UC honors UC Davis passphrase upgrade campaign

The University of California has awarded the Larry L. Sautter Silver Award for Innovation in Information Technology to UC Davis for the 2010-11 upgrade of its core authentication service.

The award was presented to representatives of the Kerberos KDC and Passphrase Upgrade Project at the University of California Computing Services Conference Aug. 8 in Merced.

The project, which finished in February, improved the technology in UC Davis' core authentication service. The passphrase-based service protects the secure automated systems that people use to access email, report business travel expenses, and review academic personnel, among other purposes. It handles an average of up to 160,000 authentications daily.

The project highlighted several accomplishments, said Robert Ono, information technology security coordinator for UC Davis. He sponsored and co-chaired the project.

"First, it reflected innovative technical and communication approaches to improve the security and reliability of our authentication system," Ono said. "Second, it represented a strong collaboration between the 16 project team members and campus administrators, technologists and students."

The most visible part of the project required everyone with a campus Kerberos computing account to start using passphrases of at least 12 characters. Creative tools and communications, such as the self-help features on the campaign website, this poster, and a passphrase strength indicator, helped more than 60,000 faculty, students, staff and alumni upgrade to passphrases while minimizing disruption to the campus.

The upgrade was part of the campus's ongoing effort to improve privacy and computer security, although new federal minimum passphrase strength regulations also requir ed the change. Read the project entry for more details.

This year the Sautter program also awarded two honorable mentions for projects in the UC Davis Health System:

  • The School of Medicine Admissions System, which turned a paper-based model into an electronic system that reduced the school's annual admissions cycle by five months.
  • Real Time Location System Refrigeration and Equipment Tracking, which uses wireless devices to monitor temperatures in refrigerators that store food and medicine. It also locates medical equipment in the hospital so staff can find it quickly.

For 2011, the UC Information Technology Leadership Council presented three Golden and four Silver awards, plus five honorable mentions. The awards encourage faculty and staff to share creative solutions across the UC. They were started in 2000 in honor of Larry Sautter, an accomplished UC Riverside associate vice chancellor for computing and communications who died in 1999.