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Keeping information technology at the forefront of strategic planning helps advance not only UAB but also the Birmingham community, UAB and city leaders told members of the Alabama CIO Leadership Association Thursday, May 25, at a meeting of the group on campus.

“There is no question that IT is at the center of everything we do,” said UAB President Dr. Ray L. Watts said, noting that to achieve a world-class health system and provide resources for ground-breaking research, a strong IT infrastructure is key. “The role of IT is advancing our mission. Continued strategic planning around IT is vital for our organization.”

Watts credited UAB Vice President and Chief Information Officer Dr. Curtis A. Carver Jr. with making great strides in improving UAB’s technology infrastructure, security and research computing over the past two years.

“It’s hard to believe how much we have accomplished in the past two years under Dr. Carver,” Watts said.

Among the IT accomplishments at UAB since June 2015 are one of the fastest university supercomputers in the Southeast; the fastest university internet in the state; and a more than fivefold improvement in the service rating of the AskIT help desk.

But UAB is also taking a leading role in improving the technology ecosystem in Birmingham — in fact, enhancing the community of IT excellence is one of UAB’s seven IT imperatives.

UAB is working to extend its successes to the community at large, with the expansion of the 100GB network to Innovation Depot expected by this fall, which will give the city a competitive advantage when attracting new businesses.

UAB has also partnered with Innovation Depot and other businesses on a grant to train new technology employees in the community.

The first Innovate Birmingham class graduated in May, with 15 of the 18 graduates taking jobs at local businesses, including two at UAB IT.

The new workforce initiative is giving young people opportunities to succeed — and helping to supply the growing need for technology employees, said Josh Carpenter, UAB director of external affairs, principal investigator for the America’s Promise grant that paved the way for the Innovate Birmingham program.

Innovation Depot has been a partner in Innovate Birmingham, housing the classes for students and taking an active role in the program. Director Jennifer Skjellum said building partnerships in the technology community is key to growing Birmingham.

“Our overall mission is to grow the technology ecosystem — and to make sure there are a lot of ecosystem partners,” she said.

Carpenter said the city can be a role model for even larger metropolitan areas through programs such as Innovate Birmingham.

“Birmingham is small enough to create alignment,” he said. “That’s extremely rare in large cities. We’re small enough to move the needle on something like youth unemployment, but large enough to provide scalable solutions.”

Bob Crutchfield, operating partner with Harbert Growth Partners, said UAB is a “crown jewel” for the city.

“UAB has been an igniter for a lot of the things we are trying to do in downtown Birmingham,” he said.
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Two new staff members joined UAB IT last month after graduating from the Innovate Birmingham Workforce program, a unique grant-funded program designed to connect young adults in the Birmingham area to high-demand IT careers.

The inaugural class of Generation IT students graduated from the Innovate Birmingham Workforce program on May 5 during a graduation ceremony held at Railroad Park.

For Allante Jowers and Tristian Scarborough, the opportunity is one they don’t take lightly. Both are new technicians on the AskIT help desk, which recently earned a fivefold improvement in its customer service rating.

Jowers said he is prepared to “carry (the opportunity) to the finish line.” He aspires to merge his love for cooking and technology to create a business that innovates Birmingham.

Prior to enrolling in the Innovate Birmingham program, Jowers was a student at UAB majoring in information systems with a minor in business management. Scarborough has been working on a second novel. Their new roles in AskIT are only a first step in helping them to achieve their ultimate goals of owning their own business.

“This puts my life and family’s life in a better position by creating a better direction for all of us,” Scarborough said. He is still figuring out his next steps in life, but knows he wants to “be impactful and push the limits as far as he can go.”

Jason Johnson, associate director for AskIT, said, "UAB is honored to have the graduates from Innovate Birmingham on our team. They are very eager to contribute and have already started using their skills learned in the program. We are very excited to have this opportunity for Tristian and Allantè to grow their information technology career with UAB."

The inaugural class consisted of 18 students, all from the Birmingham area. Other graduates had secured job offers from companies including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and Regions Bank.

“Invest in the talent of young people, and they will rise to the moment,” Josh Carpenter, director of external affairs at UAB and principal investigator for the America’s Promise grant, told those assembled at the graduation.

