Community College of Rhode Island

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IT News

July 2013

Classroom Software

Classroom software

Every year, the Department of Information Technology collects information from all faculty members who intend to use technology-enhanced classrooms concerning the software they intend to use for instructional purposes.  In the past, IT sent out a list of the software that was currently on the computer image and asked people to take “ownership” of the software to help us establish the parameters under which the software should operate.  The goal was to design and configure the software so that the first day of class, everything would be ready to go.

This year, the approach has been a bit different.  A base image of the Microsoft Office Suite was the sole element initially included.  The Department of Information Technology asked each of the program chairs for additions that individual faculty members would require.  The response has been quite good and the image is getting built piece by piece to guarantee everything works together nicely.  Faculty members have been forthcoming with the various requirements they have and the versions that they will use.

The Department of Information Technology tries every year to finalize the image by August 1st to get it all loaded and ready for the fall semester.  This process is obviously coming to a close soon and the conversations and emails with individuals continue as the image grows.  If any chairs or faculty members have not contacted IT about their requests, please connect with Brad Boudreau (beboudreau@ccri.edu) or Dawn Lewis (dalewis@ccri.edu) as soon as possible.

Getting ready for the resumption of classes in September is a responsibility that IT takes very seriously and the success of our faculty members on the first day is extremely important to us.  Our goal is to make your classroom functional every time.

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Blacklisting Email

Are you blacklisted?When someone follows the instructions of a phishing email (clicking on a button without knowing the consequences, opening an unexpected attachment or sending someone your username and password), the problems begin.  Immediately that information is collected and at a later time, often in the wee hours of the morning, the hacker logs into the compromised email account and starts sending out SPAM message after SPAM message, flooding the email lines with more phishing attacks coming from the compromised account.

Once the various email systems around the world start getting this SPAM, they recognize it as such and immediately blacklist the sending site where the SPAM is originating.

Blacklisting is a process of actively monitoring the Internet for reports of email traffic from a variety of sources sending unsolicited email (SPAM) and then publicly listing that known information on Internet sites for others to reference as a measure to fight SPAM.  Many Internet Service Providers and independent organizations then use these blacklist databases as a filter applied to their inbound mail to prevent SPAM and to encourage internet security.

CCRI gets blacklisted when the SPAM originates from a CCRI compromised email account.  The open-relay/proxy lists are the most widely used blacklists since they are based on the presumption that a "SPAMmer" found an email account and likely had relayed a high volume of SPAM through it, causing that email account to be reported to the list by recipients of that SPAM.   Many of the better blacklists will run an automated script to verify that the evidence against that compromised email account is genuine before blacklisting the CCRI server.  Many blacklists will quickly de-list the CCRI servers if IT submits a request to retest the "repaired" mail server.  Of course, there will be time after you are de-listed (sometimes as long as a week), because the destination mail server administrators pull the updated lists at times they prefer.

Another method blacklist sites use to produce listings is that of "guilt by association". A blacklist site will list much larger blocks of accounts than those owned by the suspected abuser.  This is where CCRI is most aggressively affected since a single compromised email account blocks all email coming from CCRI causing lots of bounced emails.  Usually the reasoning behind this practice is that, by punishing innocent parties, the blacklister is putting more pressure on the Internet Service Provider to disconnect the suspected SPAMmer's Internet access.  Usually this is a result of an email message header (@ccri.edu) being connected to the SPAM.

The first clue that CCRI may have been blacklisted usually is that email senders will receive "bounce-back" emails from the destination to which they are attempting to deliver mail.  Some of these bounce-backs will inform the email sender of the technical reason that they were blocked but some will not, depending on the preferences of the email recipients administrators.

Generally the most expedient way of being removed from a listing is to contact the blacklist directly. Since blacklisting services each have their own procedures for adding and removing offenders, all complaints are sent directly to the blacklisting service. 

There are several ways to avoid being "blacklisted".  MAINTAIN and update all anti-virus software. CCRI’s anti-virus software manufacturer, Sophos, provides helpful information on virus definitions through a "threat list."  New threats of viruses are listed on a daily basis, while other viruses are re-coded and re-distributed.  Some of these viruses, called Stop Spam!worm-viruses, are self-propagating infections that embed themselves into system files - causing the virus to send out SPAM, without anyone’s knowledge, but that appears to come from your IP address.

DON'T SPAM!!! It is considered a violation of our Acceptable Use Policies and Guidelines to distribute unsolicited email. SPAMming is punishable by blacklisting, and has also been outlawed by many states.

Protecting CCRI from being blacklisted is everyone’s responsibility.  One compromised email account can cause countless problems and interrupt normal email traffic incoming and outgoing. 

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Emailing Students from Blackboard

Email students with Blackboard

One method of guaranteeing that email messages sent in bulk from faculty members to students is through the email functionality within Blackboard.  Today all course sections listed in the catalog are enabled in Blackboard.  Faculty members who do not wish to use Blackboard but instead want to communicate with their students through Blackboard can.

Blackboard does not have an email application separate from Microsoft Exchange.  However, faculty members can email all enrolled students in each individual course from within the Blackboard course using the Blackboard Email Tool. All faculty members do have access to each semester's assigned courses and the Email Tool. IT wants to encourage the use of this Email Tool in order to avoid those instances where CCRI has been blacklisted and as a result email might get blocked or bounced.

For additional details about how to use Blackboard, the Blackboard Email Tool and how to do bulk emails to students, faculty members should contact MaryAdele Combe (mcombe@ccri.edu) or Gene Grande (ggrande@ccri.edu).

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Last Updated: 11/7/14