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Friday, August 28, 2015

Digital Dakota Network: An Alternative Solution

In recent news, the shortage of teachers throughout the State of South Dakota has really been on the radar. Jim Holbeck, a Harrisburg School District Superintendent explains, “People might tell you that it’s not real. It’s real. There’s a teacher shortage in South Dakota and it’s serious.”

In the midst of such a crisis, one BIT service may be able to offer an alternative solution. Who should you ask? The Digital Dakota Network (DDN) staff.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Digital Dakota Network is a statewide interactive video communications system that uses compressed digital technology to provide a “meeting pipeline” across the State of South Dakota and the global community. DDN services a wide variety of cliental, ranging from executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government all the way to K-12 schools throughout the State of South Dakota.

So…How does this relate to the crisis?

One of the features that DDN offers is the ability for students to receive virtual interactive courses that they otherwise wouldn’t have access. With visual and audio components at both the student’s location and the teacher’s location, students are able to interact with their virtual teacher in just the same way as they would in any typical classroom setting.

New this year, Digital Dakota Network has teamed up with the Great Plains Zoo. One of the classes offered allows kids the opportunity to be introduced to a zookeeper and indulge in an animal chat with animals from the zoo! Not one for animals? Another program lets students partake in virtual tours of the historical Badlands, exploring the layers of sedimentary rock and the fossils they may discover buried within them!

[Take a brief pause to pout about the fact that they didn’t have classes like this when we were in school!]

Now for the kicker? The equipment and network is provided by DDN and it’s free! To the 200+ K12 schools who are already a part of the Digital Dakota Network, this is a resource they can utilize at no cost to them! The only part of the equation that the schools need to take care of is selecting and covering the cost of classes. Rather than not being able to offer a class due to lack of staffing,   K12 schools within the network are able to purchase the courses online and then utilize the equipment and network for free! 

Jay Etzkorn, a Technology Engineer Manager for DDN, explained, “Now more than ever is the time for schools to really take advantage of this great resource they already have. A wide variety of courses are offered and we are committed to delivering high quality programing via distance learning to meet needs throughout the state. My hope is that in the midst of this shortage,  schools would be able to look at us as an alternative solution.”


Monday, August 24, 2015

Around The World With Kaitlyn Martinez

Kaitlyn Martinez started her journey at BIT as an intern in January, 2013. She was hired on full-time in May, 2013 as a Web Developer and has since worked in Aberdeen while her husband finishes his education at Northern State University.

What's she up to now? For the past few weeks- exploring Europe!
{Rome, Italy} {Milan, Italy} {Athens, Greece}

{Venice, Italy} {Mellingen, Switzerland} {Vienna, Austria}

{Salzburg, Austria} {Pisa, Italy} {Florence, Italy}

{Wolfenbuttel, Germany}

For the next 9 months, Kaitlyn will be working from Magdeburg, Germany while her husband completes his last semester studying abroad there as well 

Aside from the 7 hour time difference; the only other differences Kaitlyn has noticed thus far between Germany and South Dakota are the cheap beer, food, and citizen-effort to be eco-friendly. For example bottles of pop or water require the consumer to pay a 25 cent deposit which is returned when the bottle is returned. 

Living in South Dakota it's not uncommon to see an abundance of corn and wheat fields anywhere you go. Kaitlyn is surprised to see as many corn and wheat fields as she has! Aside from the crops, she explained her German eating experience so far to be very "meat and potatoes, making it similar to good ol' South Dakota.  

Her favorite place so far? 

Athens, Greece. She explained, "I really liked Athens. I loved the food- it was really cheap compared to American standards.  And to go to all attractions it was only 12 euros!" (which is equivalent to $13.92 dollars.) 

Kaitlyn, as much as we miss having you in South Dakota- we are happy that you are sharing your journey with us!  

