Opinion: Log out or else



Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer is a senior anthropology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

It’s a typical scene in the minutes before classes begin: While the droves of students on the Esplanade have receded to a trickle, the computer labs across campus are buzzing with a flurry of activity. Although some people are utilizing the university computers for less productive means, many students rush to their kent.edu email accounts to print important essays and documents for class. This common situation can prompt a massive information technology oversight that could lead to embarrassment at best, and your identity getting stolen at worst.

The university-provided email addresses are actually Google accounts and depend on a completely different suite of web applications and servers than FlashLine does. So when you access your email through FlashLine and subsequently log off of FlashLine, your kent.edu email is still openly accessible by simply going to google.com. That means even though you think you’re completely logging out of the Kent State system when you press “log out” on FlashLine, your email, Google Drive, calendar, etc., are still easily accessed by the next person to use the public computer.

I have personally logged onto many campus computers and went to Google only to see a fellow student’s account logged in and not password-protected. Luckily for them, I’m a nice person and log out of his or her account without interfering with or reading anything.

However, this hole in Kent State’s online security could lead to all sorts of incidents from the creepy to the criminal. Imagine all of the items in your email, from online shopping receipts, bank statements, class projects and personal messages. All of these incredibly private things are on display on a campus computer near you.

This issue was mentioned on KentWired in April, and Information Services’ response was essentially that it didn’t know the issue existed. Now, months later, this incredible oversight by the IT professionals still exists. What’s worse, many students I’ve spoken about this issue with have no idea that their private information can be accessed even after they log out of FlashLine.

Protecting your personal information from this oversight is very simple and should become a habit. All you need to do is go to google.com after logging out of FlashLine and manually log out of your Google account as well.

Although it may be a difficult problem to fix due to Gmail and FlashLine’s very separate systems, this hole in Kent State’s online security must be addressed. Perhaps the university should push a notification to the email client to prompt the user to log out correctly.

It’s irresponsible of Information Services to acknowledge the problem in the media and produce no results over a significant period of time. Maybe Information Services was too busy implementing a new version of Blackboard during the summer that now even fewer professors use than before.

Sadly, I don’t expect this problem to be resolved soon. So until it is, remember: Logging out of FlashLine doesn’t mean you’re logging out of your Kent State email. You’ve got to do the logout double-tap.