December 2020 Technology Newsletter

By: Michael Kealy

Webfilter Updates

Beginning on 12/22 the Technology Department will begin pushing out updates for the districts web filter. Please submit a help ticket if you experience any issues accessing websites.

Last Chrome OS Update Of The Year Began Rolling Out 12/4/20

Google says version 87 of its browser “represents the largest gain in Chrome performance in years.” This includes a 5x reduction in CPU usage by prioritizing active tabs versus what’s in the background. Per Google’s internal benchmarks, this results in a 1.25-hour increase in battery life.

To update your Chromebook:

  1. Click the bottom right corner of the Chrome OS desktop.
  2. Select the Settings icon.
  3. Click About Chrome.
  4. Click Check for updates.
  5. To apply the update, click the arrow icon and select Restart to Update.

Jamboard Update

Per Google for Education, in the coming days you'll be able to select a custom background in Jamboard.
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GSuite Updates

Some Google Meet settings now “sticky” for Education users

Quick launch summary

Based on your feedback, we’re changing the behavior of some Google Meet settings for G Suite for Education and Enterprise for Education customers. Specifically, certain settings are now “sticky.” This means that if you turn them on or off during a meeting, they will be saved for any future meetings that use the same meeting code. Previously, all settings would return to their default state whenever a meeting was restarted.

This change will apply to these settings:

Settings are saved for each meeting code, not per user

Any changes will only be saved for the specific meeting code, and will not affect other meetings that the user owns with a different meeting code. Additionally, if you change these settings in a one-time, nicknamed, or instant meeting, the settings will not be saved, and will return to their default state after the meeting ends. Scenarios when meetings have the same meeting code include:

  • Some recurring meetings (including recurring meetings scheduled via Google Calendar)
  • A meeting owner joins, exits, then rejoins the same meeting


Customize text style and appearance in Google Sites

Quick launch summary

You can now adjust text size, color, font, spacing, and more while typing in a text box in Google Sites. This significantly expands control over how individual words, paragraphs, pages, and sections look. We hope this will help you make your site look and feel just the way you want it to.

In 2021, we will add the ability to create themes, which will allow you to easily set fonts, colors, and styles across your whole site. We'll announce on the Google Workspace Updates blog when that's available.


Improvements to PDFs imported to Google Docs

Quick launch summary

We’re making a range of updates that will make PDFs converted into Google Docs better. Specifically, you may notice improvements in:

  • Image imports, including the image itself and text wrapping related to images.
  • Text styles and formatting, such as importing underline and strikethrough, background color, and more fonts.
  • Layout conversion, including support for multi-column layouts, custom page sizes, tables with borders, and improved content ordering.

Importing PDFs into Google Docs now supports more formatting options.


Changes to Google Chat group conversations and classic Hangouts coming December 3, 2020

What’s changing

Starting December 3, 2020, we’ll make changes to how group conversations work in Google Chat:

  • Add and change members. You’ll be able to add and change members of new group conversations.
  • Compatibility with classic Hangouts. Group conversations in Hangouts will begin to appear in Google Chat over the coming weeks.

See below for more information on each of these updates.

Why you’d use it

As we announced earlier this year, starting in the first half of 2021, everyone can begin upgrading from Hangouts to Chat. To ensure a smooth transition, we will help automatically migrate your Hangouts conversations and saved history. These changes further ensure compatibility between classic Hangouts and Chat to make migrating your users as seamless as possible.

Additional details

Updated group conversations

When a new member is added to a group conversation, all members will see a message announcing the new member. The new member will be able to see the entire conversation, even messages sent before they entered, allowing them to catch up easily.

If you have a group conversation created before December 3, you can easily create an updated conversation with the same people using the “Start a new chat” option in the conversation settings menu.

Compatibility with classic Hangouts

Group conversations in Hangouts—beginning with conversations, followed by message history—will begin to appear in Google Chat over the coming weeks. This will allow your users to move from Hangouts to Chat without losing context. In addition, 1:1 messages, updated group conversations, and unthreaded rooms from Chat will begin to appear in Hangouts (Note: this change will only be available for users with Hangouts enabled).

