Data Security FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) specific to data security are available below. For all available FAQs, please visit the Main FAQ page. This page includes an index with links to all specific FAQ pages.
  • What resources are available to PIs regarding storing confidential research data?
    • The Data Storage Finder is an interactive tool that allows researchers to determine which storage services are most suitable for their unique needs at Michigan State University. This includes a questionnaire that recommends storage services based on the researcher’s answers.
      • Researchers can schedule a consultation if they have additional questions or concerns at
    • MSU has a storage agreement with Microsoft that protects confidential research data. This includes software and services within the SPARTAN 365 suite of services.
    • If a PI wants to use or store confidential research data on any Cloud service other than MSU Spartan365, they should work with their department to submit an EIT (IT Readiness) form with their KFS requisition.
  • What is the difference between a password protected computer and a computer with encrypted storage?
    • PI’s often comment that data will be stored on a “password protected computer”. This can mean different things and does not necessarily mean that the data on a computer is safe.
    • Microsoft (BitLocker) and Apple (FileVault) both offer options to encrypt a computer’s hard drive.
      • If encryption is enabled, a password is required to ‘unlock’ the hard drive whenever the computer is turned on.
        • WARNING: The password must be recorded somewhere. A forgotten password equals an inaccessible hard drive and lost data.
          • NOTE: Microsoft and Apple offer ways to store a recovery key in their services.
    • If a user does not enable encryption and only uses standard Windows and MacOS passwords their system is not considered secure as computers in this condition can be compromised within minutes.
      • NOTE: There are reports that laptops are stolen every 53 seconds and that 100s of thousands of laptops are lost in airports each year.