No changes, no access

New policy requires passwords to be 12 characters

Once the Sweetwater Union High School District notified of essential password google account password changes, there were several required steps for students to follow in order to do so.
(Sara Salgado-Garcia)

On Oct. 14, an email was sent out to the Bonita Vista High (BVH) community asking students to change their passwords. Through a Microsoft website, students are able to customize and create a new password following the new guidelines. Passwords are required to be 12 characters or longer, originally being eight characters long, to prevent a data breach into the Sweetwater Union High School Districts (SUHSD) system. 

“If you don’t change [your password], [the district] will cut your account. The only way you will get access to your account is if you change your password,” BVH interim principal Lee Romero said. 

A combination of security purposes and constant attempts at a breach has caused a demand for password changes. On Sept. 14, there was a shut down on all Gmail accounts in the SUHSD because of a possible data breach. Along with external forces like hackers, using your password as simple as your birthday will lead them to information including address, employee status, and even social security number. Through a student’s school account, hackers can access personal and sensitive information. 

The only way you will get access to your account is if you change your password.

— BVH interim principal Lee Romero


“Those who break into the school’s system are able to get that data and use it for purposes like money from the district or selling it to third parties,” Chief of Assistant Improvement and Innovation of SUHSD Daniel Winters said. “They hold that data for ransom as payments from the school district.”

To combat this chaos, BVH has adapted a new password adjustment. To increase password strength, using punctuation icons and both capital and lowercase letters are recommended. With creative passwords, external forces have a harder chance of getting in, protecting the system. Birthdays are no longer recommended as it is the basic format for a password.

It’s so easy for anybody to guess a birthday. When it’s just numbers, it’s pretty easy to guess possible combinations [or] mutations for passwords,” Information Technology Psych Technician David Elsheikh said.

BVH administrators are urging students to change their passwords in order to protect their personal information. On Oct. 28th, accounts that do not have their passwords changed will be unable to use their services. This would include Google Documents, Slides, Classroom and more. With the lack of access to services threatening students, they will be forced to make the password modification or risk losing potentially important documents or schoolwork. 

“The district does have rights. They do have control of Gmail accounts when it comes to the school,” Romero said. “If you got to change it to 12 characters, you got to change it to 12 characters.” 

Throughout the week, multiple emails have been sent out as reminders to ensure that everyone in the BVH community has done their job. With most things being placed online now, changes in passwords are a vital component in the safety and security of BVH school accounts.

“We live in a world where digital access programs are going to be the norm and all of us students are included, especially if they are moving to an environment [where they] are going to have to get used to coming up with memorable passwords,” Winters said.