Personal Responsibility

Legally, you are personally and fiscally responsible for any information disclosure from your computer or mobile devices, whether accidental or not. IRT Security is here to help you protect yourself: encryption is a one-time, necessary step you can take now to prevent trouble in the future. Stanford is now requiring all computers on its network to be encrypted. Read on for details, and use the quick links to get started.

Data Security Program

The Data Security Program at the School of Medicine oversees compliance with Stanford policy and federal law. The program will be conducting ongoing assessments of the devices and the kinds of data users work with. The SoM is on track for encrypting all devices used to access Stanford resources by May 31, 2015—whether they are owned by you personally or by the University.

Find out more about the Data Security Program, and how to make sure you're meeting all the security standards, at: med.stanford.edu/datasecurity.

To check whether you and your devices are in compliance, visit amie.stanford.edu.

If you feel that, due to a specific circumstance, your computer or device cannot be successfully encrypted, read about how to apply for an exemption.


Data Classification: What Data Must Be Encrypted?

Stanford's new security initiatives require all computers accessing the Stanford network to be encrypted, so that all information at rest will automatically be encrypted. The three following classes of information must also be encrypted while in transit (via email, mobile device or portable drive.)

If you work remotely, you should encrypt your home computer as well. If your machine or device cannot be encrypted for technical reasons, then you cannot store prohibited or restricted information on it, PERIOD.

The following definitions are excerpted from Stanford University's Stanford Secure Computing's Data Classification page.

Prohibited Data

Information is classified as “Prohibited” if protection of the information is required by law/regulation, or if Stanford is required to self-report to the government and/or provide notice to the individual if information is inappropriately accessed. [Prohibited data must be removed from your hard drive unless you have explicit permission from the Data Governance Board to have it on your system. Prohibited data must be encrypted.]

Note: If a file which would otherwise be considered to be Restricted or Confidential contains any element of Prohibited Information, the entire file is considered to be Prohibited Information.

Common types of Prohibited Data include:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Credit Card Numbers
  • Financial Account Numbers, such as checking or investment account numbers
  • Driver's License Numbers
  • Health Insurance Policy ID Numbers

Restricted Data

Information is classified as “Restricted” if (i) it would otherwise qualify as “Prohibited” but it has been determined by the Data Governance Board (DGB) that prohibiting information storage on Computing Equipment would significantly reduce faculty/staff/student effectiveness when acting in support of Stanford’s mission and/or (ii) it is listed as Restricted in theClassification of Common Data Elements[Restricted data must be encrypted.]

Common types of Restricted Data include:

  • Student Records (for special exceptions see the Data Classification Chart)
  • Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • Passport and visa numbers
  • Research and other information covered by non-disclosure agreements
  • Export controlled information under U.S. laws

Confidential Data

Information is classified as “Confidential” if (i) it is not considered to be Prohibited or Restricted and is not generally available to the public, or (ii) it is listed as Confidential in the Classification of Common Data Elements[Confidential data is not legally required to be encrypted, but Stanford strongly recommends it.]

Common types of Confidential Data include:

  • Faculty/staff employment applications, personnel files, benefits information, salary, birth date, and personal contact information
  • Admission applications
  • Donor contact information and non-public gift amounts
  • Privileged attorney-client communications
  • Non-public Stanford policies and policy manuals
  • Stanford internal memos and email, and non-public reports, budgets, plans, and financial information
  • Non-public contracts
  • University and employee ID numbers


Getting Started With Encryption

There are instructions on the Data Security page that will walk you through the steps necessary to fulfill the School of Medicine's security requirements for each of your devices. Before you begin, however, the following may help you streamline the process.

Preparing for Encryption: Backing Up

In case something goes wrong during the encryption process, you should back up your computer before running the SWDE installer.

The requirement to use CrashPlan has been suspended for now, but it is still strongly recommended as a secure, monitored, convenient, and free backup solution. Additionally, the SoM can assist you in restoring your information from CrashPlan, in the event of a hard drive crash or lost computer.

For instructions and help with installation, visit the Data Security Program's CrashPlan Guide.


Preparing for Encryption: Key/Password

For desktop and laptop computers, Stanford Whole Disk Encryption (SWDE) installer makes certain that your computer has all the necessary requirements, and then guides you through the activation of your computer's native encryption software (FileVault for Mac, and BitLocker for Windows).

(For mobile device encryption instructions, select your operating system: Apple/iOS or Android.)

Each time you access your system (on startup, after sleep/hibernation, etc), a key/password is used to unlock your data.  IF YOU CANNOT REMEMBER YOUR KEY, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCESS YOUR ENCRYPTED DATA.

In case of a forgotten key, in some instances someone at ITS will be able to help you recover your data. However, we recommend the following:

  • Before you begin the encryption process, select a strong key or passphrase that you will use for the encryption.  Here are some hints for creating a strong passphraseDo NOT use the same password as for your SUID.
  • Write down the password and place it in a sealed envelope; store the sealed envelope in a secure location (e.g., a locked desk).  THIS IS YOUR BACKUP IN CASE YOU FORGET YOUR KEY OR PASSWORD.
  • When you install SWDE, which uses BitLocker or FileVault, you should do the same with the Recovery Key, a string of letters and numbers generated by the installer before proceeding with encryption: this recovery key will be your backup in case of a lost password. BigFix will store a copy with ITS automatically, as well.
  • As with all passwords, do not share these with anyone.


Once you have selected your login password and backup method, you are ready to move on to the encryption process.