Protecting My Data
At the university, many of us deal with a large quantity of data every day. Some of this data is considered sensitive and is vital to the University’s business operations.
By understanding which data is considered sensitive, you can help the University safeguard its most important assets.
Step 1: Identify
You cannot secure what you don't know.
- The first step is to make an inventory of the information you use as part of your research, teaching, and administrative work, and identify where they are located.
- If the source information is contained within an application or database, make sure you take any data exports, dumps or reports from the application into consideration as well.
Examples of types of data
Examples of where data might be stored
Clinical trial data
University U: and S: drives
Personally owned laptop
Within business application (e.g., PeopleSoft or HPE Content Manager)
USB memory stick
Mobile device (iPhone, iPad, etc)
See the storage webpage for more information
Step 2: Classify
Distinguish what's important from what's not
- The next step is to categorise the identified information into what is sensitive and what is not.
- It is often useful to set up a common language to facilitate this categorisation process.
- You may want to define a more fine-grained classification to suit the needs of your own division. For example, you could create Sub-Class 3A - Medical Records, 3B - Top Secret Research, etc.
Classification Description Class 4 "Restricted"
Classified defence research
Identifiable medical data
Data protected under the US Government HIPPA
Data protected under the Australian Government DISP
Class 3 "Confidential"
Personally identifiable data (TFN, home address, phone number, DOB, etc)
Credit card data
Medical records and patient data
Defence related research
Student academic records
Class 2 "University Internal"
Unpublished research data
Teaching materials (PowerPoint, Word, recorded lectures, etc)
Non-sensitive and de-identified research data
Normal business administration records
Class 1 "Public"
Course description / synopsis
Information on public website
If you are unsure if a piece of data is Class 4, Class 3 or Class 2, ask yourself:
- If the data were to be exposed to major media, would it hurt the reputation of yourself, your work/research unit, or the University?
- Would an exposure violate University policies, privacy laws, or other laws and regulations?
- Would unauthorised exposure to a malicious person be detrimental to the success of your work?
- Would you suffer a significant setback for your work if the data was lost permanently?
- Does the data contain personal or personally identifiable data?
If the answer to any of the questions is 'YES' then consider the data Class 3 or Class 4.
Step 3: Protect
Protecting sensitive information from unauthorised access, corruption and accidental loss is vital to upholding the University’s world-class research and teaching standards, as well as comply with laws and regulations.
In the interests of efficiency and economy, the level of protection should be commensurate with the value of the information asset or the impact to the University if security is compromised.
The CSF Information Classification and Protection Standard provides a common framework for classifying the University’s information assets in order to determine the appropriate level of security protection. The guidelines have been developed to be sufficiently generic so that they can be applied to all areas within the University. Areas may choose to elaborate on this guideline to meet their specific needs.
Here are some SecureIT tips to safely manage your data:
Stop and think before you share data
Sharing information is an important part of achieving a productive learning and teaching environment at the University. Some information, however, is sensitive and may harm you or the University if it gets in the wrong hands.
Criminals can use sensitive information against the University to tarnish our brand and impact the teaching and learning prospects of the University.
Discretion should be used when sharing any of the following information:
- Personally identifiable information
- Medical and heath information
- Student records
- Financial information
- Research data and intellectual property
Always protect your sensitive files
Keeping your sensitive files secure plays an important role in protecting the University's data. Storing sensitive information in the cloud or on local hard drives can have serious consequences, including data loss (due to a device failure) or data theft (due to lost or unattended equipment).
The University currently offers two locations where students and staff can securely store their files
The U: drive, or User drive, is a private online storage location offered to every student and staff member. Your U: drive is automatically mapped when you login to any University computer. The data stored on your U: drive is backed up nightly and is protected from other users.
*Please note: U: drive storage capacity is limited to 2GB for students and 5GB for staff.
The S: drive, or Shared drive, is a centralised online storage location where staff can share files with colleagues. Access to files on S: drive can be restricted to staff members residing in a particular Faculty, Division, Branch, Area or team. S: drive is backed up nightly.
Be mindful if you are storing data in the cloud
Many internet companies offer online storage for your photos, emails and documents. The term commonly used to describe this service is called cloud storage. Box is a cloud storage and collaboration service that is university-endorsed and supported. LabArchives is a cloud-based electronic research notebook system that is also university-supported. Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Drive are all cloud storage options that are not endorsed or supported by the University of Adelaide.
While cloud storage may feel like a hassle-free way to manage your data, it has some very real security implications that should be considered.
- Before storing any of your data in the cloud you should consider:
- Would the cloud provider tell you if they were hacked and your data was stolen?
- Is your data being backed up?
- Is your data being shared with advertising companies?
- What happens if the cloud provider goes bankrupt or is taken over?
- Are employees of the cloud provider allowed to view and share your data?
When it comes to university-endorsed systems such as Box and LabArchives, you can be confident that the University has asked and answered these questions on your behalf. While you use these systems, be aware of the type of data you are storing and de-identify personal details. Also, keep an eye on who has been given access to the files and remove people's access when it is no longer appropriate.
Avoid storing and accessing sensitive data on public or shared computers
Public computers often contain hidden programs that can secretly record your passwords, emails and banking information. Hackers will also use public wifi hotspots to (surreptitiously) intercept your traffic and steal your passwords and other private information.
Hackers can use this information to commit identity fraud or other cybercrimes.