As another summer begins, another fiscal year ends. Our administrative systems team is hard at work making sure everything runs smoothly for year-end closing; our infrastructure teams are working on the many maintenance and upgrade projects we have; and our applications and support teams are gearing up for a new academic year. There are quite a few projects and initiatives underway, but below find three I would like to highlight this month.
Evolving Cyber threats and Multi-factor Authentication
Techniques used by cyber criminals have continued to evolve throughout the years, and the attackers and defenders are constantly innovating to stay ahead of one another. With ever increasing reliance on technology and a growing presence in cyber space, VCU continues to be challenged by this never-ending cycle.
Contrary to the popular belief portrayed by the entertainment industry, most successful cyber attacks do not start with the breach of a firewall or a technical system, rather they start with the exploitation of an individual’s login credentials. With additional security controls placed on technical systems in recent years, attackers have realized that it is much easier to trick people into providing their login credentials than to compromise a system through the exploitation of a technical vulnerability. According to a Verizon data breach investigations report in 2015, almost all data breaches recorded in 2014 involved the theft of credentials.
Similar to other organizations, within the past year, VCU has seen an increasing amount of targeted and sophisticated email scams and other attacks aimed at harvesting user credentials. Despite the increased security awareness in the University community overall, many of these attacks were still successful in compromising credentials of our constituents. In order to minimize negative effects associated with stolen credentials and better protect the data of our constituents, VCU will increase its adoption of multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication is a technology in which the authentication of an individual is based on not only his or her user name and password, but also based on a device or other credential he or she may possess, such as a hand-held device, USB token, or even biometric information. Many banks and other financial institutions are already adopting this technology, where system logins using user names and passwords are accompanied by a secure code delivered through text message. VCU will use similar techniques for authentication into certain systems. While it is not a panacea for all cyber security issues, multi-factor authentication can significantly reduce the ability for an attacker to misuse stolen credentials in the environment. We are piloting this technology in a few different areas and will roll this out more broadly in the coming months.
VCU Computer Center Pocahontas Datacenter Infrastructure Upgrades
This seven month project has entered the third month and is ahead of schedule, on track for an estimated completion date of late October 2015 or early November. On June 13, a critical milestone was met when the 750 KvW Cat C27 diesel fueled motor generator and computer room cooling components were lifted to the roof of the Pocahontas Building with a 500 ton crane. The work necessitated closing the 900 block of E. Main St. for 36 hours. The C27 weighs approximately 14 tons, but the lift angle was difficult and called for a very large crane. Five 18 wheel tractor trailers were needed to bring in all the pieces of the crane, which was assembled using a smaller crane.
The lifts were very smoothly implemented.
Interior work continues daily and the next major outdoor phase will be installing the external fill station for the motor generator diesel fueling.
In July, we will begin the process of decommisioning the 2 very old UPS systems that support the data center. This will introduce some risk to data center operations, so more communication will be forthcoming.
Six Blackboard instructor-led online training opportunities have just been announced. All sessions will be taught by a Blackboard Training Consultant and will be recorded. Registration is now open. Please feel free to spread the news to your faculty and staff as there is limited availability. Email email@example.com if you have any questions.
As we enter the full swing of summer, I wish you and your families a safe and happy Independence Day holiday and hope all are able to take some time off as we prepare for a new school year.