Students and employees encouraged to dump old data with Project Clean-up and Duo

Published: November 15, 2017
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In response to recent phishing scams, data breaches and sensitive data compromises across the country, the Office of Information Technology, or OIT, is encouraging the Auburn employees and students to help slim down and better protect their documents.

The campaign, Project Clean-up, is meant to be an educational and preventative measure intended to provide the appropriate level of protection for all of Auburn’s data. Reducing unnecessary data the university stores allows important data to be more easily scanned, protected and monitored for security.

Jim O’Connor serves as the university’s Chief Information Officer and oversees the operations of the OIT.

“We want to do everything we can to protect people,” O’Connor said. “Ultimately, a data breach hurts people. That’s the real cost of a data breach.”

O’Connor says that students, faculty and staff should sift through their documents on their personal and university machines to decide what they need to keep and the best place to keep it.

Necessary documents that contain sensitive data like social security numbers, birth dates, graduate school applications, tax returns and personal information may be saved as a PDF and encrypted with a password. Encrypted thumb drives are also recommended to prevent unauthorized access to data.

The university does a “tremendous” amount of business and needs to protect the intellectual property that belongs to professors, according to O’Connor. Faculty and staff are encouraged to consider how much paper they are holding on to and what can be shredded.

“For students it’s not such a big deal, but it’s amazing how much paper we generate,” O’Connor said. “You think ‘I should clean out that file,’ and then find out you’ve been carrying around boxes for years that you should take to the shredder. We’re trying to get people to think about those things proactively.”

While Project Clean-up officially ran through the Nov. 1, O’Connor says the effort is on-going.

Auburn has implemented two-factor authentication with DUO, a high-security login process that uses a second confirmation from a separate physical device such as a smartphone, tablet or landline in order to confirm identity.

“We understand improved security is going to be a bit more inconvenient,” O’Connor said. “It may take 10-15 seconds to use DUO, but the security benefits are worth every second you spend on it.”

In addition to DUO two-factor, it is “really important” to not use the same password for different logins. There are free, encrypted password vault tools for storing passwords if students have a hard time remembering their various passwords.

OIT is ramping up security measures to prevent any compromises or breaches. O’Connor said the office is taking extra precautionary steps “not because we’re fighting a fire, but because we’re trying to prevent a fire.”

The office is keeping a “phish tank” to track phishing schemes, which are the most common threats on Auburn’s campus. Cybersecurity resources will be available on the OIT website and the team is working to educate the Auburn community on cybersecurity measures.

“It’s an on-going process and OIT will continue to run periodic security scans,” O’Connor said. “We can give people tools and best practices, but it’s up to each person to stay aware and use the tools provided. It’s an easy way to reduce the risk of the institution through individuals.”

OIT representatives are willing to meet with any group on campus that wants to learn more. Visit the OIT Help Desk on the third floor of Ralph Brown Draughon Library or the OIT website for help.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.