What’s all the fuss about VPN and 2FA?

And why should I care?

VPN (Virtual Private Network) and 2FA (two-factor authentication) have become buzz words lately, because they are required for maintaining the security of McGill sensitive systems and data when accessing them from outside the McGill network.

When we were all working, studying and teaching on campus, these tools were not as often required and went unnoticed. But now that most of us are working from home and accessing McGill systems remotely, it is important that we understand when and why we need them. Let’s break it down…

What is VPN?

VPN is an application that creates a secure communication tunnel between your computer and the McGill network. It encrypts communications so they cannot be read or altered, even if they are intercepted by cybercriminals. When you use the VPN you have the same level of security as if you were directly on the McGill network.

When do you need it?

While working remotely, you will require VPN to access systems and resources that require high security, including certain functionality in Workday, connecting to Banner INB, remotely accessing desktop computers on campus, and others. Usually you do not need VPN when you’re working on campus.

How many times have you read a news story about a credit card database being hacked or personal information stolen? McGill’s VPN is one measure to reduce the risk of this type of attack.

So now, if we think of the VPN as a secure “gateway” to McGill’s network, and our McGill username and password credentials as the “key” to open it, why would we leave the key just below the doormat? That’s where 2FA comes in.

Two-factor authentication and VPN work together to protect McGill

What is 2FA?

Simply put, 2FA (two-factor authentication) protects your McGill account by requiring you to provide a second method of identification when you log into McGill systems - the same type of verification you might use to log into online banking or shopping sites. It’s like showing two pieces of ID. 2FA gives your account an extra layer of protection so that even if someone were to obtain your McGill password maliciously, they would not be able to sign in and impersonate you.

The university recognizes that these are stressful and challenging times for all of us, and so do hackers!. The last thing you need is the added stress of your McGill account being compromised and your banking information falling into the wrong hands – or worse!

2FA protects you. Here’s how.

McGill’s 2FA works best if you have a mobile device (phone or tablet). After you sign into McGill systems, including email, Office 365 apps, VPN and other sites, with your McGill username and password, an app notification or numeric code is sent to your mobile device; you must either click “approve” or enter the code when prompted. If you receive an unexpected notification when you are not attempting to log in, you now have the power to block a cyberattack on your account. If you don’t have a mobile device, there is an alternative application called “Authy”, which can be installed on a desktop or laptop.

As with VPN, this additional layer of security is usually only necessary when you access systems off campus. Once you have authorized access from a specific device, you can also check a box that says, “Do not prompt me for 60 days.”

The security benefits and peace of mind are well worth it!

Ready to get started?

Set up 2FA: If you’re ready to add 2FA protection on your McGill account, get started here. If you still have questions, see the Additional resources links below.

Set up VPN: Once you have 2FA enabled, you can use the VPN to access McGill systems while working from home, or anywhere outside the McGill network.

Additional resources:

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