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Phishing emails, SMS and WhatApp messages offering payment relief during lock down

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

A new potential threat has emerged as we enter the 2nd week of the national lock down and facing the beginning of the new month with bills  to be paid.

Phishers are already targeting the South African public with so-called COVID-19 phishing scams, attaching malware infected attachments and encouraging victims to click on a link to download “important information about the COVID-19 pandemic”.

However this week’s scam involves emails, SMS and WhatsApp messages being sent with information about “Payment Relief” from South African banks.

While it is true that most major South African banks are offering payment relief measures to their customers, phishing scammers have grasped this opportunity and adapted their tactics to send emails with content like the following:

“Dear Valued Customer,

“At ABSA Bank, we realise that this is a difficult time for our customers and businesses whose financial means are being negatively affected. After careful consideration and engagements with The Minister of Finance the, Hon. Tito Titus Mboweni, we are pleased to offer you, as a valued customer, a once-off access to a comprehensive relief programme. Please click on the following link to see if you qualify for payment relief.

VERIFY YOUR ACCOUNT

This is a once-off offer made to selected customers and will close at midnight on 2 April 2020.”

This is one such e-mail, but similar scams with forged identities from other South African banks, as well as Whatsapp and SMS messages will also surface. Note the specific deadline and the call to verify your account. Your bank won’t ever ask you to verify your account by email and certainly won’t give you a day to make such a decision. 

If you need to make use of a relief programme, rather contact your bank directly than reply to an online message. 

Here is a collection of the current verified details for payment relief from South Africa’s 4 major banks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 [ARTICLE BY DAVID WILES]

ICT ready to enable business continuity

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

During the last two weeks the IT environment at SU pulled out all stops to prepare a virtual study and work environment.

Since the announcement of lock-down regulations by the President on 23d March, the possible work scenarios are now much more limited. The restriction of movement and staying at home, will effectively terminate 99% of all traditional work or study activities on campus, and will now be done online, from home.

This scenario has specific implications for all IT services and applications. Our goal is to enable all ICT-based services and applications to staff and students working from home, with the same richness and quality that existed before.

The preparation covered multiple domains, some of which we can control, and others where we depend on collaboration of service providers and national negotiations in this regard. The preparation of all computing facilities on campus for remote access will be finalised over this coming weekend, after the scheduled maintenance work is completed.

The ICT serviced desk (ICT Partner Portal) is currently inundated by support requests like access to applications and platforms. The support agents and system engineers are doing their utmost to serve everybody as soon as possible, and we appreciate the patience of our users.

I’m confident that SU will overcome the short-term challenges, and that the ICT ecosystem will enable business continuity off-campus. We’re almost there!

Attie Juyn (Senior Director: ICT)

Academic IT: when IT has to become your best friend

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

In these unprecedented times, many staff and students are rightfully concerned about how they will teach and learn online. Everywhere we look online, the world has been talking about online learning. While we are, understandably encouraged by the interest that these discussions and social media posts have generated, we need to recognise that Online Learning is not the first choice for many, and in some cases shouldn’t be. We note that the emergency measures in place necessitate a new relationship with IT, and because of this, would like to make this as easy a transition as possible. The Stellenbosch University Learning Technology Systems are managed as an ecosystem with the Learning Management System, SUNLearn, as the hub for facilitating teaching, learning and assessment.

Consultation with partners, Faculties and the Division for Learning and Teaching Enhancement have been on-going since Friday, 13 March 2020, and will continue to ensure the stability of the service we offer. SUNLearn, through integration with the student information systems, includes all registered academic modules.  This allows Lecturers to have access to all students online, and supports an ongoing effort to assist students in having access to their lecturers even when they are not physically able to attend classes or tutorials.

We have been receiving daily questions from Faculty management across the University, staff and students regarding the availability of the LMS and its’ role during this time. Some of our frequently asked questions are shared below, and we encourage all to use the service desk for additional queries: https://learnhelp.sun.ac.za

Frequently asked questions:

  1. What if I don’t have reliable access to an internet connection, how would I be able to access the content my lecturer is uploading?

The SUNLearn Mobile app is available for download for both Android and iOS devices. Installing the application will allow you to download most content that a lecturer has uploaded to your device when you are connected to the internet. You will be able to read and study your content without an internet connection once you have downloaded the content. If your lecturer uses interactive, self-guided lessons, these can also be completed offline and synced to SUNLearn once you are connected again.

  1. I want to create content for my students, but am not sure where to start? Can IT provide me with a license to stream my lectures?

Right now, we encourage the academic community to limit the amount of content that is live-streamed to students. By doing so, we limit the cost for data from both staff and students. For short “face-to-face” sessions, Adobe Connect sessions can be scheduled in a SUNLearn Module. Adobe Connect is the preferred streaming software for lectures and is fully integrated into SU systems. Should you opt to utilise another 3rd party streaming platform like Zoom, we are unable to assist in support for this product.

  1. I don’t have my own laptop or computer at home, how can I teach/learn online without it?

If you have a mobile phone or tablet device with Internet access, SUNLearn Mobile allows for a range of interactive strategies like text-based chats, audio feedback on assignments, and audio/video uploads directly into a discussion forum. Lecturers can create and share instructions and activities via the Mobile app for their students.

