Two-step verification at UB: protecting what matters most

A row of people happily using tablets and computers.

Published August 29, 2019

You’re a member of the UB community, and your security is important. That’s why, during Fall 2019, UBIT will reach out and ask you to enroll your UBITName account in two-step verification, powered by Duo.

What is two-step verification?

Two-step verification makes your online accounts more secure by pairing something you know—your password—with something you have—like a smartphone—when logging in. Once you enter your password, you will receive a notification or an additional code on a separate device that, combined with your password, will log you into your account. 

Two-step verification is commonly used in online banking, social media and other online accounts to prevent someone who has guessed or hacked your password from logging in.

“More people are realizing the value two-step verification adds in helping secure our data,” said UB Vice President/Chief Information Officer Brice Bible. “And they expect it to be available to protect the kind of sensitive data we at UB access every day.”

Why do we need two-step verification at UB?

Several new laws and guidelines from SUNY, the state of New York and the federal government have led to increased information security measures at UB. By offering two-step verification, UB can prepare for and meet some of these requirements without having to place undue burden on faculty, staff and students.

“Two-step verification is an important step in an ever-expanding, increasingly fraught online world,” UB’s Information Security Officer Mark Herron said. 

“While it doesn’t remove the burden of verifying trust entirely, it returns some of the power to the individuals engaging with their work and their colleagues on a daily basis, so they can work intuitively, and openly, with trust.”

For UB employees working with financial information, or faculty researchers analyzing Protected Health Information or other Category I data, two-step verification automatically and dramatically reduces the likelihood that their accounts can be used to fraudulently access sensitive data, which could come with serious legal ramifications. 

For students, two-step verification could better protect financial and enrollment information, contact info, grades and other sensitive data in the HUB Student Center. 

Student information was a target as recently as 2018, when UBIT shut down a fraudulent attempt to steal students’ tuition refund checks

Two-step verification prevents attacks like these automatically, in almost all cases.

Input from the campus community

UBIT asked UB faculty about two-step verification in the 2019 Faculty IT Survey. 49% of all respondents thought the practice would be valuable for security at UB.

Roughly two dozen faculty respondents stressed the need for an easy and efficient process, and one that accommodates those without smartphones.

UBIT will also support other methods of two-step verification for faculty, staff and students who do not have, or do not want to use, a personal smartphone.

Student groups have also researched and recommended two-step verification at UB. In 2018, a group of MBA students surveyed UB students and faculty, and found that the majority supported using it at UB. 

Need help with your UBITName account?

Contact the UBIT Help Center for help related to your UBITName account, online at buffalo.edu/ubit/help. Or, call 716-645-3542, or stop by our Help Center walk-up locations on North and South Campus.