Center for Information Technology

Data Security

Many situations have been in the news recently: stolen laptops containing personal information, hacking events at colleges and universities, and vulnerabilities within computer operating systems.

Learn more about how to choose a strong password, keep your operating system up to date, back up your data, and encrypt your device to reduce your risk of data loss.

  • All account passwords should be safeguarded. Don’t write passwords down where they can be easily found. Not writing them down at all is preferred!
  • Don’t set your computer to remember your password information. Someone else using your computer may easily gain access.
  • Also, once it’s time to reset the password, you may not recall what it is yourself. Passwords should also be selected so as not to be easily determined—i.e. don’t just pick your child’s name, your dog’s name, your birthdate.
  • Passwords on the Oberlin email system are required to be changed every 122 days. You cannot reuse a password. Try to pick a password with characters and numbers, such as: 1m4t0fu.

Operating systems, like Windows and macOS (formerly Mac OS X), are made up of countless parts with different functions, ideally working in harmony. It’s inevitable that some of these parts will be less than perfect. But when a problem leaves a hole in your machine's defenses, it is extremely important to patch it as soon as possible. This is best accomplished by using built-in update features through the Windows Update Page in the Windows Control Panel for Windows PCs, and the Software Update feature, on macOS and OS X systems. Your machine may need to be restarted after you update.

Make sure your files are regularly and properly backed up. Never store your data only on your laptop. Store it in other locations such as on an external drive, or with a cloud-based solution.

Do not use any product on a college-owned computer that would prohibit or inhibit the ability of CIT to effect repairs, as needed. In addition, beware of using any product that encrypts your personal computer’s entire hard drive (e.g., File Vault on a Mac). If you forget the login and master passwords, you will not be able to recover any of your data.

macOS FileVault

FileVault uses the latest government-approved encryption standard, the Advanced Encryption Standard with 128-bit keys (AES-128).

College-Owned Computers

To use FileVault on your college-owned device, contact CIT.

Personal Computers

To use FileVault on your personal device, refer to Apple’s FileVault support page.

If you lose both your account password and your FileVault recovery key, you won’t be able to log in to your Mac or access the data on your startup disk.

When you turn on FileVault, you also set up a master password for the computer that you or an administrator can use if you forget your regular login password.