Continued expansion of the Cheaha supercomputer, improvements in customer service and enhanced security measures are among the many projects UAB IT has planned with its strategic partners in 2018.

UAB IT is entering the second year of the IT Strategic Plan, which calls for a number of projects to improve technology infrastructure and services through 2019. UAB IT collaborated with constituents across campus to develop the plan.

UAB continues to make security its top priority, with streamlined policies, an expanded Security Operations Center and security awareness measures ongoing. In the coming year, UAB will be adding security enhancements to campus email and seeking help from the campus community to protect sensitive data.

Growing the Cheaha supercomputer, already by far the fastest in Alabama, is planned for the spring. Last fall, UAB added GPUs to improve the supercomputer’s performance to 450 teraflops. The capacity upgrade this spring could bring the research computing cluster’s performance to 1 petaflop.

UAB IT is also in a constant state of improvement with regard to customer service. The Desktop Services unit is undergoing changes sparked by an evaluation by HDI, a leading customer service consultant. Last year, AskIT improved its customer serving rating to a 2.6 and continues to adapt to meet customer needs.

Among the other projects UAB IT will engage in the coming year include updated classroom technology; an updated IT Service Portal; and infrastructure improvements including the beginning of implementation of a new voice-over-IP telephone system.

To see more of the IT plans for the new year, take a look at the IT Strategic Plan wall chart.
Vice President and Chief Information Officer Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D., has been elected to serve on the Advisory Council for the West Point Association of Graduates, the alumni association for the U.S. Military Academy.

Curt CarverCarver will serve from 2018-2020 and represent 11 South Central states as one of six society advisors and a member of the 54-person Advisory Council.

The mission of the West Point Association of Graduates is to serve West Point and its graduates and to further the ideals and promote the welfare of the U.S. Military Academy.

Carver graduated from West Point in 1983, rose through the faculty ranks to professor, and served at West Point for 12 years before retiring from the U.S. Army after 27 years of service.

Carver has served UAB as its CIO since 2015. During his tenure at UAB, the University has expanded its research computing capacity to deploy the fastest supercomputer in Alabama; become the first university in the state to deploy 100Gbps internet speeds across campus; and implemented new services such as unlimited email, unlimited cloud storage and expanded WiFi to help better serve campus needs.

Carver is the former vice chancellor and chief information officer for the University System of Georgia and has received a number of national and international honors and awards for military, teaching and research excellence.
Phishing emails can often mimic the email addresses of your colleagues — making you think that someone at UAB is sending you a legitimate message.

In February, UAB IT will be launching a new feature in UAB email that will alert you when you receive an email from outside UAB. The external sender notice will look like the screenshot below.

ExternalSender screenshot

So if an outside vendor sends you a message or a student emails from his or her personal account, you will receive the notification at the top of the email. If you trust the source, you can disregard the notification.

But if someone trying to scam you fakes a UAB email address — as was the case with a widely-circulated phishing email purporting to be from UAB President Dr. Ray Watts last year — you will be warned to take caution opening any attachments or clicking any links included in the message.

If you do suspect you have received a phishing email, you can report it via PhishMe Reporter or forward it to phishing@uab.edu.

Learn more about phishing and how you can limit your risk of falling for a scam email here.
UAB has enacted new encryption guidelines to give faculty, staff and students recommendations on the requirements and technology solutions for various types of encryption of Restricted/PHI data.

The encryption guidelines are intended to help ensure that the confidentiality and integrity of UAB data and resources are protected in accordance with the UAB Data Protection Rule and other policies, standards, rules and security frameworks.

For example, the guidelines explain the solutions for encrypting Microsoft Office files, Windows desktops and laptops and Apple desktops and laptops.

Restricted/PHI data, as defined by the Data Classification Rule, includes HIPAA information, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and other confidential information.


Storing confidential information — particularly information classified as restricted — endangers students, faculty and staff.

UAB IT needs the help of everyone on campus to reduce the amount of data, such as Social Security numbers or personal health information, that is stored on local computers or servers. 

