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Duo Safe

When students log into their U-M accounts on January 29, they'll need more than their passwords

by James Leonard

From the February, 2020 issue

That's the date when all 65,000 students at the university's three campuses will be required to use the two-factor identification system developed by Ann Arbor's own Duo Security. Two-factor means two proofs: a password plus something else like an app, code, or hardware "token."

Students are the last group required to get with the program. "All faculty, staff, student employees, and sponsored affiliates on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses and in Michigan Medicine are already using Duo," emails Dana Fair from the U-M's information and technology services. "Our focus now is on getting the rest of the students to use two-factor." They figured about 5,000 holdouts would be affected.

The university has used some form of two-factor authentication since 2005. What's changing is that now everyone has to use it. As Fair writes, "For two-factor authentication to be most effective, everyone needs to use the same tool."

Two-factor ID "provides an extra layer of protection above and beyond one's password," Fair explains. "If a malicious actor somehow gets access to someone's username and password, they won't be able to log in as that person because they will not have the Duo second factor."

Google, which handles the university's email, already offers two-factor ID. But Duo "protects more than just Google," Fair writes. "It protects a large array of tools and applications used across the university."

And across the cyber-verse: founded by U-M grads Dug Song and Jon Oberheide in 2010, Duo now has more than 800 employees and is looking to add 200 more this year. Most work in its Ann Arbor office in the Allmendinger Building on S. First, but others are in Detroit, Austin, San Francisco, and London, plus some in remoter spots around the globe.

Though Duo boasts hundreds of major universities as clients, Song is clearly thrilled to add the U-M. "I've come full circle," he emails. "I attended UofM as a student and started my career there as a Security Administrator and Systems

...continued below...

Research Programmer, managing security for the general-purpose campus computing environment. It's nice to have a hand in protecting my alma mater--again!"

It's a hand whose reach got vastly bigger when Cisco Systems, the world's largest network and security company, bought Duo last year for a stunning $2.35 billion.

"As far as we've come, I'm excited by how much further we'll go, accelerating our growth and the reach of our mission as part of Cisco," writes Song. "Cisco views Duo as transformational to their business, bringing cloud-based user and device trustworthiness to an already impressive security product portfolio. They agree with us on the past state of security, and we're going to fix it together."

Duo has customers in more than 100 countries now, and with Cisco's backing expects to expand even more rapidly. But they've got no plans to leave town. "Ann Arbor is Duo's headquarters," writes Jordan Fylonenko, Duo's PR manager, "and we will continue to invest in our growth here and in the local community."

That's Dug Song's long-term plan. "I'm going to help make sure Ann Arbor and Detroit are incredibly cool places to live, work and play for everybody."     (end of article)

[Originally published in February, 2020.]


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