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Enhanced Security to Protect Your Microsoft 365 Account

Modified Date: January 15, 2021

Effective Date: January 13, 2021

As announced in the October Bits, Bytes, and Buzz newsletter, Northwestern IT is introducing updates to better secure your personal information and University data. The two security changes impact all Northwestern Microsoft 365 accounts (including Outlook, Teams, Office, OneDrive, and more). Some schools and units have already applied these changes, and all other remaining faculty, student, staff, and affiliate accounts will receive the updates by the end of April. Please know, you will receive direct communication from Northwestern IT before changes are applied to your account.

One of the updates includes adding Duo Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) protection—already used to secure myHR, NUFinancials, CAESAR, and other systems—to all Microsoft 365 applications, most notably including Northwestern Outlook email.

The second update prepares Northwestern for a global change coming to all Microsoft accounts. Later this year, Microsoft will stop allowing Basic Authentication to access their systems. Now considered non-secure, Basic Authentication is a sign-on protocol that requires a device to send (and often store) usernames and passwords with every connection request. Microsoft will begin only allowing devices and applications that use Modern Authentication, an updated and more secure sign-on protocol, to connect to their systems. The upcoming change aligns Northwestern accounts ahead of Microsoft's timeline.

Impact on the University Community

The vast majority of users will not notice any impact related to Basic Authentication's decommissioning because most devices and current versions of mobile applications already use Modern Authentication to sign-on to systems. 

Related, from an experience standpoint, the Northwestern community is already using Duo MFA on other University systems. Users can expect a familiar authentication experience for Northwestern Microsoft 365 accounts and applications.

Most importantly, for all community members (including some students) who utilize Outlook University email, these upcoming changes mean two things:

  • After the update, you will need to access your University email from a device or mobile application configured with Modern Authentication. In some cases, that might mean that you will need to install a current version of Outlook on your mobile device. Learn more about email and Modern Authentication.
  • Once the change is applied, all Outlook account users will be required to verify their identity through Duo MFA to access University email.

When Will the Changes Occur?

Northwestern IT has partnered with technology leaders across the University to establish an implementation schedule and process for these upcoming changes, and deployment is already underway. More than 4,000 early adopters across the University have already received these changes.

All remaining Northwestern Microsoft 365 account holders will be notified directly in the coming months when your account is set to receive these changes. Again, Northwestern IT expects all faculty, student, staff, and affiliate accounts to be upgraded by the end of April 2021.