Getting started


Create and work with documents that contain multiple page orientations in Google Docs

What’s changing

We’ve made it easier to create and work with documents that require multiple page orientations in Google Docs.

For documents created in Google Docs, you can now change the page orientation on a per-section basis. This will allow you to make room for wider content such as tables and images that can benefit from extra horizontal space. You’ll also be able to edit, import, and export Microsoft Word documents that contain both portrait and landscape oriented pages.

Why it’s important

We know it’s important that your files and documents look consistent no matter the application you use. We hope these improvements make it easier for you to create and share rich documents that contain wide tables, charts, diagrams, and images.


Open Office attachments from Gmail in Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides with one click

What’s changing

We’re making it easier to view, edit, and collaborate on Microsoft Office files sent and received in Gmail using Docs, Sheets, and Slides. With this launch, we’re adding:

  • Open Office files in Docs, Sheets, or Slides with one click: When you send or receive email with an Office file attached, you’ll see an edit icon that will open the file directly in Docs, Sheets, or Slides while preserving the original file format.
  • Easily reply to the email from within the file: Once the file is opened, you’ll have new options to respond to the email thread from the File menu in Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

Why it’s important

This provides a fast and convenient way to view, edit, and collaborate on emailed Office files directly in Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Previously, users would have to save a file to Drive before being able to use G Suite’s Office editing features. With this launch, they can open files more quickly and reply to email threads featuring Office files more easily.


Cybersecurity Attacks Remain A Threat

As of December 2020, the FBI, CISA, and MS-ISAC continue to receive reports from K-12 educational institutions about the disruption of distance learning efforts by cyber actors.

Please use caution when opening up unsolicited emails and be vigilant that you are visiting the website that you intended to visit. Report suspicious activity on your computer like pop ups and redirected links to the help desk immediately.


The FBI, CISA, and MS-ISAC have received numerous reports of ransomware attacks against K-12 educational institutions. In these attacks, malicious cyber actors target school computer systems, slowing access, and—in some instances—rendering the systems inaccessible for basic functions, including distance learning. Adopting tactics previously leveraged against business and industry, ransomware actors have also stolen—and threatened to leak—confidential student data to the public unless institutions pay a ransom.

According to MS-ISAC data, the percentage of reported ransomware incidents against K-12 schools increased at the beginning of the 2020 school year. In August and September, 57% of ransomware incidents reported to the MS-ISAC involved K-12 schools, compared to 28% of all reported ransomware incidents from January through July.

Reminder: Protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

With everything going on (COVID, Distance Learning, Etc..) throughout the past year it is easy to forget about the continuing cyber threats we face both as a district and as individuals. This is just a friendly reminder as we enter the holiday season to use extra scrutiny when visiting websites and viewing unsolicited email.

Our department has seen a pattern that often spoofed emails are released during holiday breaks when staff are off and it is harder to contact the spoofed sender. Please do not interact with, click, or download anything in a spoofed email. Please alert the help desk via the ticket system.

I recently attended a virtual cybersecurity conference and they shared some good resources that I thought would be beneficial to our district stakeholders and have included links to the resources underneath the infographic.

I often get asked why do criminals want to to target schools and steal Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of students? The simple answer is it can be be big money for criminals. I've included a graphic from Experian below which is about three years old, but gives a nice visual of what certain pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) sell for on the dark web,

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Phishing Alert

Researchers at KnowBe4 have identified a phishing scam that “lures victims to ‘fill out a form’ to get their vaccine.” This is another example of how cyber criminals are exploiting the fear and anxiety people are experiencing during the pandemic. The ‘PDF form’ link takes the victim to a phishing landing page that prompts them to enter their email address and password to log in.

Attackers will continue to use COVID-19 themed phishing emails as long as they keep working.

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Final Reminder: Adobe Flash Player Goes End of Life 12/31/20

Check the websites you frequently use and in your instruction now to see if they use Adobe Flash as Adobe announced in 2017:

Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.

If the website(s) you use contain Adobe Flash please begin thinking about alternatives. Adobe has said they will end support for this product on 12/31/2020.