IT regulations guidance

This guidance expands on the principles set out in the core regulations. It gives many examples of specific situations and is intended to help you relate your everyday use of the IT facilities to the do’s and don’ts in the core regulations.

Where a list of examples is given, these are just some of the most common instances, and the list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Where the terms similar to Authority, Authorised, Approved or Approval appear, they refer to authority or approval originating from the person or body identified in section 3, Authority, or anyone with authority delegated to them by that person or body.

1. Scope

1.1 Users

These regulations apply to anyone using Staffordshire University’s IT facilities. This means more than students and staff. It could include, for example:

  • Visitors to Staffordshire University’s website, and people accessing the institution’s online services from off campus;
  • External partners, contractor and agents based onsite and using Staffordshire University’s network, or offsite and accessing the institution’s systems;
  • Tenants of the institution using the University’s computers, servers or network;
  • Visitors using the institution’s WiFi;
  • Students and staff from other institutions logging on using Eduroam.

1.2 IT facilities

The term IT facilities include:

  • IT hardware that Staffordshire University provides, such as PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones and printers;
  • Software that the institution provides, such as operating systems, office application software, mobile apps, web browsers etc. It also includes software that the institution has arranged for you to have access to.
  • Online services arranged by the institution, such as Microsoft Office 365, Blackboard or Library eResources;
  • Data that Staffordshire University provides, or arranges access to. This might include online journals, data sets or citation databases;
  • Access to the network provided or arranged by the institution. This would cover, for example on campus WiFi, and connectivity to the internet from University PCs;
  • IT credentials , such as the use of your institutional login, or any other method (email address, smartcard, dongle) issued by Staffordshire University to identify yourself when using IT facilities. For example, you may be able to use drop in facilities or WiFi connectivity at other institutions using your usual username and password through the Eduroam system. While doing so, you are subject to these regulations, as well as the regulations at the institution you are visiting.

2. Governance

It is helpful to remember that using IT has consequences in the physical world. Your use of IT is governed by IT specific laws and regulations (such as these), but it is also subject to general laws and regulations such as your institution’s general policies.

2.1 Domestic law

Your behaviour is subject to the laws of the land, even those that are not apparently related to IT such as the laws on fraud, theft and harassment. There are many items of legislation that are particularly relevant to the use of IT, including (but not exclusively):

  • Obscene Publications Act 1959 and Obscene Publications Act 1964
  • Protection of Children Act 1978
  • Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
  • Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
  • Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008
  • Computer Misuse Act 1990
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
  • Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005
  • Terrorism Act 2006
  • Police and Justice Act 2006
  • Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (as amended)
  • Defamation Act 1996 and Defamation Act 2013

So, for example, you may not:

  • Create or transmit, or cause the transmission, of any offensive, obscene or indecent images, data or other material, or any data capable of being resolved into obscene or indecent images or material.
  • Access a computer without permission.
  • Change, break or copy files without permission.
  • Create or transmit material with the intent to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.
  • Create or transmit material with the intent to defraud.
  • Create or transmit defamatory material.
  • Create or transmit material such that this infringes the copyright of another person or organisation.
  • Create or transmit unsolicited bulk or marketing material to users of networked facilities or services, save where that material is embedded within, or is otherwise part of, a service to which the user or their user organisation has chosen to subscribe.
  • Deliberately (and without authorisation) access IT facilities or services.

2.2 Foreign law

If you are using services that are hosted in a different part of the world, you may also be subject to their laws. It can be difficult to know where any particular service is hosted from, and what the applicable laws are in that locality.

In general, if you apply common sense, obey domestic laws and the regulations of the service you are using, you are unlikely to go astray.

2.3 General institutional regulations

You should already be familiar with Staffordshire University’s general regulations and policies.

Regulations applicable to students can be viewed in academic regulations.

Regulations applicable to staff can be viewed on IRIS.

2.4 Third party regulations

If you use Staffordshire University IT facilities to access third party service or resources you are bound by the regulations associated with that service or resource (the association can be through something as simple as using your institutional username and password). Very often, these regulations will be presented to you the first time you use the service, but in some cases the service is so pervasive that you will not even know that you are using it.

