to capture information, so it’s hard to determine if a system is affected or not,” Gioia said.
It is better to use credit cards rather than debit cards for most transactions, he said, because purchases made on credit cards are dependent upon the issuing bank’s funds, whereas those made with debit cards draw on the user’s account.
“The banks are more apt to fight fraudulent charges because it is their money, not your money. It’s a lot less hassle for the owner of the account because it’s not their money they’re trying to get back,” Gioia said.
With the fall semester getting underway, Gioia urged Eastern students to be vigilant in protecting their email and account passwords.
“You want to protect your ID at all costs,” he said. “Make sure not to give out too much information to friends on social media sites. Don’t ever give your passwords or credentials or your Social Security number to people you don’t trust. As a student, make sure you are always backing up your data and information so that if your computer crashes, you have copies.”
Information Technology Services began migrating the campus email accounts of ITS personnel to Office 365 this week, in preparation for the eventual transfer of all employee email accounts at Eastern this semester.
The switch in email service providers used to power PantherMail, Eastern’s campus email service for faculty, staff and students, from Zimbra to Microsoft, is being made to provide improved functionality and reduce service costs. “ITS personnel will be moved over first, then the rest of Business Affairs employees along with employees of the Center for Academic Technology Support, the general idea being to work out the process and any issues before the remainder of campus being migrated in October,” said ITS Director of Infrastructure Technologies Brian Murphy.
Student email accounts were migrated to the new system last spring.
Murphy said email users will notice a new Microsoft Outlook graphic interface when they sign into their PantherMail accounts but that the new system is intuitive and easily navigated. Many of the features and capabilities of the existing PantherMail client are included in Office 365, including regular email, contacts and address books, a calendar, tasks, and folders.
New benefits of Office 365 include full Windows and Mac support, 50 gigabytes of email storage and one full terabyte of OneDrive storage, collaboration ability between faculty, staff and students, as well as reduced licensing costs that enable the university to save money.
A review of the Office 365 migration and product functionality can be accessed by going to the PantherMail log-on page (a link available at the top of the Eastern home page) or by going directly to http://www.eiu.edu/its/helpdesk/o365fs/
Following the migration of early adopters, ITS will migrate remaining active employee, annuitant, and group account mailboxes to Office 365. When that schedule is available, it will be posted on the ITS Office 365 Web page, and departments, which will be migrated as units, will be notified. Two days prior to migrating, a reminder email will go out to departments to make their personnel aware of the pending move.
The following items will be moved to Office 365 for most faculty and staff.
- Email folders
- Email aliases
Below is a list of known items that will not be migrated automatically.
- Contact groups (distribution lists)
- Calendar and folder shares
- Mail filters
- Briefcase items
- Large emails (25MB or more)
Prior to the migration, employees should take the following steps in preparation:
- Export Zimbra briefcase items, if you wish to save them.
- Make note of any folder or calendar shares.
- Make a backup of your address book, including contact groups/distribution lists.
- Make note of what mail filters you have in place.
- Identify and download email attachments and emails larger than 25MB.
- Save a copy of your signature.
After their accounts are migrated, employees will continue to go to https://www.eiu.edu/panthermail to log in to the Web interface to access their email. If an employee is using additional software or a mobile device to check their email, the software or device will need to be reconfigured.
If email users have question about the transition, ITS, CATS, ISS’s and other technical staff on campus will be coordinating efforts and schedules to assist in the transition for faculty, staff, and annuitants.
A list of frequently asked questions relating to the migration project is available at http://www.eiu.edu/its/helpdesk/o365fs/
The Union Bookstore is now providing personal computer hardware support for students at Eastern.
The resource, new this semester, is called the Union Tech Zone and provides walk-up help desk support for many technology-related issues. The Union Tech Zone also is an authorized repair center for Apple, Dell, HP, and other brands of computers, performing warranty work for Apple products and non-warranty repairs for HP, Dell and others.
The Union Tech Zone provides service to student personal computers. Services and repairs for EIU-owned computers used by faculty and staff still are provided by Information Technology Services.