If you have stored Restricted/PHI data, such as SSNs, on your computer, departmental server, UABFile drive or in cloud storage such as OneDrive or Box, you need to review your files and delete or redact any information that is no longer needed, especially as UAB IT begins a campaign to migrate data stored in UABFile to the cloud.

Remember this rule: If you don't need it, delete it. And if you do need it, protect it. Store restricted and sensitive information according to the Data Classification and Data Protection rules. 

The video above has more tips on reducing data, and you can click on our new data reduction page to learn more.


Keeping your UAB email address can help you keep in touch with the contacts you’ve built over your college career — and remind you that once a Blazer, always a Blazer.

Beginning in 2018, UAB IT will offer students and staff the opportunity to keep their @uab.edu email addresses once they leave the University. It’s easy to sign up for the Blazer for Life email — when it’s time for you to graduate or leave your job, you’ll just set up forwarding to a separate email address. Learn how here.

“I think it is a great idea to be able to carry the UAB name for life,” said Tamia Heard, a junior majoring in public relations. “As a proud Blazer, being able to keep my e-mail handle will allow me to continue showing people where I come from.”

For Ashley Kroeger, a senior biology major, keeping a UAB email address will allow her to keep her contacts.

“Students have many benefits that come with being a student enrolled in an academic institution,” Kroeger said. “As well, it allows you to keep in touch with advisors, peers and mentors from graduation and within the development of your life. I think it’s extremely beneficial.”

Students and staff will be able to keep their UAB email addresses, but the mailbox itself will be deleted. For students, the mailbox is deleted after one year. For staff, the mailbox is deleted after three months. Students and staff who would like to keep previous emails are encouraged to archive them on their own.

Eventually, Blazer for Life could give alumni access to other technology solutions.

“We’re trying to think holistically,” said Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D., vice president and chief information officer. “We want to give students access to resources to reduce their worries as they are starting their careers. And Blazer for Life reminds you that once you are a Blazer, you’re always a Blazer.”
A new Data Access Policy and revised Acceptable Use of Computer and Network Resources Policy go into effect Dec. 1.

“These policies provide UAB students, faculty and staff with clear guidance for use of computing resources and with formalized protection of sensitive and restricted information,” said Brian Rivers, UAB’s chief information security officer.

The revised Acceptable Use policy applies to all users of UAB’s computing resources and is intended to prohibit certain unacceptable uses of computers, mobile devices and network resources and facilities, while educating users about their individual responsibilities.

The revised policy gives clearer guidance and expectations to UAB students, faculty and staff regarding their use of University computing resources.

The new Data Access Policy outlines the requirements for granting and revoking access to Sensitive and Restricted/PHI institutional data, as outlined in the Data Classification Rule.

Examples of sensitive data include FERPA data, budgetary plans and data protected by law. Examples of Restricted/PHI data include HIPAA protected health information, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers.

The Data Access Policy ensures that access to such information is authorized and based on the principles of least privilege and need to know, that its use is appropriate and that authorized access complies with UAB policies, standards and rules as well as relevant laws.

“Creating a secure computing environment is the No. 1 IT imperative at UAB,” said Vice President and CIO Curtis A. Caver Jr., Ph.D. “Over the past year, we have worked to revise and streamline technology policies to give the University community clearer expectations for their behavior and to better protect their information.”
UAB IT will be adding a customer service survey to the closure emails for AskIT and Desktop Services customers who have submitted incident and request tickets in the IT Service Portal.

The surveys are part of an overall UAB IT effort to improve customer service.

"Responses to the survey will help us improve our services we deliver," said Jamie Witter, associate director of IT Client Services. 

The survey is brief — customers will be asked to rate their customer service based on the maturity of a dragon, and can answer additional questions about their customer service experience. 

The survey looks similar to what is pictured below. A link will be provided in the closing emails for tickets.

CustomerServiceSurvey

Desktop Services is currently undergoing an improvement plan, working with industry-leading customer service consultant HDI. The AskIT help desk underwent a similar improvement process and after working over the past year with HDI improved its customer service rating to a 2.6. Desktop Services' goal is a 2.5 rating in nine months.