Two examples of this would be:

  • Using Janet, the IT network that connects all UK higher education and research institutions together and to the internet
    When connecting to any site outside Staffordshire University you will be using Janet, and subject to the Janet Acceptable Use Policy,  the Janet Security Policy,  and the Janet Eligibility Policy.
  • Licence agreements
    Staffordshire University negotiates agreements on behalf of staff and students. Users shall only use software and other resources in compliance with all applicable licences, terms and conditions. These agreements may have certain restrictions that may be summarised as: non-academic use is not permitted; copyright must be respected; privileges granted must not be passed on to third parties; and users must accept the User Acknowledgement of Third Party Rights.

3. Authority

These regulations are issued under the authority of Director of Digital Services who is also responsible for their interpretation and enforcement, and who may also delegate such authority to other people.

Authority to use the institution’s IT facilities is granted by a variety of means:

  • The issue of a username and password or other IT credentials.
  • The explicit granting of access rights to a specific system or resource.
  • The provision of a facility in an obviously open access setting such as a selfservice kiosk in a public area.
  • Publicly facing services such as our Institutional website.

If you have any doubt whether or not you have the authority to use an IT facility you should seek further advice from Digital Services Service Desk. Attempting to use the IT facilities without the permission of the relevant authority is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.

4. Intended use

Staffordshire University’s IT facilities, and the Janet network that connects institutions together and to the internet, are funded by the tax paying public. They have a right to know that the facilities are being used for the purposes for which they are intended.

4.1 Use for purposes in furtherance of institution’s mission

The IT facilities are provided for use in furtherance of the institution’s mission. Such use might be for learning, teaching, research, knowledge transfer, public outreach, the commercial activities of the institution, or the administration necessary to support all of the above.

4.2 Personal use

You may currently use the IT facilities for personal use provided that it does not breach the regulations, and that it does not prevent or interfere with other people using the facilities for valid purposes (for example, using a PC to update your Facebook page when others are waiting to complete their assignments). However, this is a concession and can be withdrawn at any time.
Employees using the IT facilities for non-work purposes during working hours are subject to the same management policies as for any other type of non-work activity.

4.3 Commercial use and personal gain

Use of IT facilities for non-institutional commercial purposes, or for personal gain, not related to the University or Students' Union, requires the explicit approval of the Director of Digital Services. The provider of the service may require a fee or a share of the income for this type of use. For more information, contact Digital Services. Even with such approval, the use of licences under certain  agreements for anything other than teaching, studying or research, administration or management purposes may be prohibited, and you must ensure that licences allowing commercial use are in place.

5. Identity 

Many of the IT services provided or arranged by the institution require you to identify yourself so that the service knows that you are entitled to use it. This is most commonly done by providing you with a username and password, but other forms of IT credentials may be used, such as an email address, a smart card or some other form of security device.

5.1 Protect identity

You must take all reasonable precautions to safeguard any IT credentials issued to you.

You must change passwords when first issued and at regular intervals as instructed.

Do not use obvious passwords, or passwords that may be easily guessed (such as your name, children or a pet’s name, car registration number, football team, etc.).

Do not record passwords where there is any likelihood of someone else finding them. Avoid using the same password as you do for personal (i.e. non-institutional) accounts. Do not share passwords with anyone else, even IT staff, no matter how convenient and harmless it may seem.

If you think someone else has found out what your password is, change it immediately and report the matter to Digital Services service desk.

Do not use your username and password to log in to websites or services you do not recognise, and do not log in to websites that are not showing the padlock symbol.

Do not leave logged in computers unattended, lock or logout whenever moving way from the screen and log out properly when you are finished.

Don’t allow anyone else to use your university ID card, smartcard or other security hardware. Take care not to lose them, and if you do, report the matter to Digital Services immediately.

5.2 Impersonation

Never use someone else’s IT credentials , or attempt to disguise or hide your real identity when using the institution’s IT facilities.

5.3 Attempt to compromise others’ identities

You must not attempt to usurp, borrow, corrupt or destroy someone else’s IT credentials.

