Mizzou balances line between protecting students and staying out of faculty’s way

The school struck a balance between computer security and research freedom.
The school struck a balance between computer security and research freedom.

Universities pride themselves on giving students the intellectual freedom to explore their academic interests in an open, independent, and safe learning environment. A critical component of this mission is to make sure students feel secure that their private information is being protected at all times. Imagine leaving home for the first time at 18 years of age and immediately having to deal with identity theft. You’d suddenly become much more cynical, wouldn’t you?

Like all colleges, the University of Missouri collects and stores our students’ personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers, eMail addresses, transcripts, grades, and even medical records. Employees in our Residential Life department need access to this information for administrative reasons. Unfortunately, our staff members have varying levels of computer knowledge, and varying levels of internet security sense. Users inadvertently click on malicious links and visit sites that are infested with malware. As a result, several years ago, we saw that malware was taking over machines, sapping bandwidth, blocking access to applications, and potentially putting students’ personal information at risk. At one point, the security threats were coming in so fast that machines were rendered unusable.

As a part of an open learning environment it’s important that the IT department doesn’t inhibit independent thinking or intellectual freedom. However, the web surfing habits of our employees were impacting the performance of the department’s 230 computers and others’ ability to use them.…Read More