  1. Won’t SUNLearn crash with everyone being online at the same time and uploading a lot of extra videos?

We have strongly recommended that the Division for Learning and Teaching Enhancement advise and train lecturers in strategies to keep modules as “data light” as possible by structuring modules for asynchronous learning first, while adhering to our SU regulations which require academic content to be accessed via SUNLearn. This includes storing videos and other multimedia on SharePoint and linking this to a module instead of embedding it directly into SUNLearn. We have seen software giants such as Microsoft, Zoom and Moodle Online all struggle to keep up with the higher demand over the past week. SUNLearn is hosted on-site, this means that we are able to limit the influence of the global demand on our LMS. However, as with any other system, user cooperation in best practice approaches will be key to ensuring the stability and access for all.

  1. I have never used SUNLearn to teach, how can I make sure that my students are supported with no experience of how to do it?

The Centre for Learning Technologies, our partner in providing a robust Learning Technologies Ecosystem, are responsible for supporting lecturers during this time. Please contact them directly via https://learnhelp.sun.ac.za . The end-user support team will redirect any queries for pedagogical support to the Advisor and Blended Learning coordinators tasked with this support. The end-user support team also have a range of guides available for those who wish to make use of a self-help approach.

SUNStream, our established and integrated streaming solution, has been in use for a number of years at SU. This solution, utilising Adobe Connect, is currently being upgraded and migrated to a new on-premises server. This maintenance will ensure that the higher usage of streaming services will be supported once the expected requirement for streaming resumes after 30 March 2020.

There have been a number of requests for IT to support a recommendation for the use of Microsoft Teams as a streaming solution for the academic environment. While MS Teams has virtual meeting, recording and storage capabilities, there are a number of security, integration and access considerations that need to be taken into account for users who wish to use this software for teaching purposes.

With our relatively small team, the cooperation and hard work of both IT and Academic partners, we are focused on ensuring the success of all maintenance work currently underway to provide the necessary system stability for the new term. This means that other IT-projects are, regrettably, unable to receive priority attention at this stage. We thank the University community for understanding this and supporting our efforts during this time.

We acknowledge and thank the staff working to provide this support during these stressful times, and their commitment to ensuring that a stable and functional system remains available to all.

 

[Article by Lianne Keiller – Manager: Learning Technology Systems]

Working remotely toolkit

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Despite current circumstances we still need to ensure that staff and students are enabled to continue with their work and research. Below we suggest the necessary tools for effectively working online remotely. The ICT Partner Portal is our preferred method for reporting or requesting especially during these trying times. Please use the ICT Partner Portal to automatically receive an ICT reference that can be used for feedback.

All these tools have been thoroughly tested by the IT Division and are recommended and supported. The following tools are available:

CITRIX GATEWAY

Citrix provides users with a secure access and single sign-on to web applications or software as a services solution. The following web applications are available and accessed through https://suvpnweb.sun.ac.za:

a. Real time accessed Database (RTAD)
b. Phambili Facilities Management
c. Workspace (WRRC)
d. ARCGIS                                   

VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN)

Allows access to the entire University network from any internet-connected location. VPN is only necessary if you require secure access to servers, devices, applications that are only accessible via the University network. 

VPN is needed to use:

a. SSH or remote desktop to your work computer/server, usually for access to specialist software or resources.
b. Full drive mapping (G: , H: and P: ) and scope of services as if you are in your office.

To apply for VPN, log a request on the ICT Partner Portal and select the Remote Access option right at the top. More information on VPN on our blog. 

CITRIX

The remote interface to centrally hosted application, requires the installation of the Citrix client application on the user’s personal computing device.

Citrix is needed for:

a. Teraterm (Administration applications)
b. SUN E-HR (only with relation to Ad HOC Payments)

To apply for Citrix, log a request on the ICT Partner Portal and select the Remote Access option right at the top.

SKYPE FOR BUSINESS

A unified communication platform that includes instant messaging, presence (with the status option, be able to check availability of colleagues), file transfer, video conferencing.

MICROSOFT TEAMS (MS Teams)

A versatile collaboration HUB for teamwork. Users can create teams to collaborate and work together – the MS Teams application can easily be installed from the Microsoft Store – Office 365 Training . More information on Teams on Microsoft’s website.

ONEDRIVE FOR BUSINESS

Files are available anywhere on all devices – store, protect, share them with colleagues (co-authoring).
End-users are encouraged to copy (synchronise) their files from the home directory to their OneDrive Stellenbosch University storage space.

With work switching to online platforms and the need for online meetings using Microsoft Teams, we strongly advise staff to upgrade to Office365. The following applications will work without any special access requirements from your home:

Office including Teams and Skype for business

Sharepoint

Onedrive

SUNLearn in client and development mode.

Webaccess to your mapped drives from my.sun.ac.za 

To enable any of these tools, log a request on the ICT Partner Portal.

 

 

 

IT support during COVID

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

In line with SU communication regarding the operational needs and our staff’s well-being Information Technology also must limit the exposure and levels of infection of our IT Support staff.  Until further notice the following logistics are applicable to ensure the continuation of IT support to the University community:

ICT Partner Portal

For any support, please log a call on the ICT Partner Portal. In case of requests to work from home, please note that a request type for the remote access has been created which you can select on the entry page. A reference number will be emailed to you and a technician will be in contact. Please do not send an email to help@sun.ac.za.

Remote Assistance

Technicians assigned a request will contact the user and support will be provided remotely. 

No deliveries or collections

Until further notice desktops, laptops or mobile devices will not be collected or delivered. Technicians will contact the end-user telephonically and arrange for pickup or delivery of their devices from the demarcated areas at the IT HUB.

No support available at end-user residence

For end-users already working from home only remote assistance for support will be provided. No IT Technicians will be called out for support

 

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