6. Infrastructure

The IT infrastructure is all the underlying stuff that makes IT function. It includes servers, the network, PCs, printers, operating systems, databases and a whole host of other hardware and software that has to be set up correctly to ensure the reliable, efficient and secure delivery of IT services.

You must not do anything to jeopardise the infrastructure.

6.1 Physical damage or risk of damage

Do not damage, or do anything to risk physically damaging the infrastructure, such as being careless with food or drink at a PC, or playing football in a drop in facility.

6.2 Reconfiguration

Do not attempt to change the setup of the infrastructure without authorisation, such as changing the network point that a PC is plugged in to, connecting devices to the network (except of course for WiFi or Ethernet networks specifically provided for this purpose) or altering the configuration of the institution’s PCs. Unless you have been authorised, you must not add software to or remove software from PCs.

Do not move equipment without authority.

6.3 Network extension

You must not extend the wired or WiFi network without authorization. Such activities, which may involve the use of routers, repeaters, hubs or WiFi access points, can disrupt the network preventing access to internet and university system for users.

6.4 Setting up servers

You must not set up any hardware or software that would provide a service to others over the network without permission. Examples would include games servers, file sharing services, IRC servers or websites.

6.5 Introducing malware

You must take all reasonable steps to avoid introducing malware to the infrastructure. The term malware covers many things such as viruses, worms and Trojans, but is basically any software used to disrupt computer operation or subvert security. It can be spread by visiting websites of a dubious nature, downloading files from untrusted sources, opening email attachments you are not expecting or inserting media that have been created on compromised computers.

If you avoid these types of behaviour, keep your antivirus software up to date and switched on, and run scans of your computer on a regular basis, you should not fall foul of this problem.

6.6 Subverting security measures

Staffordshire University takes measures to safeguard the security of its IT infrastructure, including things such as antivirus software, firewalls, spam filters and so on.

You must not attempt to subvert or circumvent these measures in any way.

7. Information

7.1 Personal, sensitive and confidential information

During the course of their work or studies, staff and students (particularly research students) may handle information that comes under the Data Protection Act 1998, or is sensitive or confidential in some other way. For the rest of this section, these will be grouped together as protected information.

Safeguarding the security of protected information is a highly complex issue, with organisational, technical and human aspects. The institution has Data Protection guidance, and if your role is likely to involve handling protected information, you must make yourself familiar with and abide by these.

7.1.1 Transmission of protected information

When sending protected information electronically, you must use a method with appropriate security. Email is not inherently secure. Advice about how to send protected information electronically is available from Digital Services.

7.1.2 Removable media and mobile devices

Protected information must not be stored on removable media (such as USB storage devices, removable hard drives, CDs, DVDs) or mobile devices (laptops, tablet or smart phones) unless it is encrypted, and the key kept securely.

If protected information is sent using removable media, you must use a secure, tracked service so that you know it has arrived safely. Advice on the use of removable media and mobile devices for protected information is available from Digital Services.

7.1.3 Remote working

If you access protected information from off campus, you must make sure you are using an approved connection method that ensures that the information cannot be intercepted between the device you are using and the source of the secure service.

You must also be careful to avoid working in public locations where your screen can be seen.

7.1.4 Personal or public devices and cloud services

Even if you are using approved connection methods, devices that are not fully managed by Staffordshire University cannot be guaranteed to be free of malicious software that could, for example, gather keyboard input and screen displays.

Advice on the use of personal devices to access institutional services is available from Digital Services.

Do not store protected information in personal cloud services, such as Dropbox or Google Docs. Use of Staffordshire University’s OneDrive is permitted.

7.2 Copyright information

Almost all published works are protected by copyright. If you are going to use material (images, text, music, software), the onus is on you to ensure that you use it within copyright law. This is a complex area, and copyright guidance is available. The key point to remember is that the fact that you can see something on the web, download it or otherwise access it does not mean that you can do what you want with it.

7.3 Others’ information

You must not attempt to access, delete, modify or disclose restricted information belonging to other people without their  permission, unless it is obvious that they intend others to do this, or you have approval. Where information has been produced in the course of employment by Staffordshire University, and the person who created or manages it is unavailable, the responsible line manager may give permission for it to be retrieved for work purposes.

