Locking Unattended Computer Screens

If you leave your desk, log out or lock your computer. Desktop computers and other devices logged into University computer accounts must not be left unlocked and unattended in a way that risks access by an unauthorised user.

Unattended logged in computers create easy opportunities for unauthorised access to information and misuse of accounts, such as sending of bogus email messages purporting to come from the genuine account holder.

Computers and other equipment such as smartphones must never be left unattended and unlocked when logged into University IT accounts. Before being left unattended they should be logged out or locked.

All users, staff and research students especially, may have accounts with access to confidential information. It is therefore essential that the habit of routinely locking unattended screens is widely established. This may also be additionally by additionally secured screensavers to automatically lock and apply password protection after a time of inactivity.

Contents

Locking the screen

On Windows PCs the screen may be locked by entering Ctrl-Alt-Del then clicking the Lock Computer button on the Windows Security window. (Most other types of desktop computer and mobile phones have a locking facility).

Windows security window

Configuring password protected screen saver

On Windows PCs the screen saver settings may be accessed by right-clicking on the desktop background and selecting Properties from the pop-up menu. The Screen Saver tab can then be selected in the Display Properties windows. The password protect box should be ticked (checked) and the Wait: value should be set to 20 minutes or less. (Most other types of desktop computer and mobile computing devices offer similar facilities.)

Screensaver window

Even with an automatic password protected screensaver configured you should manually lock your computer (or other logged in device) before leaving it unattended. The screensaver option is there just in case you forget.

Student PCs

Student PCs provided by IT Services cannot be locked. This is to prevent them being reserved and so potentially taken out of service for extended periods.

Exceptions

Computers that are set up to provide continuous displays may need to be left unattended with the screen unlocked. However, when such computers are in unrestricted areas they must be secured to prevent unauthorised use.

For some research experiments and presentations it may be important that they are not disrupted by the screensaver activating. In these situations then it is necessary and acceptable to temporarily disable the screensaver.

University Policy

This communication is based on the Information Security Policy documents:
Use of Computers Policy (ISP-S9)
Information Handling Policy (ISP-S7)

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