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New program will boost data security on University computers

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - March 30, 2009


The security of personally identifiable data on University computers is being upgraded with a new encryption program.

UITS will begin rolling out the program April 1, initially on Windows-based University laptop and desktop computers. Over time, additional security measures will be implemented for other University computers and devices.

The encryption program will ensure that sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers and credit card numbers, remains secure, and that unauthorized people can not gain access to it, even if the device is lost or stolen.

“Currently, the University’s computers have a basic lock, like on a door,” says David Martel, associate vice president and chief information officer. “The encryption program is like adding a deadbolt.”

The program the University is adopting renders all the data on the hard drive of an encrypted device unreadable to unauthorized users.

“It takes away the need for an individual to decide, ‘Does this need encryption?’” says Elaine David, assistant vice president for security policy and quality assurance.

The implementation process is expected to take 18 months.

The program will be launched in the areas of highest need, beginning with the units reporting to the Chief Operating Officer and other critical areas that work with sensitive data.

Deans, directors, and department heads have been invited to identify critical areas within their units; and others with concerns about sensitive data may request an early installation by contacting Katherina Sorrentino (Katherina.Sorrentino@uconn.edu).

Users will be asked to select a new “strong” password comprising a minimum of eight characters, including upper and lower case letters, at least one number, and a symbol.

The username – or NetID – will remain the same, but for added security, an individual’s encryption password will differ from the password used to log in to University e-mail, WebCT, and other online services. An additional login screen will appear each time an encrypted computer is rebooted.

Trained technicians from UITS, or from particular units, will install the program on each device that needs it.

Sorrentino, UITS assistant director for customer support and relations, says that the installation takes about half an hour, and then, while the computer’s data is being encrypted, users may find some functions run more slowly. Once the encryption process is complete, there will be little difference in the computer’s speed.

Martel notes that the encryption program must be installed one machine at a time. “In the meantime,” he says, “we urge members of the University to take appropriate steps to ensure they are not storing sensitive information where it can be accessed by others.”

For more information, go to encryption.uconn.edu

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