UAB President and Birmingham Business Alliance Chairman Ray L. Watts said, “An opportunity like this for our area young adults through the Innovate Birmingham Workforce program is just one of many ways Birmingham is making sure innovation will thrive in the coming years. I want to thank all our partners for their leadership and congratulate the talented graduates for their hard work. We all wish them the best in their new and exciting careers.”

The graduates completed the 12-week program that involved intensive technical and professional training at Innovation Depot. The Innovate Birmingham Workforce will train and prepare young adults to fill 925 high-wage jobs by 2021.


Protecting yourself online also helps protect everyone. Follow these six recommendations to better protect yourself online and make the Internet more secure for everyone:

  • Fortify each online account or device. Enable the strongest authentication tools available. This might include biometrics, security keys, or unique one-time codes sent to your mobile device. Usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts such as e-mail, banking, and social media.
  • Keep a clean machine. Make sure all software on Internet-connected devices — including PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets — are updated regularly to reduce the risk of malware infection.
  • Personal information is like money. Value it. Protect it. Information about you, such as purchase history or location, has value — just like money. Be thoughtful about who receives that information and how it is collected by apps or websites.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Cybercriminals often use links to try to steal your personal information. Even if you know the source, if something looks suspicious, delete it.
  • Share with care. Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it, and how it could be perceived now and in the future.
  • Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It is okay to limit how and with whom you share information.
student computer

Faculty at UAB have begun using a new automated communications tool in Canvas that allows them to send messages to students who have missed class or who have not logged in to view information about the class.

Instructors across campus have found that the tool not only benefits the students, but also the faculty in the classroom.

Stephen Yoder, assistant professor in the Collat School of Business, said the automated alerts not only helps to remind the students to remain committed, but Yoder has also found that “I am engaged as well.”

The intent of the messaging is to increase student engagement and retention.

Alerts can serve as the guardrail for students who may need a wake-up call to “nudge them back on track,” as Josh May, assistant professor of philosophy, describes it.

“The alerts are especially useful for online classes,” May said, since students are not required to physically attend in-class lectures.

The alerts work for classes big and small, notes Mitzy Erdmann, instructor in the Department of Chemistry.

“The alerts are easy for instructors to set up, and I will definitely use them in the future,” Erdmann said.

Faculty members can use the automated alerts through their faculty profiles in Canvas.
WannaCry header

UAB’s cybersecurity protections have warded off “WannaCry” ransomeware. To date, this malicious software has had little effect at UAB because of security protections put in place by UAB IT. However, the UAB community should remain on guard to protect from future threats.

The ransomware attack using what’s been called WannaCry software has locked computers in more than 150 countries, exploiting vulnerabilities, and has already inspired similar attacks.  In a ransomware attack, malicious software can encrypt and block the data on your computer or device — and hackers can then demand payment in exchange for the return of access to your data. 

The UAB community must be aware of the risks to avoid being tricked into installing malicious software on their computers, which can then also spread to other computers on the network.

This kind of attack is not new — it is a new twist on an old crime — but the rapid worldwide spread of WannaCry heightened media attention.

Over the past year, UAB IT has been putting new protection methods in place that help guard against such cyber attacks.

Among the new defenses:

  • SCCM, or Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, provides automated patch management to systems across campus. Patch management helps protect against potential malicious intrusion and allows the network to be monitored constantly — that way, immediate action can be taken if a patch has yet to be released when a vulnerability is discovered. Patch operating systems, software and firmware on devices. A centralized patch management system, like UAB’s SCCM, is the best way to manage system patching. SCCM patched many UAB systems against the WannaCry malware more than a month before the outbreak. Anyone who is not using SCCM is encouraged to contact AskIT to work with UAB IT staff to deploy it on their systems.
  • Default-deny is a new firewall posture implemented late last year to better protect against intrusions by external attackers. The posture, which is considered a best practice, means only approved network services are allowed. Everything else is denied to help protect the network — and UAB and employees’ and students’ data. This posture protected UAB’s systems from external WannaCry scans and infections.
  • PhishMe simulated campaigns and PhishMe Reporter tool have helped increase awareness of the dangers of phishing emails among UAB students, faculty and staff.  Phishing scams often take the form of fraudulent emails designed to trick users into revealing sensitive or protected information, such as usernames and passwords or bank information, but posting as a legitimate entity such as your bank, social media sites — or even the university president.
UAB faculty, staff and students are urged to remain vigilant against phishing attacks. To guard against phishing and ransomware attacks:

  • Be aware that you are a target.
  • Scrutinize links contained in emails, and do not open attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Report any suspected phishing emails.
  • Keep all software on your computer up to date.
Automatic email forwarding to a non-UAB IT account is permissible, but be sure you understand the risks and policies that affect you.

