OIT will require two-step identification process for all College email accounts

Rebecca Park

Starting April 10, two-step authentication will be required for all College email accounts. The office of information and technology (OIT) has been encouraging students to sign up for this added level of cyber-protection since last year. 

Google’s two-step authentication process requires a second mode of verification after entering the email password. There are many options available for this second step, but OIT strongly recommends using Google prompt, which, through the Google app, can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. 

Other options include the Google Authenticator app, which works without a cell or wireless connection, printed backup codes, codes through text messages or calls and USB keys. Students can choose for Google to remember the computers that are logged into regularly so that the two-step verification process is not needed every single time.

OIT’s push for two-step authentication comes as a response to how companies, organizations and individuals are increasingly being targeted through email and data breaches. “In this day and age, where cyberidentity theft and account compromisation are so common, adding another layer of security is not only helpful but also essential,” said Andrew Rim ’20, a Student Technology Consultant (STC). Through two-step authentication, Williams staff, faculty and students will be better protected against loss of sensitive data, phishing attacks and identity theft. 

The College is not the only institution encouraging this process for its faculty, staff and student accounts. Peer universities and colleges including University of California, Berkeley; Kenyon; Vassar; Smith; Bowdoin; Reed; Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore already require this method of cybersecurity.

“The college’s two-step project started with the president, senior staff, and offices like OIT, FinAid and Controllers where staff are working with sensitive and confidential information and have been steadily moving toward getting the entire campus secured,” OIT Director of Client Services Seth Rogers said. “We currently have over 35 departments fully signed up. 83 percent of staff, 36 percent of faculty and about half of all students are already using two-step, which totals over 2300 individual accounts.” 

Joanne Beckford ’19, student manager at OIT, notes the importance for all college accounts to be secured with two-step authentication. “Having even one student account unsecured could make the rest of the Williams Community be susceptible to phishing scams,” she said.

There are posters currently located on the second floor of Sawyer Library that visually represent the percentage of students signed up for two-step authentication by class year. As of this week, 62 percent of first-years, 52 percent of sophomores, 47 percent of juniors and 39 percent of seniors are signed up.

In order to encourage students to sign up for two-step authentication by the April 10 deadline, the OIT staff have used various methods. OIT has been sending regular reminders to students who have not yet signed up, and they have even included poems and memes in those emails. Beckford is promoting cybersecurity through the College’s unofficial meme page, Williams Memes for Sun-Dappled Tweens. “[I] know the way to a millennial’s heart is through memes,” she said.

Students can sign up for two-step authentication online at http://google.com/2step or get help by calling (413) 597-3088, emailing [email protected] or stopping by the Help Desks located on the second floor of Sawyer Library and the first floor of Jesup.