Stay tuned, there will be more stories on Kaitlyn's exciting adventures to come! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Youth Digital: Creating Creators

Evolving societies require evolving curriculum. With that said, it’s probably safe to say no one would have guessed this evolution of curriculum would encompass the game Minecraft:

A little different than the logarithms and quantum physics you had to work through, huh?

A recently emerged online course, Server Design 1, allows children between the ages of 8 to 14 to actively develop and design their own Minecraft world using Java code. This course stems from a larger organization known as Youth Digital, whose goal is to “create creators.”

Justin Richards, Youth Digital’s founder and CEO explained, “What’s so great about Tech Ed is that it really has the ability to shift the way kids see the world and change the way they interact with technology, which is obviously a huge part of their world and will continue to be as they grow up.”

According to a report released in 2013 by Research firm CompTIA entitled, “CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2013,” professions in the IT field are expected to grow by 22 perfect through 2020.

The report explained, “The IT occupation with the highest project growth through 2020 is systems software developer. The total number of jobs will grow by 32 percent, from 387,050 to 510,906.”

Server Design 1 allows its students to learn Java coding and basic programming concepts for $250 a year. The course enables students to message teachers if assistance is needed and includes access to Java server, curriculum, tools and hosting with Youth Digital.


Photo Credit:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Let's Talk About Spam..

Spam rates are on the decline. How can you help contribute to that statistic?

According to the Symantec Intelligence Report published in June 2015, spam fell to less than 50% of all email nationwide in the month of June making it the lowest it has been in a decade! National experts state that the decline is due to law enforcement agencies aggressively pursuing spamming operators and network providers being more tuned in to the problem. Levels of spam have been declining slowly within the past few years. Historically over 80% of all email processed by BIT is classified as “spam” mail. That is a lot of ‘junk mail’ to be dealt with. 

In addition, improved methods of filtering and blocking have attributed to the decline in spam, making it harder for unsolicited marketing messages to reach inboxes where people might click on the message. Unfortunately, as our technological defenses advance, so do the spammers' methods.  

BIT has created a Report Spam mailbox on the global address list that we would like spam messages sent. The 3 types of spam emails that we would like to see users sending to the Report Spam mailbox include the following: 
  1. Any email that is asking you to enter your User ID and password to reset or verify your email account or web mail account.  
  1. NOTE: The BIT Help desk will never send out an email to users asking you to provide your User Id or password or any personal information. 
  2. BIT individually tracks the number of “phishing” attempts. This provides us insight into the methods and content being used to try to trick government officials into providing their credentials. It also allows us to proactively block and remove these messages from inboxes before an infection can occur. 
  1. Any email that is asking you to open an attachment that you are unsure of.  
  1. NOTE: The most common malicious attachments are HTML which can display phishing pages on the user’s local computer or redirect the user to a malicious website. PDF, Word and Excel are common as well. 
  2. Even a known or trusted email user may be inadvertently sending dangerous attachments if his or her email system has been corrupted.  A sophisticated spamming device can corrupt a user's email system and attach files to that user's outgoing emails. 
  1. Spam with one or more links.  
  1. Verify the validity of the email with the sender before you click on any links. 
  2. NOTE: Hover over the link without clicking on it and you will see the real destination of the link. Many times it points to a different web site and might be malicious. If the real destination of the link is different from the link, then send the email to Report Spam. 
Here is an example of a malicious URL:

If you look closely, when you hover over the link- you will see that the blue hyperlink listed by the “Microsoft Team” is different than the actual URL address.  

