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Smatresk addresses university’s relationship with China at Faculty Senate meeting

Smatresk addresses university’s relationship with China at Faculty Senate meeting

Smatresk addresses university’s relationship with China at Faculty Senate meeting
February 17
16:19 2020

The Faculty Senate met Wednesday where President Neal Smatresk updated faculty on the university’s interaction with China in terms of intellectual property security and travel, and information officers informed faculty of email forwarding privacy issues.

President Neal Smatresk said the federal government has become increasingly vigilant in ensuring the university is following export control laws regarding intellectual property.

“I think it’s been no secret that there have been some fairly egregious issues that have arisen out of China around intellectual property,” Smatresk said. “We work in global communities and have exchanges with people, which is natural and normal. However, we have issues around China hiring researchers who have valuable intellectual property… in a fairly transparent attempt to gain access to that knowledge base and those intellectual properties.”

The administration is also requiring all international travel for faculty members to be pre-approved to keep better track of faculty in case of emergency. The university is also following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice to not travel to China during the coronavirus outbreak.

“If you’re going to be traveling to a foreign country, what is important, particularly to China at this time, is that you register with our international program,” Provost Jennifer Cowley said. “Please notify if you are engaging in international travel, and then if it’s a high-risk situation, for example with coronavirus, and we can tag it and go into more detail and send out to the risk committee who could communicate with the faculty member in more depth about any protections they should engage in.”

Smatresk also warned of security issues that might arise when faculty travels to China and said the university is working on establishing protocol for travel.

“There are countries that will steal the data off your cell phone or computer, and there are certain simple things you can do to protect yourself from that,” Smatresk said. “Like not access open Wi-Fi networks and not use USB ports in foreign countries.  Those things are going to be available for discussion. There’s further discussion about special computers that we will clear for you that you can bring and return, that are more secure or burner phones.”

Chief Information Officers Chris McCory and Charlotte Russell informed faculty security issues concerning forwarding all emails, rather than a single email, to a third party provider like Google or Yahoo.

“The concern is that there has been evidence and we’ve seen cases where an attacker will use an individual’s mailbox to set a rule that will forward all mail out of the mailbox to a third-party system, unknown to the individual mailbox,” Russell said. “With any email that is forwarded to a third-party system, there’s potential for there to be issues with that information, privacy issues being stored in a third party system that is not under the management or contractual agreement.”

The Chief Information Officers are asking for faculty feedback on this issue and making provisions for improving email security.

Featured Image: UNT president Neal Smatresk speaks to members of the faculty senate about legislative issues on Feb. 12th, 2020. Image by Ryan Cantrell

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Brooke Colombo

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