News and Resource Roundup – Michigan Privacy Law Update, Privacy Literacy Toolkit, and Testing Your Infosec+Digital Literacy Knowledge

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat! This week we bring you an important state legislative update, a resource guide, and three quizzes to start your week.

Michigan library patron data law amendment update

Last December LDH reported on SB 0611, an amendment that would considerably weaken Michigan’s library data privacy laws. The bill allows for libraries to release patron data to law enforcement without a court order:

A library may disclose library records without a court order or the written consent described in subsection (2) under any of the following circumstances:

(a) Upon the request of a law enforcement officer who is investigating criminal activity alleged to have occurred at the library or if the library requests the assistance of a law enforcement officer regarding criminal activity alleged to have occurred at the library, the library may disclose to the law enforcement officer any library record pertinent to the alleged criminal activity. The library director and any other person designated by the library board or commission is authorized to determine whether to disclose library records subject to this subdivision. The library is not required to release library records under this subdivision and may require the law enforcement officer to obtain written consent or an order of the court as required in subsection (2)

After almost a year of inactivity, the bill is now progressing through the state legislature. If you are a Michigan library and concerned about this bill, please contact your state representative and senator about your concerns.

Privacy literacy clearinghouse

If you are searching for resources or examples of privacy literacy instruction after reading our last post, you’re in luck! Digital Shred is a collection of teaching resources and case studies for anyone wanting to incorporate privacy literacy into their instruction work, from information literacy sessions to dedicated privacy workshops. Created and curated by Sarah Hartman-Caverly and Alexandria Chisholm, the authors of the article featured in the last TotH post, Digital Shred also provides another way to keep current on ongoing privacy and surveillance news and issues. Explore the site, and don’t forget to check out the teaching resources and materials for the privacy workshop series created by the authors!

Quiz time

The school year is in full swing, and students are now facing their first round of quizzes and tests. We want to share the pain joy of test-taking by highlighting three quizzes to test your information security – as well as literacy! – knowledge and skills:

  • Spot the Phish – This quiz tests how well you can spot a phishing email in the Gmail email service. While the focus is only on one email platform, the lessons here can apply to any email service!
  • Spot the Deepfake – Deepfakes are images or videos that have been altered to create a realistic image or recording of someone’s likeness doing or saying things that, in reality, did not happen. AI, machine learning, and other developments in technology have made it so that some deepfakes are almost indistinguishable from unaltered media. This quiz will test your observational skills along with your critical thinking by asking you which videos are deepfakes and which ones are the real thing.
  • Spot the Troll – our last quiz focuses on identifying which social media accounts are real, and which ones are fake. It’s not as easy as you’d think…

COVID-19: Resources and Privacy Considerations

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat!

Some of you might already know that LDH is based out of Seattle. Seattle has been in the news with the recent COVID-19 cases and deaths in the area. We at LDH are staying relatively healthy (outside of it being allergy season in town). Nonetheless, some of you have also been impacted by COVID-19, including institutional travel restrictions, dusting off the disaster policy and procedures, and fielding questions from both staff and patrons about what will happen when there’s an outbreak of COVID-19 in your area.

There’s a lot of information out there regarding COVID-19 and what you should do to help slow the spread of the infection. Some sources include:

The most important things to keep in mind during this time:

  • WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold water. There are several memes out there with lists of songs you can sing for about 20 seconds, be it Happy Birthday, the opening trumpet solo in Mahler’s 5th, or the chorus to this song.
    Hand sanitizer (store-bought, not homemade) is also an option, but not as effective as washing your hands with soap and water. [1]
  • Cover coughs and sneezes using your elbow or tissue (then throwing the tissue away).
  • If you are able, stay home if you are sick. This is not an option for those who do not have paid sick time, or if there’s a lack of coverage at work. If you do have the privilege to stay home, do so.
  • Extra cleaning of any hard surfaces as well as public or shared areas, such as open offices and break rooms.

COVID-19 has also brought up some good reminders and discussions surrounding privacy in a time of a possible pandemic:

Here are a few more articles surrounding the COVID-19 and the possible long-term implications to privacy regulations and public discourse:

Stay safe and healthy in the coming weeks!

[1] You would be surprised by the number of people who do not wash their hands regularly; this is something you should be doing anyway in normal circumstances. Hence, the shouting. Forever shouting about the washing of hands.

Silent Librarian and Tracking Report Cards

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat! We at LDH survived the full moon on the Friday the 13th, though our Executive Assistant failed to bring donuts into the office to ward off bad luck. Unfortunately, several universities need more than luck against a widespread cyberattack that has a connection to libraries.

This attack, called Cobalt Dickens or Silent Librarian, relies on phishing to gain access to university systems. The potential victims receive a spoofed email from the library stating that their library account is expired, followed by instructions to click on a link to reactivate the account by entering their account information on a spoofed library website. With this attack happening at the beginning of many universities’ semesters, incoming students and faculty might click through without giving a second thought to the email.

