Ethical Computing Policy

Computer Accounts
Ethical Behavior
Disciplinary Procedures
Good Citizenship


As a student you are probably aware of certain ethical responsibilities you have, such as honesty in doing classwork. Another area in which you have important ethical responsibilities is in your use of computing resources. This document describes some of these responsibilities and explains Bren School of ICS policy on student use of computing resources. Some of these policies might be different from what you would expect, so please read over and understand this document. As a student, you are responsible for being aware of these policies and abiding by them.

The ICS department provides for you, the student, a wide range of computing resources from X-Terminals to PC's to large multiuser UNIX systems. These machines are expensive to buy and expensive to maintain, but it is our goal to provide you with the very best computing environment that we can. Many users depend on these computers for doing class assignments, research, and for communications. We are a community of computer users, and like any community we can all make the best use of our resources if we establish some guidelines for how we can use them responsibly.

Some computing facilities, such as those which hold classified data, may establish expensive and complex security systems. In our department we do not do this; we have some security mechanisms which greatly decrease the risk that one user will accidentally interfere with another, but it does not require great ingenuity to get around these mechanisms. As a result, we need to trust the people who use our machines.

The fundamental principle behind our policies is this: Do No Harm. While using the computers, you should never do anything that harms another user or prevents him or her from getting work done.

If you have any questions about these rules, or if you suspect that an account (yours or someone else's) has been broken into, please contact the ICS Computing Support Group. To do this, send an email message to the address, or go to Support's office, CS 346 and explain the problem.


Computer Accounts

The Bren School of ICS has a wide range of computers available, located in several different labs. Some of these labs are open only to people enrolled in certain classes while some are available for general drop-in use. Each ICS student is given both a Windows account and a UNIX account to use on the lab workstations. Different courses will require different platforms to be used. Non ICS-majors will be given accounts only if required for an ICS course in which they are enrolled.

All ICS computers are to be used only by ICS students, faculty, and staff. People outside ICS who wish to use computers should see the friendly people in Office of Information Technology. They provide computing services for non-ICS affiliated students. You can find a list of computer labs available to all UCI students here.

Any computer account created for you remains the property of the Regents of the University of California. You are responsible for this account, and you may not allow any other person to use it. The primary purpose of your account is to allow you to carry out your computing assignments and other instructional activities. You may also make modest use of these resources for other purposes, such as sending electronic mail to friends on campus, reading the electronic bulletin boards, and playing games, provided that this usage does not significantly interfere with instructional use of the machines.

An example of how one might "significantly interfere" would be to tie up a computer for game-playing when no other computers are free and someone else is waiting to use the computer to do an assignment. If you have a game or other program you would like to make available to other users, please give it to the system administrator for public installation. You may contact the system administrator via email. You may not use the machines for commercial purposes, such as preparing bills for your company or advertising products, or for work related to non-UCI organizations, such as an off-campus political or religious groups. More details about this are given below. If you are in doubt about whether some use of the machines is allowed, ask helpdesk.


Ethical Behavior

Here is a list of some examples of activities that the department does not allow. If a student makes such unethical use of ICS computers, he or she will be subjected to the penalties described in the Disciplinary Procedures section.

  • You may not introduce viruses, worms, Trojan horses, password cracking, keystroke logging, or login spoofing programs on any University computer or network. In fact, because of the serious damage such programs can cause, the Bren School of ICS faculty have adopted a policy which forbids students even to have these types of programs in their accounts or to place them onto any ICS computer. You may not store such a program on a departmental computer even if you only wish to study it.
  • You may not try to use equipment or accounts that you are not permitted to use.
  • You may not interfere with others' ability to make use of the resources. For example, it might be reasonable to lock a workstation if you need to leave the room for two or three minutes, but it is not reasonable to lock it while you leave to buy lunch. Another example would be logging on to a significant fraction of the available machines at once, thus preventing others from fair use of the lab machines.
  • You may not destroy other people's work either in electronic or physical form.
  • You may not "spy" on people, that is, you may not attempt to gain information from their accounts or from their external drives when there is good reason to believe that they do not wish you to obtain that information. This includes both attempting to violate the protection facilities provided by the system and also taking deliberate advantage of someone else's failure to protect sensitive information on their account. This works both ways; faculty, staff, and members of Computing Support also have the responsibility to respect the privacy of the student. For example, it would be unethical for a faculty member to browse through your personal messages just out of curiosity, even if they have a security level that allows them to do so. We do, however retain the right to inspect material on your account when this is necessary to investigate a suspected violation of university rules, such as a cheating incident or a violation of the rules in this document.
  • You may not send mail that appears to come from someone else.
  • You may not advertise any commercial products or use your account to earn money.


Disciplinary Procedures

What happens if you violate any of these rules? It depends on the seriousness of the offense, but it could be one or more of the following. Disciplinary procedures and sanctions will be consistent with those outlined in the UCI Implementation of "Interim Policies and Procedures Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students, Part A.''

  1. You may be required to meet with the chair of the Computing Resources Committee (CRC), the Dean of the Bren School, or the manager of the Bren School Support Group to discuss abuse of computing resources.
  2. Your account may be locked. (Again, we recognize an obligation to respect your rights as well. No student account will be locked without discussion and approval of the Dean of the Bren School, or the chair of the CRC, except in the case of security violations. It would not be ethical for us to lock your account capriciously; for example, we agree not to lock it simply because you send a message to a board expressing disagreement with some Department policy or action).
  3. For minor infractions, some form of departmental services (e.g., cleaning a lab) may be requested in exchange for unlocking the account.
  4. For offenses involving abusing computing resources, cheating on course-related work, or preventing others from working on assignments, your grade may be lowered in the class or you may receive a failing grade.
  5. For severe offenses, or repeating minor offenses, you may lose access to all Bren School computing facilities for a period of time. Access to computing resources can be denied for a limited time (e.g., one week, the remainder of the quarter, an entire quarter) or permanently.
  6. You may be suspended or dismissed from the University.
  7. In serious cases, your name and a description of the violation may be reported to the police. California Penal Code Section 502 makes certain computer abuses a crime, and the associated penalties can range up to a $10,000 fine and up to three years in prison.


Good Citizenship

Your cooperation in the following areas will help us make efficient use of the computing resources and will avoid unnecessary impositions on the time of faculty, staff, and other students. These are not the sort of things which we can expect to enforce rigidly; rather, we are asking your cooperation for the benefit of the whole departmental community. Violations of these guidelines would not ordinarily result in any of the penalties listed above beyond number one, unless they were especially flagrant or persist after faculty or staff have asked you to stop.

  1. Please be careful not to use the computer to annoy people, for example by sending them messages which they do not wish to receive. (The mail system makes it rather easy to send a message to a very large group of people; please be responsible in your use of this capability. In particular, when you reply to a message sent to a large group, avoid cc'ing your reply to the entire group unless it is a matter of interest to them.)
  2. Please be careful not to annoy students in the lab for any reason. The lab is not a library, but we ask that each student do his/her part to help to maintain a pleasant working environment for all. Activities that are not conducive to a pleasant work environment include, but are not limited to: listening to music at a volume that is distracting to others, carrying on loud or inappropriate conversations, excessive or distracting cell phone use, failure to leave your workstation clean and ready for the next student, etc.
  3. Please do not waste anything (i.e., paper, disk space, CPU time, personnel time, etc.). Please throw away all trash and put your old printouts in the recycling bins.



Some of these polices are adapted from those used by the UCLA CS Department. They adapted some of their polices from Columbia University and the California Institute of Technology.