Union Tech Zone services include:
- Troubleshooting hardware and software issues.
- Operating system repair/virus removal for student-owned computers.
- Backing up, restoring and setting up new machines for EIU students.
- Most repairs done on-site from certified technicians.
Rental computers are available if computers must be sent off-site for repairs.
Services offered at no charge include:
- Spyware/malware cleanup and removal.
- Assistance connecting to the EIU wireless network.
- Answers to software questions.
- Warranty repairs for Union Tech Zone vendor (Apple) parts purchased in the Union Bookstore will be installed at no additional cost.
Services offered for a fee include:
- Memory (RAM) installation, $25 (Student must provide memory).
- Hardware, accessory, peripheral or software installations, $35.
- Computer operating system and software reinstallation’s (Deletion of all data, installation of OS, all drivers, Windows updates and EIU virus protection), $50.
- Data back-ups and restorations, $25.
- Hard drive replacements, $69 – $89.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
For information, call 581-5960 or email email@example.com.
Construction activity in the Student Services Building on the campus of Eastern Illinois University has prompted relocation of walkup Help Desk facilities beginning with Fall Semester 2014.
Work related to the installation of an elevator to improve access to upper floors of the Student Services Building has necessitated moving the walkup location of Campus Technology Support’s Help Desk to Room 1040 — just a few feet down the lower level hallway of the Student Services Building — from Room 1014, in which the Help Desk had been located. Students, faculty and staff can still walk in at the new location to receive in-person assistance with their technology issues.
Campus Technology Support continues to provide assistance with your technology-related questions. You may receive assistance by Live Chat (http://www.eiu.edu/its/helpdesk/livechat/), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), by walking in to the lower level of the Student Services Building or by calling 217 581-4357. You also may follow on Twitter, @eiu_itshelp
Staff members will be able to assist you with troubleshooting and how-to questions on a variety of computer, application and connectivity issues related to accessing EIU services. Staff members also have the ability to assist you remotely using an application called LogMeIn. This is a very helpful tool and often times allows first-call resolution.
When contacting Campus Technology Support, please have the following information available:
- Name and E-number
- If an employee, the EIU red tag number on your computer
- Phone number
- Full description of the problem and nature of the error message
Repair work on desktop and laptop computers now being performed under contract by Advanced Microelectronics, in coordination with Information Technology Services, will be moved in-house this summer.
Beginning July 1, contracted computer hardware and software support provided by AME will be done by ITS personnel, resulting in substantial financial savings to Eastern and providing continuity of service to faculty and staff at the university.
Eastern has contracted with AME for computer warranty repair work for the past 10 years, but that relationship is ending, and by rolling that support function into ITS, the university expects to save $50,000 to $80,000 per year in costs, said Assistant Vice President for Information Technology Services Kathy Reed.
Chadd Gaston, who has been the AME service technician on campus for the past five years, will become a member of ITS and continue performing work similar to what he did as an employee of AME, with added duties as a desktop technician in ITS’s User Services desktop technicians unit.
“After looking into it and what we were paying, we figured it was more cost effective to bring the work in house with an Eastern employee rather than have it contracted out,” said ITS Associate Director of User Services Dave Emmerich.
Under the contract program, hardware warranty work on university-owned Dell and Hewlett-Packard PCs and Apple machines was done by AME in a workshop located in the lower level of the Student Services Building, in coordination with ITS (Gaston will continue to work out of SSB Room 1041). Warranty work, as well as ordinary hardware repairs, also was performed on students’ personal computers, including those brands and other brands, at an hourly shop rate. AME also provided printer support for campus printers, operating system repairs and virus removal for student-owned machines and backup, as well as restores or setups of new machines for students.
Under the new regimen, student computer repairs will now be done through the Campus Bookstore, located in the University Union, and students should take their computers there for warranty work or ordinary hardware repairs or operating system problems starting July 1.
Gaston said that as an employee of AME, he worked on an average of 25-40 university-owned computers per month, plus about 20 student personal machines. He said that in recent years, the university has been rotating computers in and out more frequently, resulting in an inventory of machines that is newer overall, requiring less repair work. That, along with computers that are better built, and other factors, lessened the need to contract out repair work.
