Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oh Goody, WIFI @ Work

This past summer MMSD hooked our school up with wifi. I, as well as other teachers, found this a great convenience. I could now save data costs when accessing email and surfing the web. Many of us are on limited data plans, so this was a nice perk.

Not so fast. In order for wifi to be accessible it needs to be open. This allows netbooks, your phone, or other devices to automatically log on.  Remember our discussion about https:, well an open network is not secure or encrypted.

This is not too big a risk with Google because all sessions are https:. If you are not on a https: connection you should assume the communication is public. I would highly recommend visiting the Google Dashboard - google.com/dashboard - to find out exactly what information is collected.  It is important to remember MMSD not you is the you Google is referring to. All the information collected is legally MMSD's not yours.

Most of the information you see should be of little surprise. Mail, Calendar, Blogger, Picasa, Chat, Sites are all MMSD domain services so you should assume MMSD owns this data. One you need to be careful of is Google Music. For some strange reason you can not use YouTube on the MMSD domain but you can upload music.  Be aware if you do upload your music collection this data and your use of it is accessible to MMSD.

Both I-Phone and Android use Google sync to varying degrees. This keeps your email, calendar and other services in sync. If  you use Android your email and Market account are one and the same. I wanted access to work and personal email on my phone as well as work calendars. You will notice both work and personal email accounts are listed, and should assume MMSD has access to this data, although not any content from your personal account. In addition, Android Market allows you to choose which account to purchase apps on. If you don't want this information shared with MMSD, make sure you are purchasing apps from your personal not work Gmail account. I would also suggest not purchasing apps at work.

I want to be extra clear here. MMSD does not have access to your personal gmail just data about gmail accounts associated with your phone. When you sync you are linking the device to your district account. If this bothers you I would choose not to sync your work gmail account to your phone.

Also since the wifi is open any simple sniffer program could access un-encrypted communications (WSJ I am thinking of you). You may want to opt to just use the data service that comes with your phone if you are only checking an email or two.

Lastly, my intent is not to scare but to inform. My parting advice is to expect https connections when accessing email and social networks.  I would be cautious about using those services at work without a secure connection. I would also look through the dashboard of your MMSD gmail account. This is the data you are sharing with MMSD.