The Story Behind the Mysterious Computer Password Changes

By Fiona Haze and Natalia Sosna

Students may have noticed that their passwords were changed in mid-July. Naturally, this sparked a lot of confusion, worries, and questions. Why were our passwords changed? How much of what we do on our school computers can be accessed by the tech office? Can they see our search history? Can they block certain features? Is our computer spying on us? What exactly is happening here? 

One student in particular suffered from this unannounced password change. Zofia C. was at the School of the New York Times for a university course. While she needed to turn in all of her assignments, she noticed that she couldn’t access her email. All that the computer told her was that her email had been changed. 

At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, there was a rumour spreading that this was because of a change in the computer school policy which meant that the school now had full access to our personal information, including our social media. We went out to investigate this matter to understand what had happened.

ASW Warrior News can now confirm that this is false information and that the computer policy has not been changed, according to Mr. Neudorf, the school’s technology director. 

According to Mr. Neudorf, when we sign the Responsible Use Policy (RUP) at the beginning of the year, we agree to the fact that we use our computers responsibly with the device on our network. He also states that the RUP doesn’t relate to our computer-related security practices. 

The fact that we couldn’t change our passwords also seemed to be an issue with some of the students. According to Zuzanna K., she felt very stressed out when this issue occurred. 

There is a way around changing your password. According to Mr. Neudorf, a student could change his or her password if they discussed it with him directly. However, it is currently complicated to change GSuite passwords. 

Mr. Neudorf also addressed why our passwords were changed in the middle of the summer without notifying the students. Over the summer, the Technology Department adopted a new mobile device management (MDM) solution because of a change in Apple’s deployment policies. The adoption of this MDM in conjunction with the school’s annual reimaging effort required the school to use a known (randomly generated) password to set up each laptop for each student. 

Mr. Neudorf debunked the rumour of the school having full access to our social media. Initially, we encountered some confusion regarding the wording of the handbook. According to the handbook, the school “reserves the right to access any information on ASW computers, network, and Internet services accessed through the network or on the ASW computer.” This can be found under the Use of “ASW Network”. So, did this mean that the school could just spy on us at any time? Did we have anything to worry about?

 The school, according to Mr. Neudorf, has only “reserved rights” to take away our laptops in case of an issue arising and if there is a need for investigation. Such a need for investigation is only necessary in the case that a student uses their computer for inappropriate use beyond school purposes, thus prompting a physical check up. He also said that the school has no way to access confidential aspects of students’ social media on our laptops. According to Mr. Neudorf, the IT Office does not even have our laptop passwords: the changed laptop passwords were an outcome of a change in the Apple policy and were simply generated by the IT Office. They have not written down our passwords anywhere, therefore having no access to, for example, our email.  

The IT Department, according to Mr. Neudorf, is always looking for feedback and that they are open to discussing how to better the school’s use of technology. 

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