CMU faculty advises students to be cautious online


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Illustration by Evan Sorenson/Online Coordinator

Access to Central Michigan University students' information and email messages might be a simple click away.

Students at CMU have personalized cmich email accounts that are accessible even after graduation. However, they aren’t the only ones with access to the email accounts.

“Only a small number of Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff who support student email have this capability,” Director of Infrastructure and Security in Information Technology Eric Lorenz said via email. “None of our student employees have administrator access to student email accounts.”

The OIT staff will only look into the accounts when students call the Help Desk for assistance, if they’re having problems logging into their email or if they forgot their password or have been locked out of their account.

“Along those lines, the Help Desk will step in and help out,” Communications Manager for the OIT Kole Taylor said. “And, usually, that’s just along the lines of resetting somebody’s password or their account so they can get back in.”

Freshman Janice Jay said she called the Help Desk before when her student email was not working on her Mac laptop. She said she wasn't concerned with security knowing others could access her email.

“No, I thought it was really helpful because I could not do it myself,” the Troy native said. “So, I’m happy they actually went on there and did it.”

Taylor said he doesn’t hear students complain about a lack of email privacy. He said the OIT staff doesn’t check student emails. They would only interact with them if the student tells them they are having issues.

However, it can be necessary for students' email accounts to be accessed for other purposes.

“OIT staff will only access a student’s email account without the student’s knowledge if we have express consent from CMU’s Office of General Counsel,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz said this is an incredibly rare occurrence that happens only once or twice per year.

Though, when students aren’t having troubles with their emails, it can be easy to have problems with protecting their information on the Internet. Computer Science Professor Qi Liao said once you put something on the Internet, he doubts it will be there forever but others can access it.

“... Google keeps a cache of every web page,” Liao said. “So, there’s a chance that they cache your web page, which contains the content you don’t want other people to see.”

However, Liao said you can inform Google and ask them to remove that cache, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will always follow the procedures. Liao advises when posting things on the Internet to be cautious and know it's accessible to anyone.

“Although the web may have some options that allow you to set the privacy level … assume whenever you write anything on the Internet, it’s public,” Liao said.

Liao explains there are different approaches people can take to make sure it is protected, such as creating certain steps and having a log-in and password; however, it can be annoying and nothing is prevented entirely.

“Security is like an onion,” Liao said. “It’s not one piece or thing that protects everything. You’re always adding one layer of protection; one by one … Although there’s no perfect security.”


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