All in a day’s work

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 4, 2017

An “unplanned” electrical outage left the Extension 4-H Building and a few other places on the north side of campus in the dark for a few hours one morning last week. Yet our extension folks persevered, until their computer batteries started getting low on juice and the WIFI went down as well. Then they packed up and headed for other parts of campus or home that had electricity and internet access and got back to business. Because dealing with changes in technology, of any kind, is all part of a day’s work for extension personnel.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the university soon will roll out a new application to help protect our data. Keeping our data safe is all in a day’s work for our tech people. Did you know?

  • This new application, called Okta, will provide “single sign-on,” which means you will log in once to access all your work-related web applications – Office 365, Cybox, Qualtrics, Access Plus, etc.
  • Okta provides multi-factor authentication. This is stronger protection than your password alone. To log in to Okta, you will type in your Net-ID and password. You also will verify your identity using a second method, such as an application on your cell phone or a code sent via text message.
  • Multi-factor authentication relies on something you know (your password) and something you have (application, text message code, etc.). If your credentials (your Net-ID and password) were to be stolen, the thieves still would not have access to your data, because they would not have your phone or the text-message code.
  • The university plans to implement Okta early in 2018. Extension IT will keep us posted as we get closer to the implementation date.

We also have a responsibility to keep our data safe, and a best practice is to change our NET-ID passwords every six months. (I just changed mine on my computer and phone.) Follow the instructions from Extension IT or call the Computer Support Hotline at 515-294-1725. For regular IT updates, visit the Extension IT website and subscribe to Tech News.

A couple more notes

  • The Partnership Agreement (formerly known as the MOU) template/checklist to facilitate discussions among ISU Extension and Outreach, fair boards, and school boards locally is nearing completion. A brief video from the three state partners, the editable template and supporting materials soon will be available online. Check my update on Monday, Dec. 11, for details.
  • About that power outage – Facilities Planning and Management blamed it on a failed cable. The Extension 4-H Building was back online by noon.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Innovation, sustainability and cyber security

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 15, 2017

Using what works from past experience – something sustainable – to create something innovative. That was the topic of our 2017 Annual Conference and the challenge we put forth in our follow-up request for proposals. I am pleased to announce the recipients of our four $2,500 innovation and sustainability grants.

  • Jennifer Best, Scott County; Full-Service Community Schools Initiative – Davenport. Extension and Outreach will work with Madison Elementary and community leaders to educate families about a new preschool site, enroll neighborhood 4-year-olds in the program and support the families. Their goal is to ensure a best start to the children’s academic career.
  • Danielle Day, Dubuque County; Dubuque Farm to Institution Local Foods Project. This program will help build relationships between local farmers wanting to increase their scale of wholesale production and institutions looking for ways to increase their procurement of locally grown foods.
  • Leah Feltz, Hamilton County; Engaging the Latino Community. Hamilton County 4-H plans to grow sustainable relationships with strong informal leaders and beneficial programs within the Latino community. They also plan to add interpreters to their 4-H Clover Kids programming to grow a sense of belonging within their services.
  • Jed Findlay and Willy Klein, Advancement; Portable Educational Display for the Land Grant Legacy Project. Advancement will create a portable interactive media display containing stories, profiles and facts about Iowa’s land grant legacy to connect more Iowans to Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach. The goal is to offer an experience that strengthens a sense of community as it helps people from different cultural groups, backgrounds and interests begin to fashion a local culture that expresses their unity in being Iowan.

Another way we innovate is through technology. Before I started this interim vice president position, I signed off on “ANR by the Numbers,” a mini annual report for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach. In 2016 we reported on our increasing engagement online – including 7.7 million webpage views, nearly 6 million unique visitors to our websites and more than 4 million downloads (webinars, podcasts and presentations). On May 1 enrollment opened for another ANR offering – an online review course to help Iowans prepare for the Certified Crop Adviser examination. The course includes presentations on crop, pest, nutrient, and soil and water management – all linked directly to CCA performance objectives. Participants can access the material on their schedule. CCAs work with farmers on nearly every acre every year, so the impact of this education is significant.

Online engagement is a big deal for all our program areas, units and departments in ISU Extension and Outreach. It also can be a huge vulnerability, as we increasingly do our work on our portable and hackable laptops, tablets and smartphones. We need to keep cyber security top of mind.

Have you changed your Net ID password lately? If you have, you are in the minority. Extension Information Technology says only 27 percent of ISU Extension and Outreach staff and faculty passwords are less than 1 year old. Did you know?

  • 49 percent of ISU Extension and Outreach staff and faculty passwords are 1 to 5 years old.
  • 11 percent are 5 to 10 years old.
  • 13 percent are more than 10 years old.

Passwords are not like our vehicles where age and miles are a point of pride. If you’re using an old password, it’s time for a change. If you’re using something easy, like cyclone1 or your dog’s name or 12345, it’s time for a change, too. I changed mine while I was writing this update. Now it is your turn.

Longer, complex passwords or passphrases are more secure than shorter, simple passwords. Good, strong passwords protect your personal information as well as the business, research and educational information of the university. Extension IT recommends changing your Net-ID password every six months (I put the reminder on my calendar.) and has suggestions for selecting a password that’s harder to hack. Follow the instructions  or call the Computer Support Hotline at 515-294-1725 if you need help. You’re going to be hearing more on this topic from University IT and Extension IT.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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