Storage or forwarding of Restricted/PHI data is not permitted in uab.edu email.  However, if you receive an email containing Restricted/PHI information and you have configured your mailbox to forward to a third party; this will lead to a breach of this information.


Also, UAB IT encourages faculty, students and staff not to automatically forward email to non-UAB accounts because of the lack of security oversight of those types of services; data protection concerns around FERPA and HIPAA; and the desire to guarantee the best possible supported user experience on campus.

If you choose to set up email forwarding, please note:

  • Any UAB message, regardless of location, is subject to UAB open records policy.
  • Any phishing remediation resulting from forwarding messages will be charged back to the individual, not the department.
  • Information forwarded to third parties, outside of UAB contracts, could constitute an unauthorized disclosure of restricted information. You are liable for these disclosures.
  • It is a violation of UAB HIPAA policy to forward email containing sensitive information or Protected Health Information to public email systems.
In an effort to better protect the UAB community from cyber threats, specifically the increasing number of phishing and malware attacks that students, faculty and staff are experiencing, UAB IT is enabling URL Filtering at the UAB internet connection. 

URL filtering technology starts by assigning each known website into different risk categories and can be configured to allow or prohibit access to these sites based on these categories. As part of this implementation, UAB IT will be protecting networked systems from access to the most dangerous categories, malware and phishing. The changes will be effective on May 20.

Users can test a site’s categorization here.

The upcoming change does not impact any servers or services located within the UAB Health System network.

If you have any specific technical questions, feel free to contact the Enterprise Information Security staff at 975-0842 or via email at datasecurity@uab.edu.
UAB IT will host two online town halls this month to explore alternative options for the UAB Dropbox service.

Town halls will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 18, and at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 23.

Join the May 18 town hall here, or call 205-996-0000 and enter conference ID 514784.

Join the May 23 town hall here, or call 205-996-0000 and enter conference ID 795562.

The current UAB Dropbox is nearing the end of life, or end of sustainability, and UAB IT will be evaluating options for replacing it or encouraging use of current cloud collaboration services. UAB IT will offer a survey following the town halls for members of the campus community to express their opinions about the options.
UAB IT's office for institutional cell phone service and support is moving to the TechConnect store, located at the Hill Student Center, effective Monday, May 8.

The cell phone office has been located in Cudworth Hall.

The new location is a better fit with the services already offered at the store, which provides sales and service for personal technology purchases for students, faculty and staff.

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are encouraged and can be scheduled via e-mail to Ed Ramsey at eramsey@uab.edu.


In just six months, UAB IT has improved its customer service rating from a 0.4 to at least a 2.2, according to HDI, an industry-leading customer service consultant. 

Since summer 2016, UAB IT has made improvements in the AskIT help desk a main priority — with UAB IT leadership, including Vice President and CIO Dr. Curt Carver, taking time answering phone calls from students, faculty and staff.

New training, standard knowledge sharing and process improvements have helped AskIT's technicians deliver a more consistent customer experience for the UAB campus community.

"We've really been pleased to see these changes coming through," said Karen Buckner, director of operations for the School of Nursing's Dean's Office.

And improvement plans don't stop there.

"We're strategically working to better analyze and track the types of issues our customers are having so that we can develop better processes and improve our system so you don't even need to call us because we've already identified the trend," said Jason Johnson, associate director for AskIT.

"Our goal is to solve your problems quickly, so that you can get back to work and get back to changing the world," Carver said.
In an effort to provide transparency and measurable results, UAB IT’s Infrastructure & Operations has developed a new infrastructure service level agreement (SLA) to govern managed server provisioning, maintenance, and support.

