Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Gift Card Scams

A word of warning:  There is an email scam that has been around for around for a while.  It goes something like this...

Your principal allegedly emails you while in a meeting.  They ask you to buy iTunes gift cards to help them out with a project.  When you agree, they talk you into buying one or more $100 cards.  Then they ask you to send them the codes, since they are still in the meeting.  They promise to pay you back when they see you next.

What is really happening is:  (1) it's sent by a random person that just set the text next to their address to be the name of your principal, (2) they're going to sell those codes on eBay for $80 each, (3) they have no intention of paying you back.  Since the schools' principals are listed on our website and setting the text next to an email address is very easy, this is a remarkably simple scam.  It's much easier than actually breaking into someone's account and sending email from it.  So this is a low effort, high income scam.

I've seen several variations of this.  I've even heard of small churches being hit with messages claiming to be the pastor.

To protect yourself from scams like this:
  1. Always check with the alleged sender directly before spending your own money.
  2. Never send gift card codes in the mail.
  3. Check the actual email address.  On Gmail, you can click the down-arrow near the top-left corner of the message to see it.  See image below for an example.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wifi for Employees

Employees may now join their devices to the district's wireless network to gain Internet access.  Once configured, devices will connect automatically when in range of the district's network.

The exact directions will vary from one device to the next, but this article will give the generic information needed for all devices.  For example, the names of the buttons will differ between an iPhone or a Pixel, but the settings that both devices need are the same.

Please note that this will only allow Internet access and not access to internal-only resources, such as most printers and servers.  Resources which happen to be hosted off-site, such as email, Google Drive, and SchoolTool, will work.

The necessary settings are as follows.
  • Network name:  Staff
  • EAP method:  PEAP
  • Phase 2 authentication:  MS CHAPv2
  • Certificate:  "Trust", "Accept", or "Do not validate", as your device allows.  If asked to trust the certificate, make sure that it is from and expires on 10/2/22 at 2:05:10pm.
  • Anonymous identity:  Leave blank, if this option is presented.
  • Username:  Use the username that you would use on the Macs or PCs.
  • Password:  Use the password that you would use on the Macs or PCs.
For reference, this is what it looks like on iOS 10 on an iPhone 6 after selecting "Staff".

By contrast, this is what it looks like on Android 8 (a.k.a. "Oreo") running on a Google Pixel.

Once these settings are entered, they will allow the device to connect to the district's "Staff" wifi network as soon as the device can see it.  It won't prompt for these settings, including the employee's password, again.  If you change your password on a Mac or PC, you will have to update the setting on your personal device manually.

Please note that use of this wifi service is subject to the usual policies that apply to any district resource.

If you have any questions, please contact the Information Technology department through the usual channels.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Email Scam - Fake Shared Google Docs

There is a particularly effective email scam that tricks you into sharing permanent access to your Google account -- including all or your email.  In this article, I will show you how to identify it and how to recover from it.

It starts with an email message like the one shown below.  It is a very convincing looking notification of a Google Doc being shared with you.  (Names redacted.)

If you click "Open in Docs", it will ask you to authorize access.

It looks innocent enough until you look closer, because it claims to be "Google Docs."  But anyone can be named Julius Caesar;  it doesn't make them a famous Roman emperor.  Likewise, this isn't really Google Docs.  To figure this out, click on the words "Google Docs" and you'll see that it is owned by a random account and not

If you click "Allow," they will gain permanent access to your account, including all email and your list of contacts.  From there, they will send the same message to everyone in your address book.

So what do we do about it?

If you can spot the scam, then just close the "Google Docs would like to..." window.  You're lucky.  Lots of people are tricked by this.

If you were victimized, you need to do the following steps to kick the bad guys out of your account.  Until you do, they're still there.

First, click on your icon in the upper right corner of Gmail.

Then click on the big blue "My Account" button.

That will bring you to a page full of boxes of links.  Inside the "Sign-in & security" box, click on "Connected apps & sites".

From there, click on "Manage apps" near the middle of the page.

This will bring you to a list of apps and website that have access to your account.

Most are probably legitimate.  But if you see anything that you can't explain, just click on it to get more details.

You can see the date that you connected this app to your account under "Authorization date".  Use that as a guide.  If you just added the bad app, then it will have today's date.

If you want to remove something, click on the "REMOVE" button next to it.  If you can't find the button, you click on the item to make it visible.

It will double-check with you.  Click "OK" to continue.

When in doubt, remove something.  It is easy to reconnect apps to your account.

That is it.  Once you've kicked them out of your account, just keep an eye out for odd behavior. If someone shared a Google Doc with you, it won't ask you for access to your email.  So any Deny/Allow choices should raise suspicions.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Flash on Chromebooks

If you use any websites that rely on Flash, such as i-Ready, you may have discovered they have trouble on chromebooks.  This is because Flash has been slowly going away for a few years now and Google finally disabled it.  They're not alone.  Apple did this with Safari in June 2016 and iPhones way back in 2007.  FireFox will be doing it in 2017.

If you need to keep Flash running on a chromebook for a bit longer, you can do it using the directions below.

  1. Open a new tab and go to "chrome://plugins".  Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 11.21.28 AM.png
  2. Look for "Adobe Flash Player" and check "Always allowed to run".  Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 11.22.11 AM.png

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Screen Savers & Passwords

If you're using a Mac and it goes to the screen saver or goes to sleep, sometimes it will "lock."  When it wakes up, it will ask for your password to unlock.  It just wants to make sure that you're really you and not someone who sneaked up while you were out of the room.

If this feature is getting in the way, you can adjust it.

First, go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.

Next, click on the "Security & Privacy" icon.

Lastly, make the adjustments you want.  This could include lengthening the delay so it is 15 minutes or even an hour instead of 5.  You could even turn it off entirely.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

LucidChart: Presenting & Zooming with Charts

LucidChart just added a new feature to make presenting charts more interesting.

First, you use LucidChart to make a mind-map, flow chart, food web, organizational chart, or some other chart.  Then you designate areas of the chart as "slides."  When you're ready to present the chart, LucidCharts will zoom in to the first slide, then the second, and so on.

For a better explanation, check out this one minute video.

If you're familiar with Prezi, this is similar.  Unlike Prezi, LucidChart can store its files inside Google Drive, right next to your other files.  LucidChart is also capable of more complex charts and making charts for printing.

To give this a try, just go to your Drive and click on "New".  Then go to "More" and "Lucidchart".

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

FlippityNet Quiz Show

If you want an easy-to-build, "Jeopardy"-like game show to run in class, check out Flippity Quiz Show.

Just click on "this template" and then "Make a copy" and you'll get a spreadsheet.

Change the headers from "Category1", etc. to the categories that you want to use.

The lines have labels like "100Q" to show that its the 100 point Question or "100A" for the 100 point Answer.  Change the questions and answers (and categories) to suit your needs.

When you're done, click on "Get the Link Here" at the bottom of the screen.  Follow those directions, and you'll get a link named "Click here to go to your Flippity Quiz Show".

When its time to run the game show, turn on your projector, open this file, and click on the link.  That will open up your quiz show.  The quiz show can have up to six teams by using the "+" and "-" buttons at the bottom of the screen.