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Winter 2015 Faculty/Staff Edition

eCommunicator is a quarterly newsletter about technology tools, services, and support at Northwestern University.

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eCOMMUNICATOR

Faculty/Staff Edition Winter 2015

What to Do When an Information Security Incident Strikes

A computer containing sensitive data (research, student details, financial information, medical data) is hacked, lost, stolen. The device is compromised. It can happen to you—so what do you do?

It’s this simple—the minute you think something’s up, contact your local technical support team or Security@northwestern.edu, change your NetID password, and disconnect the device from the campus network (unplug the network cable and turn off Wi-Fi). If it is a compromise, taking these actions quickly can significantly lessen the impact and potential damage.

Conducting research and have a suspicion that a server has been hacked or data leaked? Laptop stolen on the train? A fast reaction can protect years of work and lots of private information!

If You See Something, Say Something

Many people assume a compromised computer or device will be glaringly obvious—tons of pop-ups, weird website redirects, obviously strange computer behaviors. In fact, it often serves the hacker better if the disruptions are minor and the victim ignores the warning signs. This is especially true if the compromise includes key-logging software to track what’s typed—including passwords, banking information, and emails.

If something about your computer seems even slightly off—it’s responding slower than normal, settings change unexpectedly, you start receiving system warnings, new files or folders appear that you don’t remember creating—it could be a sign of a compromise.

Some additional clues to be on the lookout for include:

Once a compromise has been reported and confirmed, that’s when NUIT’s Information Security Response Protocol kicks into action. A team of representatives from NUIT and other key areas across the University can help you and your department assess the incident, craft any necessary notifications or other communication, create a plan to minimize the impact of the threat, and determine any corrective measures needed to resolve the issue.

But remember, none of those steps can happen if the incident isn’t reported—you are the key to information security.

An Ounce of Prevention

Of course the best way to deal with a security incident is to prevent it from happening in the first place. NUIT talks at length about ways you can protect yourself and the information on your devices, from installing and using antivirus software to learning how to spot a phishing email.

NUIT also offers a Vulnerability Assessment Program to help you take control of your security. Read more about this program in NUIT’s profile of security analyst Tim Lekan.

To learn more about reporting security incidents involving sensitive or protected data, be sure to read NUIT’s Information Security Incident Response Protocol.

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