A proposed data classification system for UAB will make it easier for faculty, staff and researchers to determine how best to keep University data safe.

UAB IT has worked closely with information security officials from UAB Health System to develop the proposed classification system.

Data Classification Levels

The new system proposes three levels of data: public, sensitive and restricted/PHI.

“Much of the University data covered by the sensitive and restricted levels is already regulated by law or contract,” said Brian Rivers, assistant vice president and chief information officer. “This proposed standard should help employees determine the best level of protection for the data they use.”

Public data

Public data is data that can be disclosed to the general public without harm. Examples of public data include phone directory information, course catalogs, public research findings, enrollment figures, public web sites, general benefits data, press releases, newsletters and other similar information.

Sensitive data

Sensitive data is data that should be kept confidential, with access requiring authorization or legitimate need-to-know involvement. Examples of sensitive data include FERPA information, budgetary plans, internal communications, proprietary business plans, patent pending information, export controls information and data protected by law.

Restricted/PHI data

Restricted/PHI data is sensitive data that is highly confidential in nature, and carries significant risk from unauthorized access. Privacy and security controls are typically required by law or contract for this data. Examples include Social Security numbers, credit card numbers (PCI), personally identified information, protected health information, Graham-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) data, export controlled data, FISMA regulated data, login credentials, and information protected by non-disclosure agreements.

The proposed policy also establishes roles and responsibilities for protecting institutional data.


UAB’s new supercomputer “worked like magic” as University professor Dr. Hassan Fathallah-Shaykh participated in a world-wide competition to evaluate MRI images of the brain.

Fathallah-Shaykh, a professor in UAB’s Departments of Neurology, Mathematics, Integrative, Developmental and Cell Biology, Biomedical, and Electrical Engineering won the 2016 BRATS Competition in Athens, Greece.

BRATS is short for Multimodal Brain Tumor Image Segmentation Challenge. Dr. Fathallah-Shaykh’s team, along with fellow Blazer biomedical Engineering graduate student Fabio Raman, tied with two other groups to top the field of 19. The use of UAB’s new supercomputer helped to separate Dr. Fathallah-Shaykh from the rest of the field, he said.

Last year, UAB IT installed the fastest supercomputer in the state — and one of the fastest in the Southeast. UAB increased computing speed for researchers from 10 teraflops to 110 teraflops, and increased storage from 0.7 petabytes to nearly 7 petabytes.

“The supercomputer worked like magic, without any glitches. It is evident that I would not have been able to compete without the supercomputer resource,” he said.

The BRATS Challenge consisted of the MRIs of 191 brain tumor patients diagnosed with low and high grade gliomas in different parts of the brain before and after surgery. Teams were tasked with determining the location of the segments of each MRI image that include enhancing tumor, FLAIR signal changes, necrosis, and tumor core, if any.

Dr. Fathallah-Shaykh’s method was the only method that was interactive, semi-automated and did not use statistical learning or neural networks.  It is designed such that the user can easily check the results and easily make modifications, if needed.

The method consists of two parts, and Fathallah-Shaykh used UAB’s research computer Cheaha to run first part of this process, which was the segmentation with NMF-LSM (Non-Negative Matrix Factorization and modified Level Set Method). He was granted 265 processors; all calculations were competed in about 12 hours — a process that without the supercomputer would have taken days to perform.

The performance of Dr. Fathallah-Shaykh and his team with the use of the supercomputer is a further sign that UAB’s “investment in research computing is paying off. UAB IT is committed to giving our researchers and faculty world-class technology, so that they can innovate and change the world," said Curt Carver, UAB’s VP of Information Technology.  
AskIT photo

New training techniques and a partnership with a leading technical support vendor are helping UAB IT improve its customer service goals in the AskIT help desk.

UAB IT has made a pledge to the university community to support their mission as a world-class educational and research institution. UAB IT leadership — including Vice President and CIO Dr. Curtis A. Carver Jr. — have been working in the help desk for months to build on improvements.

To make the mission of delivering world-class IT support to UAB faculty staff and students a reality, Jason Johnson, associate director for AskIT, has been put in place concrete steps to achieve this goal.

The first step is training and ensuring the AskIT Help Desk returns to the basics of the customer experience by focusing on training consistency and accuracy.

“Giving the Help Desk basic training for soft skills, customer service and guidance on how to handle tickets will ensure the team is consistent with each customer contact,” Johnson said.

In conjunction with these training plans, AskIT will also develop a standard skill level. They have also partnered with HDI, a renowned leader in the technical support industry, to deliver a blend of customer support, communications and problem solving to AskIT employees.

A constant need for the UAB campus is the dependence on technology and the expectation that issues should be resolved as efficiently as possible. AskIT is working on building up the staff to support the UAB administration, faculty, staff and students in order to handle the 10,000-12,000 requests and issues they receive on a monthly basis. 
UAB IT’s new firewall posture — known as “default-deny” — has significantly reduced potential outside attacks on the UAB network.

The new posture, “default-deny,” is a best practice for enterprise environments protect the campus community and better screen out unwanted or unexpected network activity. 

UAB’s attack surface has now dwindled from about 100,000 IP addresses to a little more than 2,100. Of those, most are publicly accessible web services or applications needed for University business, academic resources, collaboration or research.

This success of the new default-deny project is a result of co-authorship and partnership with IT professionals across campus.

The change does not impact any servers or services located within the UAB Health System network, as HSIS utilizes the default-deny firewall policy for their network segment.

If you have any specific technical questions, feel free to contact the Enterprise Information Security staff at 975-0842 or via email at datasecurity@uab.edu.
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