All broadband internet traffic at Pacific University came to a screeching halt Thursday, as UIS staff members forgot to renew its set-to-expire password and became locked out of its own system indefinitely.
The lockout, which occurred at about 7 a.m., happened when a work-study in the department ignored the last of several automated emails sent to remind users that if they do not reset their password soon, they will be unable to access their account.
“I get so much automated crap from the university – Boxer Briefs, surveys, etc. – I usually just delete them when I seem them,” said Timmy Johnson, the student responsible for the mishap. “I guess I really dropped the ball there.”
UIS, which has placed a solid emphasis on password security following an unfortunate snafu in 2010, where a student’s PUnet account was hacked by an intrusive roommate, who using the information, subsequently registered the student for several unwanted classes.
“I just remember getting an email from my advisor telling me I had to get instructor’s approval to take advanced ballet,” said undergraduate victim Zach Rousslang. “Nothing against the class, but I don’t think my moves are quite up to an ‘advanced’ level.”
Since the incident, UIS has beefed up web security immensely, requiring anyone with a PUnet ID – that is all students, staff and faculty – to reset their passwords weekly and adhere to strict guidelines to their strength. Passwords must be at least 16 characters, contain at least one symbol and capital letter, three math equations, and include the last name of a non-assassinated deceased democratic president as well as the three-letter abbreviation for an east-coast state with no more than three other states sharing its border.
Some have called the new guidelines excessive, but UIS insists that the precautions are necessary to help prevent what could be a campus-wide catastrophe if a student’s password got into the wrong hands.
“We’ve eliminated the problem of trying to stay one step ahead of hackers by staying 15 steps ahead,” said Brian King, manager of the Technology Information Center. “Some might call it extreme but it makes sense.”
Since the collapse, students and faculty have been forced to revert back to dial-up Internet, but not without the expected backlash.
“Painfully slow,” said political science associate professor Jules Boykoff. “I might as well jog around campus rather than bother to send emails.”
Despite widespread disappointment, with no clear solution yet on the horizon it appears that dial-up, for the time being, is here to stay. There were rumors of a highly-secret “master reset” button which could potentially unlock the account, but the only person with access would be the ex-Chief Information Officer Lee Colaw, who is not currently available.
“We certainly are in a sticky situation right now,” said King, “but at least we know that if we can’t get in ourselves, nobody on the outside can get in either.”