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Friday, August 1, 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 Yearís 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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Tuesday, November 7, 2006 - Almanac Vol. 53, No. 11

Carelessness with consequences

Don’t let this happen to you; it could. Dave, a business administrator, discovered that dozens of his department’s employees’ salaries, SSNs, and performance appraisal ratings were publicly available on the Internet.

Dave was computer savvy and had been given responsibility for the department’s web accessible database. Though not an expert, he thought he knew enough to get the job done. However, in today’s complex web environment, he didnít know enough about how to protect data. Thinking a database set up on a widely used database application would be accessible only to three of his colleagues, he was shocked to find some of the data accessible by Internet-based search engines. He assumed a hacker had stolen the data.

In fact, no one had broken into the computer. Rather, while setting up the database, Dave had accidentally placed the private file in a public folder, available to anyone on the Internet. The entire file was indexed by two of the major search engines.

Two critical lessons can be learned from this situation:

  • If you aren’t knowledgeable about security-related practices and techniques in building web-based databases, then ask for help from your local computing support provider or consult with ISC Security (

  • Do NOT store Social Security Numbers unless there is no alternative. Use the PennID instead. If you wish to convert your SSNs to PennID, please contact Vicki Fullam in ISC’s Data Administration Group at 746-6376 to get information about a new tool scheduled for pilot testing in December.


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