University of West Florida

Information Technology Services


Volume 3, Issue 2: The Security Issue

Help Desk News

New Restrictions on the Use of Social Security Numbers

The University of West Florida is committed to protecting the personal information of students and employees. As part of this effort, use of social security numbers (SSN) has been greatly restricted. Any university entity wishing to collect or use a social security number must complete the SSN Exemption and Approval process.

The UWF ID number is now used as the primary identifier for students, faculty, and staff in all University systems, reports and processes, except when social security numbers are required by law or another external requirement. The UWF ID is a unique identifier and protected under the UWF Personal Identifier Policy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which means it should not be given out to others or posted.  For example, grades may not be posted publicly with the UWF ID number.

The transition from SSN to UWF ID numbers raises questions, such as…

  • What identifying information can you request from a student or employee?
  • Can you include a UWF ID or SSN in an email?
  • What forms should you be reviewing with regard to SSN?
  • How do you request authorized access to SSN data in UWF systems? 

Answers to these questions and more are available on the Policies and Forms and FAQ pages of the SSN project website.

Ten Most Common Passwords

PC Magazine’s May 8, 2007 issue listed the ten most common passwords. Do you recognize yours?

1. password

2. 123456

3. qwerty

4. abc123

5. letmein

6. monkey

7. myspace1

8. password1

9. link182

10. (your first name)

Other popular choices include the name of your spouse, child, or pet, the last four digits of your social security number, and your city, college, or football team. While passwords are often the best security available, their effectiveness is greatly diminished when we choose simple passwords that we know we won’t forget. Unfortunately, convenient passwords are only convenient until we become victims of identity theft.

Below is a passage from an article called “How I’d Hack Your Weak Password,” which describes a “brute force attack,” where the hacker uses software to test thousands of username/password combinations. The hacker’s success depends on the strength of your password.

From “How I’d Hack Your Weak Password”:

So, how would one use this process to actually breach your personal security? Simple. Follow my logic:

  • You probably use the same password for lots of stuff right?
  • Some sites you access such as your Bank or work VPN probably have pretty decent security, so I’m not going to attack them.
  • However, other sites like the Hallmark e-mail greeting cards site, an online forum you frequent, or an e-commerce site you’ve shopped at might not be as well prepared. So those are the ones I’d work on.
  • So, all we have to do now is unleash Brutus, wwwhack, or THC Hydra on their server with instructions to try say 10,000 (or 100,000 - whatever makes you happy) different usernames and passwords as fast as possible.
  • Once we’ve got several login+password pairings we can then go back and test them on targeted sites.
  • But wait… How do I know which bank you use and what your login ID is for the sites you frequent? All those cookies are simply stored, unencrypted and nicely named, in your Web browser’s cache.

Knowing this, how do you stay safe? Choose a complicated password and change it regularly. Never use a dictionary word or a proper name. Always use at least one capital letter and a number or symbol. And don’t use the same password for everything.

A good way to select a complicated yet memorable password is to take the first letter from each word in a phrase or song lyric and then insert capital letters and numbers. For example, “These Boots Were Made for Walking” becomes tbWm4W.

Is Your Work Computer at Risk for Spyware?

Office lunch hours have become a time to surf the web. We now shop online, keep up with our friends, and play games on our work computers.  These online activities often require that you download software. Most of us don’t give it a second thought, but some of this software can be dangerous, and clicking the download button might install more than you think.

Spyware is software that is installed by stealth and is used to track information about your computer usage. Spyware is often bundled with legitimate software so that it can take a free ride to your computer when you download from the web. Some programs can even install themselves automatically if you visit a malicious website.

Spyware is a security threat to UWF, and it will make your computer less reliable.  It usually has the ability to “phone home” to its creator to provide information about your web surfing habits, and it can sometimes allow others to access your computer files.  Because spyware is poorly written software, it can cause your computer to become unstable and crash. It can also significantly slow down your computer because the spyware software is constantly running in the background.

If you suspect that your computer is infected with spyware, please contact the ITS Help Desk.

Tips to prevent spyware:

  • Think twice before installing software. If you’re not sure if software is safe for your computer, call the Help Desk for advice.
  • Don’t click on links in email or instant messages from unknown people.
  • Install Windows Defender anti-spyware software – it’s free and scans for spyware nightly.
  • Visit the Help Desk computer security website for more information

New Procedures for Requesting ArgoNet Accounts

Due to security concerns, any new employee that is paid by the University of West Florida must be entered into the payroll system by Human Resources before an ArgoNet account will be generated. Human Resources will need all essential documents and a completed background screening for the new employee prior to entering him or her into the payroll system. The employee’s ArgoNet account will be automatically created one business day after he or she has been completely processed through Payroll.

University “affiliates” are employees paid by another source other than UWF (e.g., University of Florida, PJC, Capstone, Chartwells). Departmental staff preparing for the arrival of a new affiliate may request the creation of an ArgoNet account in advance of the first day of work.  The account must be requested by a workstation manager or other authorized personnel via the Help Request Forms on the Argus IT Help tab. Select "ArgoNet Account Request"; then "Account Request for NOT Paid by UWF".

Due to security concerns, staff accounts for student employees who possess an active student account can no longer be created. Exceptions to this rule can be made if the student employee becomes an instructor of record for a credit course, is hired as a permanent employee with benefits, or if the student account is scheduled for deletion in the near future. As necessary, the ITS Help Desk can accommodate a student employee’s needs without creating a staff account. For example, the email inbox size can be increased or additional roles in Argus can be added.

Discounts on Home Computers

If you are preparing to buy a computer for home use, consider the purchase options available to you as a UWF employee. Dell and Gateway offer special educational discounts through their UWF-exclusive websites: Dell UWF website, Gateway UWF website. The University Bookstore also sells Dell and Apple computers at a discounted price. If you purchase a Dell computer from the bookstore, the ITS Help Desk will make any warranty hardware repairs that you require.

When selecting options for your computer, you can refer to Information Technology Services’ computer purchase recommendations. These standards are designed to ensure greater product reliability, usability, quality, functionality, and support. Be aware that these recommendations are based on typical computing use and may require adjustment for your specific computing needs.

ITS Help Desk | Bldg. 79 | 11000 University Pkwy. | Pensacola, FL 32514 | (850) 474-2075 | Campus Map | Text Only