UCSB information and technology department is launching a campus-wide initiative to reset UCSBnetID passwords in order to make students’ personal information more secure.

In response to a recent security breach at UCLA the UCSB IT department – in collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs, Information Systems and Computing and the College of Letters and Science – is working preemptively to secure the confidential information of UCSB students, faculty and staff members. Currently, officials from the departments are making efforts to educate students, faculty and staff about changing their existing passwords to decrease the risk of having their personal information compromised.

According to a campus-wide e-mail from UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas last week, UCSB online security departments launched the campaign for students to reset their UCSBnetID login information after a recent study by the IT department concluded that a substantial percentage of the passwords were easy targets for misuse.

The UCSBnetID is a username and password combination used to gain access to a myriad of UCSB computer applications – including eGrade, U-Mail, GOLD Lite, BARC, the Davidson Library’s proxy server, campus wireless Internet and GradNET.

The IT department study – which evaluated the potential security risk level of a number of actual UCSBnetIDs – was also the result of a scare generated by the Internet security breach at UCLA. During the incident, which occurred last November, Internet hackers illegally gained access to the personal information of an estimated 800,000 individuals affiliated with UCLA – including their social security numbers, e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

According to Matthew Dunham, IT department electronic communications manager, all UCSB staff, faculty and students should expect to receive e-mails in their U-Mail accounts within the next few months with information about how to make their UCSBnetID passwords less prone to exploitation by unauthorized users.

Kevin Schmidt, campus network programmer at the Office of Information Technology, said that because a large number of weak passwords currently exist in the UCSBnetID directory, their department is now providing students with specific instructions on how to carefully construct new passwords.

“You want passwords to be more than eight characters long and include many different characters including upper and lower-case letters and symbols in combination,” Schmidt said.

Dunham said updating security measures may help prevent a situation similar to the one at UCLA.

“The goal of this project is to put rules in place to prevent people from choosing easy passwords,” Dunham said. “UCLA was a wake-up call and [we want] to take preemptive steps before we face a similar problem.”

Schmidt said in addition to having UCSBnetID users change their passwords, the Office of Information Technology is also working to increase the security of personal information at the network-wide level.

“Staff and faculty of UCSB can also expect to be subject to UCSBnetID password security upgrades within the next two weeks,” Schmidt said.

Jennifer Guan, a fourth-year sociology major and student supervisor at the U-Mail Help Desk, said she supports the efforts to increase the security of UCSBnetIDs. She said assistance is available to all students, faculty and staff with questions or problems regarding the UCSBnetID password change at the Helpdesk, located at 1517 Phelps Hall.

“I think it’s a good precaution to update UCSBnetID passwords,” Guan said. “I know it’s a hassle, but if students or faculty have a problem, they can come [to the U-Mail Help Desk] for help resetting their passwords.”

Regardless of the ongoing efforts to increase the security of the UCSBnetID system, Schmidt wished to remind the campus community to remain calm about the situation.

“Most importantly, I want everyone at UCSB to know that yes, something is happening in UCSB online security, but not to panic. We are handling it,” he said.