Desktop Services has already improved certain metrics of customer response — such as decreasing the time to resolve incidents by 40 percent. But the goal, said Vice President and CIO Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D., is to decrease the resolution time for incidents from eight days to just one day.


Professors who use three rooms in Heritage Hall returned from the Thanksgiving break to find updated technology in their classrooms.

The upgrades are part of a plan to upgrade 20 classrooms per year over the next three years. Led by faculty members and the Center for Teaching and Learning, the improvements will give faculty members a more consistent technology experience. Updated technology includes remote management, so problems can be resolved quickly by UAB IT technicians.

UAB IT’s classroom techs have been proactively meeting with each professor who teaches in the classrooms — rooms HH121, HH124 and HH126 — to show them how to use the equipment.

Later this month, seven rooms — five in Heritage Hall and two in the Education Building — will also see an upgrade.
UAB's Research Computing team attended SC17, the premiere international supercomputing event, to learn how the latest advances in computing, storage and network technologies supporting global scientific initiatives can be applied to UAB research efforts and in support of Cheaha, UAB's high-performance computing cluster.

Dr. Puri Bangalore, interim director of research computing; John-Paul Robinson; Thomas Anthony; and Ravi Tripathi attended the November event in Denver and met with industry partners including Dell, IBM, Nvidia, and DDN to learn about the latest updates to the products that drive HPC at UAB. They learned about trends in HPC data center design and cooling technologies from vendors on the show floor and at dedicated tutorial sessions and met with academic peers from Stanford, Indiana University, Monash University, UTC, Eglin AFB, and Sandia National Laboratories to learn about how they are bringing high performance computing, cloud and integrated research services to their communities.

Bangalore organized the workshop on Exascale computing (ExaMPI).  Other members of the team attended workshops on directive-based GPU computing (WACCPD), medical imaging analysis and visualization (MIAV), HPC datacenter design, acquisition and commissioning, and use of Python in HPC (PyHPC).

Anthony was a featured speaker at the DDN booth and showcased the impact that UAB's multi-petabyte storage capacity is having on neuroimaging research at UAB. View his slides here.

About the SC Conference:

The Supercomputing Conference is an annual conference sponsored by the ACM Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing (SIGHPC) and the IEEE Computer Society. It is the premiere international conference for HPC and brings together vendors, researchers, and users of the worlds most advanced computing, storage and networking technologies for a week of meetings, workshops, tutorials, paper presentations, posters, and an expansive show floor.  SC17 was attended by more than 12,000 people.

The Supercomputing conference coincides with the fall release of the ranking for the Top500 super computers in the world.

Supercomputing features the annual construction of a state-of-the-art network named SCinet. SCinet is hub of the international networking community and is used to showcase the latest capabilities in high performance networking at the conference. The network provides production wired and wireless network services to conference attendees and vendors throughout the conference, making it an excellent demonstration of how cutting-edge research technologies can live side-by-side with production operations. SCinet is designed and built by over 200 volunteers from academia, government agencies, and industry from around the globe working together throughout the year. The network is custom built at the conference location in less than week, features over 50 miles of fiber optic cable.  This years' network supplied over 3Terabits network capacity, the equivalent of over thirty 100Gigabit university links like the one UAB installed last year.
ToyDriveToysforTots2017
For the 24th year, UAB students and employees will be coming together to make the holidays brighter for area children in need.

UAB IT is kicking off UAB’s 23rd annual Toy Drive on Wednesday, Nov. 8. UAB IT has organized the Toy Drive for more than 10 years.

AllToysToys collected in the drive will be donated to Toys for Tots. UAB is among the largest contributors to the Birmingham area Toys for Tots effort.

"We are grateful for the support of UAB employees and students to this campaign year after year,” said Eric Thompson, who organizes the Toy Drive for UAB IT each year.

Boxes to collect toy donations will be located in buildings across campus, including the Administration Building, Bartow Arena, Cudworth Hall, Heritage Hall, Medical Towers, Worrell Building, UAB Police Department, Mervyn Stern Library, Facilities, Hoehn Engineering building, Hill Student Center (at TechConnect), Lister Hill Library, Optometry, RSB and School of Nursing. Anyone interested in participating can email Eric Thompson.