“It’s going to be a very smooth transition because I am already aware of ITS policies, procedures and expectations,” Gaston said. “I know the people I will be working with and they know me, and I am looking forward to it. I’ll be doing the same basic job, just reporting differently.”
Information Technology Services has completed the migration of more than 20,000 student email accounts to Office 365.
The transition, from Zimbra-based PantherMail, which had been used to provide official campus email service for students for several years, to Office 365, began May 13 and was largely concluded May 24.
The move was made to provide improved service to students while saving licensing costs for the university.
About 22,000 student accounts were migrated as part of the project.
“For the most part it went smoothly,” said ITS Associate Director of User Services Dave Emmerich. “There were a few ‘gotchas,’ but we were able to figure them out.”
Students who encountered issues with some of their email folders or messages were able to call the Help Desk to get assistance, and any problems were resolved.
The changeover will save on Zimbra software licensing fees and free up data storage, which will make possible other subsequent cost savings.
One of the primary advantages of Office 365 for students is the inclusion of 50 gb of cloud data storage space with the account.
Although the move to Office 365 will mean a new email interface for users, it will not affect students’ NetIDs or passwords, nor their email address or mailbox content. Students also will continue to log in to their accounts from the current PantherMail webpage.
The change will provide students with a number of new resources, chief among them free access to the full version of Microsoft Office suite applications, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Lync, SharePoint and more. This includes rights to download and install copies of the newest Office desktop applications on up to five Windows PCs or Macs owned by the student, as well as rights to run iPhone or Android editions of Office Mobile. Purchased by individuals, Microsoft Office can cost $150 or more.
While Office 365 will be practical on all digital platforms, the mobile-friendly application is expected to be especially convenient to students who, more and more frequently, access their university email accounts via their smartphones.
If he didn’t want to, Dr. William Weber wouldn’t have to worry about the long-term future of information technology at Eastern.
After all, the university’s vice president for Business Affairs, whose portfolio of responsibilities includes oversight of Information Technology Services, will be retiring May 31.
But even though he’ll be moving on to the next phase of his own life, Dr. Weber’s personal and professional affinity for IT, along with his family’s decades-long connection to the university, won’t let him be unconcerned.
“Information technology at Eastern is in very good shape,” Dr. Weber said. “There’s no doubt we are doing better in this area than many of our peers. There are few institutions of our type – public, comprehensive universities – that offer the level of technology support for students, faculty and staff that we offer.
“The abilities that our faculty have to incorporate technology in many different ways into classrooms, the academic technology equipment we have in our classrooms across campus, the strengths of our Internet infrastructure and technical support, and our wireless buildout – all of these things we can be quite proud of,” he said.
That’s how Dr. Weber assesses the current and near-term state of IT at Eastern. Farther out, it’s not easy to make predictions about the direction of technology, he said, not to mention the uncertainties of state funding for higher education in Illinois and the resulting impact on budgets.
“Long-range thinking about technology is extremely difficult,” Dr. Weber said. “In the 1960s and ‘70s, popular culture envisioned the computers of the future as big, monstrous things. It’s still hard to comprehend that I carry in my pocket a device with the computing power of something that sat on my desktop less than 10 years ago.”
Industry hasn’t done much better.
“Look at the rise of mobile computing. Microsoft has huge talent yet never figured it out. Apple, despite all its talent, has really never been successful at Web services. Social networking and its consequences is something we never would have predicted 20 years ago. My point is that there are a lot of people much better versed on the issue than I am, and I don’t know that they have figured out what will happen with technology in the long run.”
While the future of information technology is wide open, paying for that technology at Eastern is more problematic.
“Moving forward, I think we are going to enter a period of consolidation in technology,” Dr. Weber said. “We’re simply at the point where we can’t afford for everybody to have their own type of system. We’ve got to make the transition to something more closely resembling a shared-services model. We’re going to have to have greater consolidation of technology resources so we can more fully utilize the resources we’ve invested in technology.
