Hacked—It Stings!

Posted by Tim Landeck on July 14, 2013

Just when I thought it was OK to leave the safety of my district’s content filter and venture into the growing realm of social networking (SN), I was stung by the mighty SN wasps—my Twitter account was hacked! Before I knew it, I was advertising a weight loss program to all of my Twitter followers. To add to the confusion I actually had just lost some weight and won the “losers weight loss contest” at the district office. Many were aware of my improving health and thought I was endorsing a specific weight loss program! Even if you haven’t been hacked yet, find out how to prevent it.

Wasp face on.
Photo credit: Wim van Egmond. Used by permission.


How I knew that I was hacked

One morning I began to receive emails from friends and colleagues asking if my Twitter and Facebook accounts had been hacked. When you receive multiple versions of these emails within a couple of hours, it’s time to check it out as quickly as possible. I looked on my Twitter account and sure enough, I was advertising for a new weight loss program. It’s embarrassing to have your account hacked, especially for a “techie” like me; I wanted to stop the unauthorized posts as soon as possible.

How to secure your Twitter account

  • Step 1: Change your password ASAP. Usually this is how your account was hacked so changing your password will bring the addition of new, unauthorized posts to a halt. You can increase security by making your password long and complex,  such as IhateGetting365Hacked!
  • Step 2: Disable unnecessary third party applications.  Log into your Twitter account and under settings (look for the gear in the top right hand side of your web browser window) click the Apps menu. Look through the applications that are presently authorized to post to your account and make sure that you truly need and want each of those applications to have access to your account.  Revoke access for all the apps that you don’t recognize.
  • Step 3: Remove any saved passwords to your Twitter account that you may have on various computers and mobile devices.
  • Step 4: Run an antiviral software program on all computers that you use regularly to be sure that you don’t have a virus or keyboard logger on any of your computers
  • Step 5: Reset your password again.

Although being hacked and sending unwarranted posts to hundreds of your followers is a horrible thought, don’t let it prevent you from utilizing social networks. Twitter, Facebook and other social network sites provide excellent tools for educators. Just play it safe by following the steps above.

For more information, visit Twitter’s Help Center.





Don’t Just Say No

Posted by Bob Blackney on October 26, 2009

Should we allow students to bring electronic files to school?  Every district faces this question.  What’s more, it’s an issue that does not warrant a simple yes or no answer because it pits two foundational goals against one another.

On one hand, we are educational institutions.  Our base purpose is to foster our students’ learning.  There is certainly educational benefit to students being able to move their files from home to school and back again.    Preventing access to external files makes learning more difficult for students and teaching more difficult for staff.

On the other hand, we have a mandate to provide a safe and secure environment for learning.  Free file exchange between home and school comes with serious risks.  Some students may bring inappropriate videos or photos.  Disgruntled students or pranksters may introduce viruses  or other malicious software.  Even the most responsible students may, by opening an innocent looking email attachment, spread malware that brings down networks and takes an already overworked technical staff weeks to locate and eradicate.

Districts have sought a secure, effortless and cost effective method to allow students to safely transfer appropriate files to and from school.  Unfortunately, most approaches are less than ideal.  Yet, without a secure technological solution, how do you balance the need for educational support and technological security?

In Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, we rely on the professional judgment of our site technology leaders.  They work with staff to analyze each situation thoughtfully and make daily decisions on student safety.  To maintain a balanced policy, site leaders work with teachers and other staff to consider factors such as:

  • Is there a compelling educational need to transfer files?
  • Are the students likely to use the resources well?
  • Can accessing district servers from home provide the needed resource?
  • Does the staff member making the request have the technical skills to assure it is used safely?
  • Is the educational pay off on the proposed activity worth the risk?

Weighing the nuances of the potential rewards and mitigating the district’s exposure to risk requires information, assistance and judgment.  Such deliberation is not unique to technology; the same process applies when considering the value of other proposals such as field trips, school assembly programs, or even tuning in to the President’s speech to students!

It is incumbent on technology leaders to help all staff members understand complicated technological issues as well as to be open to the needs of staff members.   We have relied on site staff for a number of years and have not had any serious issues to this point.  We trust, communicate, and partner with all staff to keep our network safe and our students learning.