Information Technology Services IT Security Office
SCREENSAVER LOCK (SESSION LOCK)

During the spring of 2016, ITS implemented a new security policy to prevent unauthorized access of data on Mason computers. After 30 minutes of inactivity, faculty and staff computers will autolock with a screensaver and will require users to input a password to access their computers again. This policy does not apply to public space computers or computer labs.

Background on the Mason Session (Screensaver) Lock Standard

In compliance with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Information Security Standard (SEC501-09), systems will initiate a session lock after 30 minutes of inactivity.

Mason personnel and information technology systems required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) law or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) will implement the current applicable inactivity period. The current PCI-DSS standard is 15 minutes.

These standards safeguard access to shared university data and sensitive information (such as that protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)).

Exceptions

If you feel that your computer qualifies for an exception to this policy, please contact the ITS Support Center at 3-8870 or support@gmu.edu.

Questions

  • How long until the screensaver lock starts?
    The screensaver lock process starts after 30 minutes of inactivity. This is a change from an email you may have received at an earlier date. To accommodate most users we were able to extend the activation time to 30 minutes and still meet the minimum time as required by the Commonwealth of Virginia security standard.
  • How will this affect my telework schedule? I use the VPN and remote into my work computer.
    This should not have an affect unless you take a break longer than 30 minutes. If the screensaver lock starts, simply type in your password (Faculty and staff using Windows machines will need to enter their Patriot Pass password to access their computers again, while Mac users will need to enter their Mac password).
  • I’m concerned that my computer will go to sleep when I have things running in the background. It’s important to me that this not disrupt my work.
    We are not forcing your computer into “sleep” mode, we are just enabling a screensaver to protect your data.
  • I have computers in my department that don’t belong to individuals, like kiosk or conference room computers, how will they be affected?
    Our intention is to only deploy the screensaver lock to Faculty/Staff computers. If other computers are impacted, please call the ITS Support Center and we will correct the problem.
  • Has ITS deployed this screensaver lock on their own computers?
    Yes, ITS deployed this to ourselves during February.
  • How will this affect my Mason computer when I am off-campus?
    Your computer must be managed by MESA or Casper and be on the Mason network to initially receive the screensaver lock. Note: if you are off-campus and use Mason's VPN, that is considered to be on-campus. Once the screensaver lock is deployed to your machine, it will lock whether you are on-campus or off-campus.
  • How do I manually engage the screensaver lock if I want it to start sooner than 30 minutes?
    • For Windows, there are a two choices.
      (1) Control, Alt, Delete offers a Lock option or
      (2) “Windows key” + the "L" key also locks the screen.
    • For Macs, Command, Option, Eject engages the screensaver.