Home Safe Home

This month, let's take a quick dive into one of the hottest topics in home technology, virtual assistants. We'll also learn more about safe network connecting on campus, and some some loosely related miscellany (including a summer camp craft) for your cyber-edification.

Here we go!

The Rise of the Virtual Valet

Comic of a librarian and a boy. Librarian says 'If you have a questions, I'm the lady who can get you the answer.' The boy replies, 'Pleased to finally meet you, Siri.'

You may be hearing buzz about “digital assistants,” those voice-activated devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple’s (forthcoming) HomePod that play music, change the temperature on your smart thermostat, switch lights off and provide amusing responses to queries like “why are fire trucks red?” They’re fun to play with, maybe even useful and everywhere, but they’ve also been called “the Trojan horses of the smart home.” So what’s the deal? Are these things safe? What do they mean for privacy?

Image of a virtual assistant. Caption: People in the 60's were saying the government will wire tap your home. Now people are saying, 'Hey Wire tap, can cats eat pancakes?'In one sense, digital assistants aren’t much worse privacy-wise than our web browsers. Alexa and Google both save your audio search history to improve speed and accuracy of future searches, allow you to quickly revisit answers to questions you’ve already asked and better decipher your vocal nuances. And just like our web browsers, there are generally settings to turn this off and/or delete your search history. 

Unlike web browsers, these contraptions do listen in on your household conversation, but they don’t record until activated by their particular cue word (e.g. “Alexa”). And they encrypt the audio zipping from your home to their data centers to prevent malicious (or recreational) eavesdropping.

Regardless, this "listening in" business does make us just a smidge nervous. Does our dubiety doom us to an assistant-less life? The folks at Wired magazine offer the following advice:

“If you're really freaked out by the concept of something always listening to you in your home, your best bet is a push-button voice assistant. Things like the Amazon Tap, the Alexa remote for Fire TV, or your phone with its ‘always listening’ mode turned off.”

Connecting Securely at UD and Beyond: Meet Eduroam

We’ve talked a lot about using caution with public wi-fi. Well, our networking team worked some magic so we can use the eduroam wi-fi network both on campus and when traveling within range of eduroam institutions. That’s automatic, secure wi-fi access both at UD and at hundreds of academic locations worldwide!

Go ahead - take a minute to set up your mobile device (phone, laptop) for eduroam by following the prompts at go.udayton.edu/eduroam. Quick, convenient and secure.

Home Safe Home of the Flyers

For many campus denizens, UD is our “home away from home”. This April, The Chronicle of Higher Education characterized a growing security threat facing our academic abode. University data is cash to hackers, and colleges worldwide are facing the pressure of keeping that info safe (you can read more here >>).

In the second half of the year, we’ll talk more about the challenges of “information security” - how it affects you, how it affects UD and how we all can help. Because, like so many other worthwhile pursuits, it takes a village.

Cyber-Mindful Summer Camp

Several happy campers submitted entries to last month’s challenge of finding something Cyber-Mindful Orange. Our favorite was Trista Cathcart’s original poster design:

Photo of orange scissors and confetti of passwords. It reads 'Data security?'

A close second was this cyber-mindful-mobile (perfect for a summer road trip).

Orange muscle car

. . . we think it could use a custom plate:

Ohio license plate that reads CBR MNDFL

Ready for our next cyber-mindful summer camp activity? Here’s a Cyber-Mindfulness zentangle to color by the pool. (Hey, what’s a zentangle?)

Let us know you’ve completed the job and we’ll send you a little something. Or join us for a Cyber-Mindful Cookies & Coloring on Friday, July 14 from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. in Miriam Hall 011. Bring your lunch and we’ll provide coloring materials and treats. Click here (and “Save”) to add a reminder to your calendar.

Bring your lunch and we’ll provide coloring materials and cookies!

The Phish Commish Says: It's A Fake!

As one cyber-mindful reader reported with the clip above, last month’s phish training message was hardly a Vulcan death grip. The scammy faux Google Doc from “William H.” only snagged a few dozen clicks - nicely done! Here’s the recap:

Red Flags

Reading Room

  • Smart technology is here to stay. Network World examines how to “successfully and securely deploy smart home technology” in a series of articles introduced here.
  • Amazon’s Alexa was recently asked to testify in a murder trial (she declined). This CNN article suggests the courts may continue summoning smart technology for jury duty.
  • Guess what? Google just agreed to stop mining our email content to sell to advertisers! Now they’re only selling our search history. Read more >>
  • Finally, for those of you fighting the summer slump, we leave you with this adorable meme of encouragement:

You go do the thing and we shall see you in August, friends. Stay cyber-mindful!