Please Welcome SSCC's New Help Desk Monitors

We're pleased to introduce SSCC's first student Help Desk Monitors. They will be covering the Help Desk in the afternoon, allowing our professional staff to focus on other tasks. The Help Desk will now be open until 4:00 again, as usual.

Brandon Fernandes is a sophomore majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He is originally from Jakarta, Indonesia and has staffed help desks as an intern at IBM in Jakarta, the DoIT walk-in Help Desk, and the Law School Help Desk.

Zack Marks is a sophomore Sociology major in the CAR program with a certificate in Computer Science. He comes to us from from North Carolina. This will be Zack’s first time working at a help desk, but he is quite familiar with SSCC services as one of our student members. (Yes, this means we'll have two Zack/Zach's once Zach Heise returns later this summer.)

Changes to VPN

The University is replacing its current Cisco AnyConnect VPN solution with Palo Alto GlobalProtect VPN. We'll put instructions for how to make the switch in the SSCC Knowledge Base soon and email them to our VPN users. The end result will be very similar. We hope that most people will be able to make the switch over the summer, but if you're away and run into problems AnyConnect will continue to work through September.

One advantage of GlobalProtect is that we'll be able to configure laptops to always connect to the SSCC network. This means your internet connection will always be encrypted, you'll always have access to SSCC's network drives, and we'll be able to manage patches and updates on your computer just like desktop machines in the Sewell Social Sciences Building.

Time to Renew SSCC Member Accounts

The Social Science Computing Cooperative has a policy requiring annual renewal of all accounts. For those with Lab accounts, this process will happen in the fall. SSCC Members should click on the following link and fill out the (very brief) form:

Please take a moment to renew your account right now. Member accounts that are not renewed will be closed on June 15th, 2018.

Not sure if you have a Member account or a Lab account? Click on the link and log in, and it will tell you if you don’t need to renew your account at this time.

Summer Training

SSCC's summer training schedule has been posted. In addition to introductions to Stata, R, and NVivo, we have two workshops on Stata tools for creating better output. Publication-Quality Tables will focus on using the esttab command to create tables of results you can copy into your paper, while Dynamic Documents with Stata Markdown will show you how you can have Stata generate the entire paper.

We're also hosting a campus Data Carpentry workshop. While the curriculum was not designed specifically for social scientists, it will introduce you to tools some SSCC members may find useful, including SQL, OpenRefine, and Python.

Qualtrics Contract Being Rebid

UW System has decided not to automatically renew our contract with Qualtrics for their hosted survey service. The current contract has been extended until June 30, 2019. This fall there will be a request for proposals (RFP), after which UW System will choose a new provider. It is expected that Qualtrics will be one of the candidates.

We recognize that some SSCC instructors rely heavily on Qualtrics for class projects, and we'll continue to keep you informed of developments. We hope many of you responded when the UW-Madison Qualtrics team requested information about how Qualtrics is used on campus, but SSCC staff made sure they were aware of its instructional role and we're told that information will be built into the RFP.

Beware of Phish

Your inbox is a dangerous place. Nine Iranian hackers were recently indicted for hacking the accounts of about 8,000 university faculty and staff members at 300 institutions, including some at UW-Madison, with phishing being their primary tool for doing so. UW System recently carried out two simulated phishing attacks (one asking you to review a grant purchase proposal, and one telling you you'd been enrolled in BadgerPay), and in the first trial more than 5% of recipients clicked on the included link. Classic phishing tries to trick you into revealing your account credentials, but similar techniques can be used to trick you into installing malicious programs on your computer.

There's been an increase in more sophisticated phishing attacks than the ones you're used to, where bad grammar and generally shoddy construction makes them easy to spot. In "spear phishing," the hacker spends time researching the target in order to make their email much more convincing. UW System's simulated attacks were typical of spear phishing. Your best defense against spear phishing may be your instincts. The human brain is very good at pattern recognition, and if something feels wrong about a message pay attention to that feeling even if you can't articulate a reason for it at first. If you're not sure about a message, check with the sender or ignore it: if someone really needs to give you important information they'll try again, while hackers will usually move on to more gullible targets. You can report phishing attempts to DoIT (recall that they manage all email on campus now).

We know no one is perfect. That's why we have strengthened the security of new computers we deploy, in particular by limiting how new software can be installed. We can't stop you from accidentally entering your username and password on a deceptive web site, but we can stop hackers from using those credentials to install malware like keyloggers or ransomware on your computer. Given the sensitive data used by SSCC researchers, a data breach could have disastrous consequences for everyone.