Michigan Tech News

Gift Helps Students Master Password Security

Phone: 906-487-2354

By Marcia Goodrich


Last Modified 3:40 PM, July 20, 2009

March 8, 2006—

In theory, passwords are supposed to deter attackers from being able to login to your computer and wreak their favorite kind of havoc. In practice, passwords can be notoriously easy to discover. And you don't even have to be a high-end hacker to do it.

"Anybody can walk around an office and find people's passwords in a five-minute sweep," says Guy Hembroff, an assistant professor in the School of Technology and the chair of the computer network and system administration program. That's because computer users write their passwords on paper and leave them in (or on) their desks. It's not just a matter of being careless, however. Most of us have to login to a number of servers, applications, websites, whatever, and each one can have a different password. Remembering them all is just too hard for the typical user.

A new technology, Single Sign On, or SSO, is changing that, and students majoring in computer network and systems administration are learning to master it. Here's how it works.

"Basically, SSO uses software to capture each of your login screens," Hembroff explains. "That way, when you login to various applications, you don't have to login again and again, and you don't have to write anything down."

Students will learn SSO on software donated to the university by the Lexington, Mass.-based company Imprivata. Its OneSign password management system is heavily used in the financial and health-care industries, where security concerns are paramount.

"We chose OneSign because Imprivata offers the best password management system on the market," Hembroff said. "It's proven to be reliable, adaptable and secure."

Training in OneSign will be particularly useful for computer network and system administration students after they graduate.

"Thanks to Imprivata's gift, our students will be learning the design and technology behind SSO, while gaining valuable hands-on experience that they will carry with them into the work environment," said Hembroff.

For more information on Imprivata, visit http://www.imprivata.com.

The BS in Computer Network and System Administration prepares students for employment in the computer information technology field, in areas such as network engineering, security engineering, and system administration. For more information, visit http://www.tech.mtu.edu/cnsa/index.html contact Hembroff at 906-487-3248 or hembroff@mtu.edu

Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.