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Emergency password changes

In response to a security incident, UIS may be obliged to reset a user's UIS password.

Why the UIS might change a password

The UIS user name (CRSid) and password is the key to accessing many University IT resources. For this reason, they have an inherent value to a potential criminal or cyber attacker and can be stolen and misused.

In these situations, the solution is to change, or reset, the password as soon as possible, thereby removing the attacker's access and preventing further misuse of the account.

When possible, UIS will try to contact an affected individual asking them to change the password. This allows the individual to maintain access to their account throughout. However, there are situations when this is not possible.

 

Examples of situations in which UIS may be obliged to change a user's password

If UIS has made a reasonable attempt to contact a user, or the compromise is considered high enough risk for an immediate action, UIS staff may be obliged to change the user's password. In these situations CSIRT, or other UIS staff, will place a request with the User Admin team.

The following examples illustrate when UIS may change a user's password.

  • A compromised email account, such as Hermes, is used to send spam. In this situation the user's password is changed immediately to stop the spam emails.
  • Following a security incident, if a user does not respond to a UIS request to change their password within a sensible time frame (typically two working days), UIS may change the password for them.
  • A user cannot be easily contacted for an indefinite period – for example, because of prolonged sick leave. A consultation with the user's institution is normally undertaken before this done.
  • UIS becomes aware of a high-risk compromise. In these incidents UIS may need to take immediate action and reset a user's password.

In each case, the UIS will attempt to contact the individual by emailing the local institutional IT staff to which they are affiliated, or by telephone.

 

eduroam and VPN network authentication token

eduroam and VPN authentication rely on a different password, referred to as the network authentication token. This works a little differently to the UIS password. CSIRT, and other UIS staff, are able to disable authentication to eduroam/VPN but without actually changing the user's token.

So in some incidents CSIRT will disable a token for the user as a precaution while an incident is resolved, enabling it again when the incident is over - but without having changed it. The user is then able to change their own network token if required.

 

What to do if your password was changed

If the password is changed by UIS, the user must use the follow 'Forgotten password' process on the Password Management site to get a new one.

Unfortunately CSIRT cannot provide the user with a new password, they do not have the necessary authority to do this.

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