CLA increases computer system security with new technology

Brett Angel

Starting this fall, select College of Liberal Arts faculty and staff members will be able to log on to their computers using the same technology employed by the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense.

CLA technology officials reached an agreement last week with SAFLINK Corporation, a leader in biometric security solutions for governmental and educational institutions, to begin the initial deployment of the company’s SAFmodule software.

With the help of the new biometric technology, CLA server users will no longer need to remember a username and password. Instead, a thumbprint scanner in conjunction with new security software will verify users’ identities.

“We selected SAFmodule because it allows us to provide an increased level of security, eliminates the burden of managing passwords and improves user convenience – all at the same time,” said Bryan Thoreson, CLA information technology professional.

The new program will provide a more secure online environment by preventing server access to unauthorized users, as well as increasing the overall level of convenience by replacing passwords with fingerprints.

The decision to update the infrastructure of the department’s computer network came after repeated complaints from CLA faculty and staff about their workstation security.

“We’ve had situations where people get back to their office after a weekend and find out that someone had used their computer or that files had been moved,” said Ed Clark, CLA Office of Information Technology Director.

Anyone who knows someone’s password can log on to the server under that name, he said. Fingerprint access solves that problem.

CLA faculty and staff are currently asked to change their passwords every 90 days and are locked out of the system if they forget to comply.

Tech support workers such as Thoreson and Clark then work to get people back on the server.

“It’s not that difficult, but
it is somewhat time-consuming,” Thoreson said. “You start questioning your own security policies.”

Initially, only faculty and staff members who have requested additional security for their computers will use the new technology. While the financial details of the SAFLINK agreement are still being worked out, Thoreson said there would be no individual cost to people who wish to use the new security solution.

External thumbprint devices will cost approximately $100 each and will be paid for by the technology department, Clark said, since the devices will remain University property.

Although the 350 user licenses will cost a projected $10,000, SAFLINK Sales and Marketing Vice President Joshua Grantz said the time and money saved through eliminating password management problems often offset the cost of purchasing the software itself.

Thoreson said he is looking
forward to the extra time the new program could create.

“Hopefully, it’ll free up a little bit of time for us to do the more important jobs,” he said, “like fixing your printer.”


Brett Angel welcomes comments at
[email protected]