We are used to having banking and other commercial sites be the subject of spoofing by attackers to obtain user credentials. Nonetheless, Silent Librarian reminds us that libraries are not exempt from being spoofed. Silent Librarian is also a good prompt to review incident response policies and procedures surrounding patron data leaks or breaches with your staff. Periodic reviews will help ensure that policies and procedures reflect the changing threats and risks with the changing technology environment. Reviews can also be a good time to review incident response materials and training for library staff, as well as reviewing cybersecurity basics. If a patron calls into the library about an email regarding their expired account, a trained staff member has a better chance in preventing that patron falling for the phishing email which then better protects library systems from being accessed by attackers.

We move from phishing to tracking with the release of a new public tool to assess privacy on library websites. The library directory on Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology Guides site is a valuable resource, listing thousands of libraries in the world. Each listing has basic library information, including information about the types of systems used by the library, including specific products such as the integrated library system, digital repository, and discovery layer. Each listing now includes a Privacy and Security Report Card that grades the main library website on the following factors:

  • HTTPS use
  • Redirection to an encrypted version of the web page
  • Use of Google Analytics, including if the site is instructing GA to anonymize data from the site
  • Use of Google Tag Manager, DoubleClick, and other trackers from Google
  • Use of Facebook trackers
  • Use of other third-party services and trackers, such as Crazy Egg and NewRelic

You can check what your library’s card looks like by clicking on the Privacy and Security Report button on the individual library page listing. In addition to individual statistics, you can view the aggregated statistics at https://bit.ly/ltg-https-report. The majority of public library websites are HTTPS, which is good news! The number of public libraries using Google Analytics to collect non-anonymized data, however, is not so good news. If you are one of those libraries, here are a couple of resources to help you get started in addressing this potential privacy risk for your patrons:

Gone Phishin’

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat!

Our Executive Assistant has been waiting for the opportunity to spend some of her summer days fishing at one of Seattle’s many fishing spots. LDH, unfortunately, cannot claim that fishing is a work-related activity; however, dealing with the different types of “phishing” activities do fall under the realm of keeping data private and safe.

Phishing, like fishing, is a complex process, most of which is done behind the scenes. The general goal of email phishing is to gain a piece of sensitive information or system access from the target. To achieve that goal, the phishing email needs to pull off certain steps, the first being to appear official. This doesn’t work very well if you have encountered a phishing email for a company that you don’t do business with, but an email that is designed to look exactly like an official email from a company that you do business with (or even work for) can lead to a false sense of security.

Phishing relies heavily on exploiting human traits and biases. Having an email look authentic is one way. Even if the email doesn’t look authentic, if it tells you that your account has been compromised, or if you have won an award, you might not think twice before acting on the email. For example, if someone claiming to be from your IT department asks for your password because they need to access your computer to perform critical security updates, your initial reaction is to be helpful and to provide the information. If a bank email told you that your account has been suspended, you might not be thinking about if the email was legitimate – you might be thinking about bills that are set up to auto-pay with the account, and that you need to make sure all those payments go through. You click on the link and become another fish caught by the phisher.

Avoiding phishing attempts involves several tactics. The best way of dealing with phishing emails is to never have them pop into your inbox in the first place. Junk and spam filters can do most of the work, along with specialized applications and software. When you do get an email from a company that you do business with, the best first step to take is to stop and think before acting on the email’s requests:

  • Check the links – Some phishing attempts will come from a domain name similar to the actual company, but something just doesn’t quite fit. For example, the link companyA.examplesite.com might make you think that it’s a legitimate Company A URL – in reality, the main site is examplesite.com.
  • Check the sender field – If you are getting an email claiming to be from Company A, but the sender’s email address is not from Company A, the email is most likely not from Company A.
  • Check the message – does the message include any of the following?
    • Misspellings, bad grammar, poor formatting?
    • Messages claiming that your account was suspended or compromised and that you need to download a file, click a link, or send your login credentials via email to resolve the issue?
    • Messages claiming that you won a prize or award and that you need to click on a link or send over information to claim the prize?
    • If the email writer who is requesting your login information claims to come from your organization or from IT?

If you go through the checks and are still not 100% sure if the email is legitimate, do not click on any links, download or open any attachments, or reply back to the email. Contact the company through other means – opening a browser tab and accessing the company website via bookmarked tab or typing in the main company URL (NOT from the email!) is a safer way to obtain contact information as well as logging into your account.

Phishing has gotten more elaborate throughout the years, finding new ways to exploit human characteristics. Spear phishing and whaling are just two of the ways phishing has evolved. Nonetheless, if we all stop and think before we act on that email telling us to send over our information to claim our free fishing trip, more phishers will end their phishing trips with no catches.