New, unwrapped toys are needed for the toy drive. UAB IT and UAB Police Department volunteers will pick up the toys the morning of Monday, Dec. 11, and collect them in the lobby of the Administration Building, where Santa Claus and his elf will greet those with last-minute donations at the third annual Drive-Thru Santa event.
UAB Employee Sale 02
Looking for a good deal on a new computer as the holidays approach?

For UAB faculty and staff, TechConnect will be offering $100 off any Dell laptop through Nov. 30 — just in time for holiday shopping. Computers must be purchased in-store (online sales are not eligible).

TechConnect, located online and at the Hill Student Center, offers educational pricing on computers, tablets and accessories, as well as service for your devices.


Keeping confidential information on local servers or computers poses a risk for UAB students, faculty and staff — and UAB IT needs everyone's help to keep that data safe.

UAB IT needs the help of everyone on campus to reduce the amount of data, such as Social Security numbers or personal health information, that is stored on local computers or servers.

Remember this rule: If you don't need it, delete it. And if you do need it, store restricted and sensitive information according to the Data Classification and Data Protection rules.

The video above has more tips on reducing data, and you can click on our new data reduction page to learn more.
PGP grayscreen

When you log in to your computer, do you see a gray Symantec login page?

If so, you will soon need to have PGP removed from your computer.

The Symantec PGP encryption software is going end of life on Dec. 29, 2017 — which means it will no longer be supported.

According to the UAB – Minimum Security For Computing Devices Rule, July 2017, all laptop computers used for UAB business must be encrypted to protect data from unauthorized disclosure. 

To meet this requirement, systems that require disk encryption and currently use PGP to meet that requirement should remove PGP by Dec. 29, 2017, and use Microsoft’s BitLocker or Apple’s FileVault disk encryption solution.

Desktop Services customers should contact AskIT if they have questions.

If you are not a Desktop Services customer, contact your departmental IT professionals for assistance.


After two years of successful expansion of the Cheaha supercomputer, UAB is not resting in the quest to continue building a faster high-performance computer to power groundbreaking research.

Future plans include growing the team of IT experts who assist research; introducing stronger shared governance to prioritize needs; and adding even more speed and capacity to Cheaha.

Vice President and CIO Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D., spoke to researchers last month at the annual UAB Research Computing Day to share the vision for the future.

“We’ve created a space for tremendous success over the last few years, but we need your partnership,” Carver told researchers.

Cheaha began its exponential growth in June 2015, when UAB IT secured additional funding through grants and university partnerships for more storage for the high performance computer.

After growing to 110 teraflops and 6.6 petabytes of storage by fall 2016, UAB added new graphics processing units in 2017 to grow speed to 450 teraflops.

The plan, Carver said, is to grow Cheaha to 1,000 teraflops in 2018 — and perhaps even crack the top 100 list of most powerful supercomputers in the world.

The team that supports Cheaha will also be growing, adding up to 12 new employees in the coming year to assist researchers with using the supercomputer for their work. Eventually, Carver said, research computing could become a stand-alone entity, a research center to serve campus.

At Research Computing Day, Carver sought feedback from researchers who use Cheaha, and noted that UAB will be introducing a shared governance structure to better prioritize research computing needs and allocate resources.
Sending PII

Sending credit card or Social Security numbers via email can make you or others more vulnerable to identity theft — and is against UAB policy.

Beginning Dec. 1, UAB IT will begin blocking the sending of emails from @uab.edu addresses if the email appears to contain a Social Security number or credit card number.

The sender will receive an email from UAB IT’s information security team if the email is blocked.

For the past several months, individuals sending emails containing such information have been given pop-up policy tips in the Outlook email client.

The warnings are intended to alert email senders of the potential danger of sending such information.