The new SLA is currently being reviewed by existing clients for feedback and planning sessions and includes topics such as Service Descriptions, Support Procedures, and Standard Maintenance Windows.

The new SLA will take effect for new customers starting in May 2017 and will be published in the Service Catalog

Existing customers will be moved to the new SLA upon renewals in FY18 with the existing rates staying the same for FY18.  However, Infrastructure & Operations is working hard to develop new services and new rates under this SLA in order to stay competitive with the various consumer cloud infrastructure services and to appropriately protect UAB’s IT resources, such as networking and data security, with new contracts and new cloud-based services.

UAB IT’s Infrastructure & Operations will next be working on similar SLAs and Service Roadmaps for Storage & Backup Services, Colocation Services, and Mail & Web Services to be available by the end of the summer within the Service Catalog.

For questions or comments, please reach out to Rachel Moorehead, 205-934-5065, rmoorehead@uab.edu, executive director of infrastructure & operations.
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UAB IT is now dropping the cost of maintenance for digital signage from $45 to $30 a month. There will also no longer be an upfront license fee.

These changes are to ensure that UAB IT is doing its part “to provide a consistent, cost-effective digital signage solution for campus," said Robert Howard, associate vice president and deputy chief information officer.
UAB digital signage offers dynamic, vibrant messaging with easily adaptable, branded content. With proper hardware, signs can even be interactive.

UAB digital signage offers branded content, automatic emergency notification integration and media flexibility. It is easily managed and maintained through a simple web interface.

For more about digital signage, click here.
As part of UAB's ongoing efforts to enhance email security, UAB IT will be implementing several security improvements during April.

These enhancements include additional support for data loss prevention (DLP); enabling email encryption; and improving our protection against phishing campaigns. Additional details will be forthcoming when these services are implemented.

Data loss prevention support will include more email policy tips, similar to the credit card number policy tip implemented in March.

Email encryption will give those who use Office 365 email the opportunity to use an extra layer of security when sending emails, if they choose.

Protection against phishing campaigns will include methods to avoid UAB email servers being blacklisted.
A technology upgrade in Heritage Hall classroom 442 is earning rave reviews from those who use the classroom.

All of the technology in the room was upgraded: the computer is an all-in-one touch-enabled Windows 10PC; the AV controls were updated to the new classroom standard, with a new control panel with intuitive icon-driven interface; new, brighter projector; and Blu-ray player controlled by the touch panel.

“The Crestron system that controls the room will eventually be monitored remotely to ensure more efficient maintenance and support,” said Walt Creel, manager of classroom technology.

Academic adviser Raven M. Dials said she appreciated that UAB IT sought feedback from instructors and others on campus before making changes in the classroom.

“I had a guest speaker this past Tuesday, but she used the system and it worked great and looks amazing,” said academic adviser Raven M. Dials. “I was happy to see the upgrade as I was having issues every week with the projector shutting off in the middle of my presentations as well as our guest speakers. Thank you for taking the time to have it set up and asking for feedback!”

Academic adviser Courtney White added, “The new system is great. The old one would shut off about 10 minutes into my class every week and take me about five minutes to get the projector working again. I had absolutely no issues today.”

Learn more about the classrooms UAB IT serves here, and get the status of classroom technology here.
EmailtotheCloud

UAB IT is planning to migrate UAB employee and faculty email to Office 365, a cloud-based system that offers new tools and continuous upgrades to improve the service and environment.

Office 365 offers several advantages for users, and because email is in the cloud, it is not dependent on UAB facilities being available when the user is off-campus. Office 365 is also the email system that students use.

After two successful pilot programs, UAB IT has been migrating the email of customers served by Desktop Services throughout the month of March.

On April 7, UAB IT will begin migrating all campus employees' email to Office 365, with migrations taking place in waves throughout the summer. Employees whose email will be migrated will be notifed by email the week before the migration, with detailed instructions about how to prepare for the change.

