Multicolored lines of computer code appear on an electronic screen
An always-on VPN and a new Outlook option for phishing reports—both launched in March—enhance security and convenience.
Saturday, April 15, 2023 - 3:56pm

University of Iowa information technology teams have introduced two new tools for keeping systems secure and reporting cyber scams.

A new always-on VPN (virtual private network) that enhances software updates for UI-managed computers launched March 7. A “report message” feature that lets Outlook users flag suspicious emails also went live that day.

“Keeping software up to date and avoiding phishing attempts are two of the most important things each of us can do to protect ourselves online,” says Zach Furst, the university’s chief information security officer. “These two new tools make both easier.”

Always-on VPN for UI-managed hardware

The new GlobalProtect VPN is designed for computers owned and managed by the university. Once its software is installed and configured, it will automatically connect to the VPN any time you use your computer.

This sustained connection facilitates software updates for UI-managed hardware, ensuring that security patches, for example, are promptly installed. It’s also more convenient.

“After you log into GlobalProtect for the first time, you won’t need to log in again until you change your HawkID password,” says Tim Wolf, director of Enterprise Client Management for ITS. “When you’re off campus, it just works.”

Wolf’s team installed GlobalProtect on more than 6,000 UI-managed devices in early March.

A University of Iowa VPN provides access to library resources and other services reserved for on-campus use. VPNs also provide an extra layer of security and privacy.

People who use their personal computers (i.e., computers not managed by the university) should continue using the university’s AnyConnect VPN to access campus resources. Learn more about both VPN options on the ITS website.

Phishing report button for Outlook

The new reporting function in Outlook desktop, mobile, and web versions helps users report suspicious emails.

The report button gives you the option of flagging an email message as “junk,” “phishing,” or “not junk” and sending a report to Microsoft—vendor for the university’s email systems—and to university IT and security teams. These reports help improve spam/security filters and alert UI personnel to emerging threats.

“Most malicious emails are detected and blocked before reaching UI inboxes, but some make it through,” says Ryan Lenger, director of Enterprise Messaging and Collaboration for ITS. “Reporting suspicious messages helps reduce the number that sneak past our defenses.”

The reporting function varies slightly depending on which version of Outlook you’re using. Find more information about the Outlook reporting button and learn about phishing warning signs and prevention on the ITS website.

New IT security, privacy, and policy website

In addition to new tools, the university community has a new online resource for info about cybersecurity, privacy practices, IT policy, and more.

The new Information Security and Policy Office website offers incident-reporting info, a gateway to password-protected how-to guides, awareness-building resources, and IT policies. A companion IT privacy site provides a primer on protecting university and personal data.

You can also find a guide to security-related services on the ITS website.