7.4 Inappropriate material

You must not create, download, store, or transmit unlawful material, or material that is indecent, offensive, defamatory,  threatening or discriminatory. Attempting to undertake these tasks is also considered a breach of University regulations.

Staffordshire University has procedures to approve and manage valid activities involving such material for valid research purposes where legal with the appropriate ethical approval. For more information, please refer to the Ethics committee.

There is also an exemption covering authorised IT staff involved in the preservation of evidence for the purposes of investigating breaches of the regulations or the law.

8. Behaviour

The way you behave when using IT should be no different to how you would behave under other circumstances. Abusive, inconsiderate or discriminatory behaviour is unacceptable.

8.1 Conduct online and on social media

Staffordshire University’s policies concerning staff and students also apply to the use of social media. These include human resource policies, codes of conduct, acceptable use of IT and disciplinary procedures. A guide to social media use for students is online.

8.2 Spam

You must not send unsolicited bulk emails or chain emails other than in specific circumstances. Advice on this is available from Digital Services.

8.3 Denying others access

If you are using IT facilities for personal or social purposes, you should vacate them if they are needed by others with work to do. Similarly, do not occupy specialist facilities unnecessarily if someone else needs them.

8.4 Disturbing others

When using shared spaces, remember that others have a right work without undue disturbance. Keep noise down (turn phones to silent if you are in a silent study area), do not obstruct passageways and be sensitive to what others around you might find offensive.

8.5 Excessive consumption of bandwidth/resources

Use resources wisely. Don’t consume excessive bandwidth by uploading or downloading more material (particularly video) than is necessary. Do not waste paper by printing more than is needed, or by printing single sided when double sided would do. Don’t waste electricity by leaving equipment needlessly switched on.

8.6 Prevention of Terrorism

The University has a statutory duty ‘to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. The use of IT facilities to support terrorist activity is not permitted and may result in a criminal charge. Access, or attempted access, to material promoting terrorism is not permitted, unless this access has been specifically allowed by the University Ethics Committee as part of an approved programme of research.

9. Monitoring

9.1 Institutional monitoring

Staffordshire University monitors and logs the use of its IT facilities for the purposes of:

  • Detecting, investigating or preventing misuse of the facilities or breaches of the University’s regulations.
  • Monitoring the effective function of the facilities.
  • Investigation of alleged misconduct.
  • Determining if email or other communications are relevant to the business, for example where an employee is off sick or on holiday.

Staffordshire University will comply with lawful requests for information from law enforcement and government agencies for the purposes of detecting, investigating or preventing crime, and ensuring national security.

9.2 Unauthorised monitoring

You must not attempt to monitor the use of the IT without the explicit permission of Director of Digital Services. This would include:

  • Monitoring of network traffic.
  • Network and/or device discovery.
  • WiFi traffic capture.
  • Installation of key logging or screen grabbing software that may affect users other than yourself.
  • Attempting to access system logs or servers or network equipment.

Where IT is itself the subject of study or research, special arrangements will have been made, and you should contact your course leader/research supervisor for more information.

10. Infringement

10.1 Disciplinary process and sanctions

Breaches of these regulations will be handled by the Staffordshire University’s disciplinary processes, as detailed in the student academic regulations or IRIS for staff regulations. This could have a bearing on your future studies or employment with the institution and beyond.

Sanctions may be imposed if the disciplinary process finds that you have indeed breached the regulations, for example, imposition of restrictions on your use of IT facilities; removal of services; withdrawal of offending material; fines and recovery of any costs incurred by Staffordshire University as a result of the breach.

10.2 Reporting to other authorities

If the institution believes that unlawful activity has taken place, it will refer the matter to the police or other enforcement agency.

10.3 Reporting to other organisations

If the institution believes that a breach of a third party’s regulations has taken place, it may report the matter to that organisation.

10.4 Report infringements

If you become aware of an infringement of these regulations, you must report the matter to the Digital Services Service Desk.

 


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