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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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One Step Ahead: Almanac Security Tips - 2014

In each issue, Penn's Journal of Record, The Almanac publishes helpful tips and hints for dealing with information security and privacy matters. This page is a collection of all those published thus far.
New! You can now receive new One-Step-Ahead Security and Privacy Tips automatically!
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Table of Contents (view all)

Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability
Security and Privacy Tips for World Travelers
Filing Taxes Online This Year? Take Steps to Protect Your Information!
If your computer runs Windows XP, you must update it now!
Why Should You Report Security Incidents? And How Do You Report One?
Photo and Video Privacy Issues
The Password is Dead, Long Live the Password!
Data Privacy Month: NSA Surveillance Panel at the National Constitution Center
Protecting Your Finances During This Year’s Holiday Shopping Season
Beware of Phishing E-mails in the Wake of Typhoon Haiyan
No E-mail from Penn Will Ask For Your Username/Password or SSN
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act: Does It Apply to Your Website?
October: National Cyber Security Awareness Month; Free Secure Disposal of Paper and Electronics
What Basic Rules Protect Student Information at Penn? (September 2013)
Protecting Privacy and Security on Penn + Box

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Tagged with software , security , IM

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - Almanac Vol. 55, No. 22

Instant Messaging and Penn's Jabber Service

In recent years, more and more people have found Instant Messaging (IM) services from companies like America Online, Google and Microsoft a useful way to communicate and exchange data with other users in a "real time" way that even e-mail does not afford. However, there are dangers and pitfalls to using these mass-market IM channels. As with e-mail, you can't always be absolutely certain the person you're swapping messages with is really who he/she claims to be. Another concern is that nearly all these services do not encrypt messages in transit, giving an opportunity for hackers to "sniff" the network and intercept them. Most IM services also permit transfer of files between users, and as with the danger of infected e-mail attachments, this can be leveraged to introduce malware into the user's computer. It's generally better to not use the major IM services for exchanging sensitive or confidential information, but here are a few tips to make IM use a bit safer:

  • As with e-mail attachments, don't open files you receive via IM unless you’re absolutely sure of the sender's identity and what the content or purpose of the file is.
  • Never transmit sensitive or confidential data on an unencrypted IM channel (see the paragraph on Jabber, below).
  • Try not to reveal too much information about yourself in your IM profile, including your choice of "screen name," e.g. "RoxboroughRon".
  • Make your profile and presence available only to your "buddy list," and restrict your chat sessions to them as much as possible.
  • If you use public, lab or other multi-user computers for IM sessions, do not enable any automatic login feature.

If you are a current user of, the Microsoft Exchange server operated by ISC's Networking & Telecommunications division, or the PennNet Phone service, you have access to an encrypted IM service using the popular Jabber protocol. In addition to encryption, this service requires PennKey authentication, so using it to chat and exchange data with other Penn users provides assurance of the identity of the person at the other end of the channel. For more information on Penn's Jabber service and IM client software for use with it, visit


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