“There’s no doubt that we’re going to have to invest to keep improving our technology infrastructure. We’re going to have to continue to aggressively build out wireless to support ‘any device, any-time, any place’ learning. We’re also at the point where a lot of the equipment we invested in as part of the Internet upgrade back in 2004 is reaching end of life, and we’re in the process of doing those upgrades.”
Paying for technology is not a new problem, however, Dr. Weber said.
“Even back in the day when we were first talking about what was then called ‘Distance Education,’ affording technology and choosing the right areas to invest in were issues. I remember when we used long-distance telephone revenues to finance our IT infrastructure and then we had to find a new revenue stream when students started using cell phones instead of the landlines in the residence halls. Funding our IT investments is not a new challenge; we’ve always been faced with that,” he said. “At least one advantage of technology is that once a standard becomes clear, prices come down and come down rapidly.”
One tool he hopes to see implemented to help the university make the right choices is a “virtual space” where faculty, students and staff can submit and explore ideas to help choose technologies on which to spend.
Dr. Weber, who earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Kansas in 1985, has worked at Eastern for 26 years and in higher education for a total of 30 years. He joined the faculty here in 1988 and was promoted to professor in 1995. He was appointed vice president for Business Affairs in 2009.
His time as the university’s chief budget officer coincided with a period of diminished financial support from the state of Illinois.
It was just six months after he started his current post that the state’s cash-flow issues began, in fiscal year 2010, with Springfield delaying its payments to universities and state agencies by as much as six months.
“In my tenure as vice president, we have not seen a year in which we received our full appropriation in the fiscal year it was due,” he said. “It would have been nice to have seen a good budget year. It has taken a lot of approaches to survive.”
Those approaches began with stringent spending controls, then the building and tapping of capital reserves and then the aggressive use of carry-forward funds. Now, the university is in the midst of program analysis to determine where future budget cuts must be made.
Dr. Weber has spent the latter years of his career at Eastern as an administrator focusing on university finances. But he has always considered himself an educator, and looking back at his career here, he counts his work on behalf of faculty at the university as one of his most important achievements.
“When I first took a leadership role in the faculty union, University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100, our faculty salaries were in the 10th and 20th percentiles relative to our peers nationwide,” he said. “Today, we’ve been sustaining faculty salaries in the 50th and occasionally the 60th percentiles. The improvement in faculty salaries took a lot of work and commitment from a lot of people. That, and other contractual language in Eastern’s UPI agreement, I’m really proud of that work.”
Dr. Weber said he also takes pride in his contributions to collaborative strategic planning efforts to delineate the university’s direction as well as his role in developing Eastern’s mission statement. A more recent favorite accomplishment has been his involvement with the colored-lighting system to illuminate the front of Old Main: “If you haven’t seen the Fourth of July lighting display for the castle, it’s worth it,” he said.
Though he will be stepping away from his current role at the end of May, Dr. Weber’s efforts on behalf of Eastern will not end, and he plans to remain in Charleston. This summer, he will conclude work on an Educational Advisory Board study of college affordability. He also will be making a presentation at a gathering in Seattle of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and he plans to travel to China to visit and lecture at Linyi University.
He also has not ruled out returning to the classroom to teach economics or mathematics, having a role in the School of Continuing Education or taking on ad hoc projects that may arise in the future.
Personally, he hopes to take a cruise to Alaska this summer and expand his avocation for digital imaging and editing.
As he reflects on his career and prepares to step back, Dr. Weber said he is not thinking in terms of his legacy or how his contributions are remembered. “I just hope that people recognize that throughout all 26 years, whatever role I played, I tried to do what was best for the students, faculty and staff of the university.”
Dr. Weber recounted how his grandmother started college at Eastern in 1930. Although marriage and years of raising a family intervened, she never gave up on her dream of earning a degree, even attending classes with her daughter – who would grow up to be Dr. Weber’s mother – in tow. In 1959 – 29 years after attending her first classes at Eastern – she finally earned her degree in education from Evansville College (now the University of Evansville) in Indiana.
“Eastern has always been a special place for my family,” he said. “It gave my grandmother her start, and it’s given me a fantastic 26-year career.”