“Sending credit card information or Social Security numbers is extremely dangerous and could leave you vulnerable to identity theft,” said Brian Rivers, assistant vice president and chief information security officer. “Our goal is to help protect our students, faculty and staff.”
For your security and convenience, UAB IT recommends that anyone using Adobe Acrobat XI and Adobe Reader XI update their software, as Adobe’s support for the products ended Oct. 15, 2017.

End of support means that Adobe no longer provides technical support, including product and/or security updates, for those software products.

Adobe recommends that you update to the latest versions of Adobe Acrobat DC and Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. By updating to the latest versions, you will benefit from the latest functional enhancements and improved security measures.

UAB offers an Acrobat DC subscription plan of $15 annually to its employees for use on UAB-owned computers. There is no charge for Acrobat Reader.

If you have questions about upgrading Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader, please contact AskIT.

Learn more from Adobe here.
Devices that use WiFi are vulnerable to a newly discovered and serious flaw, dubbed KRACK, in a commonly used wireless security protocol, WPA2.

Even on correctly configured wireless networks, attackers can potentially use KRACK — short for Key Reinstallation Attack — to read information that was previously assumed to be safely secured. WiFi access points as well as devices are impacted by this significant weakening of these wireless security protections.

How it works 
Devices can be tricked into installing an encryption key that allows for some or all wirelessly transmitted data to be read.

What to do 

  • Limit any potentially sensitive activities performed on wireless networks, or utilize the UAB VPN as a way to protect communications when on wireless at UAB or at home. 
  • Use wired networks if possible.
  • Update all wireless devices to address the vulnerability. This will depend on vendors creating and releasing the updates for various devices, including routers and access points as well as phones, tablets and laptops.
  • Ensure any activities on that must be performed on wireless networks are done via secure channels (HTTPS websites, SSH, S-FTP). Avoid unencrypted channels such as HTTP websites, Telnet, FTP.
  • Watch for suspicious individuals in a close proximity to your wireless network.
After a successful engagement that brought major improvements to the AskIT help desk, UAB IT is partnering again with HDI to make changes to the Desktop Services unit.

After working over the past year with HDI — an industry-leading customer service consultant — AskIT improved its customer service rating to a 2.6. HDI has now evaluated Desktop Services and is developing an improvement plan for the unit, whose technicians are responsible for tech help for departments and units across campus. The goal is to improve to a 2.5 rating in nine months.

"Our challenge is to evolve into a trusted partner who consistently provides the level of IT support services needed for an innovative, world-class academic, medical and research institution," said Jamie Witter, associate director for Desktop Services.

Vice President and Chief Information Officer Dr. Curtis A. Carver Jr. will be working with Desktop Services during this time to see for himself the needs of Desktop customers, so don't be surprised if Carver shows up to help install a new computer or move a printer for you.

"As I did when we were working to improve AskIT, I want to hear first-hand about the challenges our customers face and how we can improve our services to empower you to quickly get back to work when you have technical issues," Carver said.

Among the improvements Desktop would like to make are putting more structure around the processes the technicians use to respond to customer incidents and requests; reducing the resolution time for incidents and requests; and resolving more issues remotely, so you can more quickly get back to work. 

Carver will also be checking in with customers periodically over the next few months to get feedback about how Desktop can improve.
legionfieldcrowd

Thanks to a collaborative effort, there were few problems despite the record crowd at Legion Field for the first Blazers football game of the season on Sept. 2.

This system streamlined the entry of any students and fans into the stadium cutting down entry time with just a swipe of a BlazerID or other UAB fans with just a scan of a ticket. This partnered with the addition of WiFi access points spots around the 17 entry gates at Legion Field helped make this large initiative possible.

"Not only was the Digital Ticketing Project a great success, game one of 'the return' was also, hugely successful. All parties involved deserve a round of applause for a job well done," said Nelvin Short, deputy director of telecommunications for the City of Birmingham.

IT Project Manager Carrau Brewer also applauded the effort.

"Sometimes, success is measured by the dollars and cents. In the case of this project, we would like to measure success by applauding your hard work for accommodating the 45,212 fans that attended the return of football at UAB as well as being played at the Legendary Legion Field," Brewer said.

Learn more about how UAB IT supports the Blazers here.