What are some other steps you can take to protect yourself from harmful spamming attacks? Here are a few helpful tips: 
  1. Limit the amount of information you share and where you post your e-mail address. 
    • Quite simply, if you don’t need to post your email address, don’t! Be especially careful when posting to forums, Facebook, or even LinkedIn profiles. Although including your email might make it easier for users to connect with you, it also makes it easier for spammers as well. In addition, consider the content you share. 
  1. Pay attention to the subject line. 
    • Phrases such as “Click here!” , “Once in a lifetime opportunity!” or anything that includes a spastic number of exclamation marks in the subject line (aside from a few overzealous coworkers you may have) warrants a reason for concern.  Sometimes, some of these “great opportunities” are worth missing. Especially if they involve spam.  
  1. Do not reply. 
    • Remember those pesky telemarketers or unrelenting salesman? Once you answer the telephone or answer the door, they know you are home… And they will be back. The same goes for spammers. Once you reply to a spam email, you just have confirmed for the spammer the legitimacy of your email address.  
  1. Do not unsubscribe. 
    • Although this may seem like a logical reaction to receiving spam, its repercussions tie in heavily with the previous point. If you aren’t sure of the legitimacy of the company to begin with, there is no guarantee that this request won’t be used against you. Once again, this could be another ploy to confirm the legitimacy of your email address.  
Although this is not an exhaustive list, at least some of these ideas can help protect yourself from spam attacks! 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Two Steps Ahead Campaign

Tuesday, August 18th
1:00pm - 3:00pm

Generic Tweets/Facebook Posts for 2 Steps Ahead Campaign -South Dakota

URLS to Use:


@STOPTHNKCONNECT wants to teach you to protect your digital life. #2StepsAhead is coming to Sioux Falls, August 18th! http://bit.ly/2stepsevents

#DidYouKnow there are ways to secure your #online accounts? Check out the #2StepsAhead campaign from @STOPTHNKCONNECT bit.ly/2stepsahead

Go beyond the #password & learn how to secure your #online accounts w/ this info from @STOPTHNKCONNECT: bit.ly/2stepsahead #2StepsAhead

Looking to make your #email more secure? Learn how from @STOPTHNKCONNECT & the #2StepsAhead campaign: bit.ly/2stepsahead

Get the 411 on multi-factor authentication with the #2StepsAhead campaign from @STOPTHNKCONNECT http://bit.ly/2stepsahead


Multi-factor, or two-step, authentication is an overly technical term for a simple solution, but it’s like adding a deadbolt to your #online house. Learn how to add extra layers of #security to your online accounts with STOP. THINK. CONNECT.’s #2StepsAhead campaign. Learn more at www.stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead

Learn how to add extra layers of #security to your #online accounts at the #2StepsAhead: Protect Your #Digital Life event August 18th in Sioux Falls, SD! Learn more and RSVP at http://bit.ly/2stepsevents

STOP. THINK. CONNECT. and other partners are hosting events throughout the country to educate people and small business owners about adding layers of #security to their everyday #online activities. The #2StepsAhead campaign is coming to Sioux Falls August 18th. To learn more, visit www.stopthinkconnect.org/2stepsahead

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Please Welcome Tom Hammrich!

Please give a warm welcome to yet another new BIT employee!

Tom Hammrich has joined BIT in Pierre as an I/T Business Analyst on Team 4.  He will be working on the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) for the Department of Social Services Division of Medical Services, Recoveries, and other miscellaneous systems as assigned.

Tom grew up in and attended school at Ipswich, SD.  After graduating from South Dakota State University in 1990, he was hired by Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as a Systems Analyst in Plano, TX but was assigned a position at a General Motors (GM) plant in Anderson, IN.   He later moved to Minneapolis, MN continuing to support General Motors as an EDS employee.   

In 2000, he moved back to Ipswich continuing to support GM remotely.  While working for GM he mainly supported manufacturing applications including Material Global Application (MGO) and Global Export System (GES).  These applications' main functions were to keep track of part specifications, orders, scheduling, inventory, receiving and shipping for the many GM plants. 

Tom and his wife Paula have been married for 24 years and have two daughters and many animals around their hobby farm.  His oldest daughter, Sydney, will be starting to attend the University of South Dakota this fall while his other daughter, Bailey, will be a freshman at Ipswich High School.  Tom’s main interests are activities his kids are participating in or anything music related.   

Welcome to the team, Tom! BIT is thrilled to have you!