Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Laptop Encryption Update

This blog entry expired December 18, 2016. It may contain out-of-date information.

As was announced in Inside Iowa State over the summer, Iowa State University is encrypting all university-owned or managed laptops by 30 November 2015, with some colleges having a deadline of 01 December 2015.  To date, Iowa State’s IT staff has encrypted nearly 6,000 laptops, which brings the encryption project to more than 80 percent completion.

Encryption protects digital information by scrambling it while it is stored on computers or while it travels across the internet. This makes it inaccessible to criminals should the laptop be misplaced or stolen. For most users, the encryption process is painless; the process is handled by IT professionals and laptop performance is unaffected. However, performance may vary depending on the configuration or age of the machine.

Nationally, data breaches have become more common and one of the best preventative practices is to encrypt portable devices. During the April 2015 Board of Regents meeting, Iowa’s state auditor recommended that all Regent universities strengthen policies to mandate the encryption of portable devices.

The official audit to ISU, released 6 August 2015, recommends university policies be implemented to ensure all portable devices are encrypted. ISU had already began encrypting new laptops prior to deployment, and with this initiative existing laptops will also be encrypted by the end of the year.

At the IT Quarterly Meeting on 15 October 2015, representatives from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine offered updates on their efforts to attain their encryption goals. Communication, they said, has been an important part of their efforts. Frequent updates from college leadership on the importance of and process for encryption help keep faculty and staff informed.

IT leaders from across campus have met with faculty and staff to help educate our community and to build support for this important initiative.  At the IT Quarterly Meeting, Claire Andreasen, associate dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine, talked about the role IT leadership played in helping build support in her college.

"This is very helpful because it’s not just me who is saying ‘this is important,’” Andreasen said. “The campus support has been really good for us."

Interested in learning more about encryption? Check out this FAQ document.