There are three main steps that employees can take to prepare for the most successful email migration:
  • Update to Microsoft Office 2016.
  • Ensure your user name is set in the format "BlazerID@uab.edu" on ALL of your devices.
  • Ensure that your email is in what is called "cached mode." 
             To enable cached mode:
                   1. Go to File click the Account Settings button and select Account Settings
                   2. Select the account with Microsoft Exchange as the Type, then click the Change button
                   3. Under Offline Settings, check the box for Use Cached Exchange Mode
                   4. Click Next, Finish.
You can find details about these steps at uab.edu/Office365. Contact your department IT staff or AskIT if you have any questions.

UAB IT will host an online Town Hall meeting about the migration for campus IT professionals on Monday, March 27, at 1 p.m.

Click here to learn more about the migration.
Beginning Apr 15, 2017, access to the Report Viewer application will be limited to UAB Campus and Hospital networks, or for external users via VPN.

A VPN is used to connect a remote user to UAB campus resources that are restricted for reasons of security and/or licensing constraints.

For detailed instructions and downloads, please visit uab.edu/VPN. Anyone who has trouble accessing this resource from off campus should contact AskIT at askit.uab.edu.
With the latest Firefox update (52.0) and subsequent updates, Java, Silverlight, Adobe Acrobat, and other plugins will no longer work.

Use Internet Explorer 11 to access Oracle and any other system that relies on the above applications.

Click here for more information from Mozilla. 
April UAB IT Security Awareness

Identity theft is a real threat; it can happen to anyone, and it can be challenging for victims to deal with the fallout. 

The following tips can help you prevent identity theft.

  • Read your credit card, bank, and pay statements carefully each month. Look for unusual or unexpected transactions. Remember also to review recurring bill charges and other important personal account information.
  • Review your health insurance plan statements and claims. Look for unusual or unexpected transactions.
  • Shred it! Shred any documents with personal, financial, or medical information before you throw them away.
  • Take advantage of free annual credit reports. In the US, the three major credit reporting agencies provide a free credit report once a year upon request.
  • If a request for your personal info doesn’t feel right, do not feel obligated to respond! Legitimate companies won’t ask for personal information such as your social security number, password, or account number in a pop-up ad, e-mail, text, or unsolicited phone call.
  • Limit the personal information you share on social media. Also, check your privacy settings every time you update an application or operating system (or at least every few months).
  • Put a password on it. Protect your online accounts and mobile devices with strong, unique passwords or passphrases.
  • Limit use of public Wi-Fi. Be careful when using free Wi-Fi, which may not be secure. Consider waiting to access online banking information or other sensitive accounts until you are at home.
  • Secure your devices. Encrypt your hard drive, use a VPN, and ensure that your systems, apps, antivirus software, and plug-ins are up-to-date.
If you become a victim of identity theft:

  • File a report with the US Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
  • Use the identity theft report to file a police report. Make sure you keep a copy of both reports in a safe place.
  • Flag your credit reports by contacting the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742), or TransUnion (800-680-7289).
60 Sec Survey Student Page

UAB IT wants you to take a 60-second survey to tell us your communication and technology preferences.

The quick 10-question survey will give UAB IT more information about how to communicate with our customers and will let us know what technology services are most valuable and important to you.

UAB IT appreciates the feedback from students, faculty, staff and researchers to help determine technology priorities and communication methods.

Take the survey here.

Emailing Sensitive Information

Sending credit card numbers and personally identifying information via email makes you more vulnerable to identity theft.


Beginning late Friday, March 10, UAB IT will implement policy tip warnings via email if it appears you are trying to send a credit card number via your UAB email account.

These warnings are intended to alert you to potential danger and help you protect yourself.

The popup policy tip will say: "The content of this email appears to conflict with UAB Policy regarding unsecured transmission of credit card or other personally identifiable information. Be safe and review the email content before sending."

With Friday’s introduction of the policy tip, emails will not yet be blocked from being sent. But emails that appear to include credit card information will eventually be blocked — both in incoming and outgoing emails.

“Sending credit card information, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal or financial information is extremely dangerous and could leave you vulnerable to identity theft,” said Brian Rivers, assistant vice president and chief information security officer. “Our goal with these policy tips is to help protect our students, faculty and staff.”

In the future, UAB IT will add more policy tips and preventive measures to protect other sensitive information — including Social Security numbers — from being transmitted via email.