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Privacy concerns over new email service

By Babur Ilchi, September 18 2014 —

The university’s new email service, introduced this semester, may be less secure than first thought.

Office 365, which replaced the University of Calgary’s Webmail service, launched Sept. 1. Along with providing a new email service with Outlook, it offers the full Office 2013 suite and 50 gigabytes of cloud storage.

However, Students’ Union vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel is concerned about the system’s privacy holes and spam settings.

“With the new system there’s a global address list, which means all 25,000 undergraduates are on the list. The inference with that includes security concerns in the sense that one student has access to the emails of other students now,” Ardiel said. “With spam, they also now have the opportunity to send any sort of email they want to a group of students.”

Ardiel piloted the new email service over the summer, and he noticed the issues mid-August. Ardiel raised these issues with the Office 365 committee at a meeting on August 21.

Ardiel said information theft as a result of privacy leaks will be taken seriously if they occur.

“Those sorts of emails will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and if it’s severe enough it will be escalated to the Calgary Police Service,” Ardiel said.

However, Ardiel said email spamming or identity theft would be difficult. Emails must be selected individually from the global address list.

“The potential is there. However, it would be tedious on the student’s end to send a spam email,” Ardiel said.

The U of C has an anti-spam filter. Ardiel said that there are ways to reconcile these security concerns.

“Security concerns will be addressed at the next committee meeting. But as it stands, the global address list is present, and the ways to mitigate those concerns are also present,” Ardiel said.

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