Monday, August 17, 2015 - 4:32pm

The University of Iowa is taking an important step in its information security efforts: encrypting all UI-owned portable devices (laptops, tablets, and external storage) by the year’s end. The move helps to protect sensitive data if devices are lost, damaged, or stolen.

Encryption is a method to protect digital information by scrambling it as it travels across the Internet, or while it’s stored on computers. It ensures that only authorized users can decrypt (unscramble) the information and use it. Encryption is used in many places, such as “https” connections from a browser to a website, cell phone communications to towers, and on wireless networks that require you to login with a password.

“Most cyber-criminals work their attacks over the network, but they also commit physical theft. If a computer falls into the wrong hands, it is not difficult to access its contents,” says Jane Drews, the UI’s Chief Information Security Officer. “If the drive is encrypted, methods of bypassing your password to access the data will fail.”

What do faculty and staff need to do?

  • Between now and the end of the calendar year, anyone who has a UI-owned laptop or tablet computer will be contacted by IT support staff to initiate the encryption process.
  • If you store any highly sensitive data on your portable computer, please contact your local IT support person right away to be moved up their encryption priority list. 
  • Once the encryption is complete, you will not notice a difference in the functionality or performance of your computer. (At login, the disk is decrypted in order to operate. Newer laptops only require a HawkID password, but older models of some laptops may require a startup password followed by HawkID login.)
  • We strongly recommend that you do not turn on the encryption manually. Please let IT support staff assist to ensure that your data can be recovered in the event of a device malfunction or forgotten password.
  • Also, remember to never leave a portable device unattended. Configure it to use a screen saver that requires the password to reopen after only a few minutes of inactivity.

More information

For questions or concerns on encryption, contact your local UI IT support person or the Information Security & Policy Office, it-security@uiowa.edu or 319-335-6332.

For more information and FAQ, please visit the mobile encryption webpage.