Undergraduate Student Policies

Ethical Use of Computing


This document describes some of the ethical responsibilities of computer use and explains Bren School Department 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.

The Bren School 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 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 class assignments, research, and communications. We are a community of computer users, and we can all make the best use of our resources if we establish 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. 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: 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 (your or someone else's) has been broken into, please contact the Bren School Computing Support Group. To do this, send mail to the address helpdesk@ics.uci.edu, or go to Support's office, CS346, and explain the problem.

Computer Accounts

The Bren School 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, some are available for general drop-in use. Each Bren School major is given both a Windows account, and a UNIX account on the Sun workstations. Different courses will require different platforms to be used. Non-majors will be given accounts only if required for a course in which they are enrolled.

All Bren School computers are to be used only by Bren School students, faculty, and staff. People outside the Bren School who wish to use computers should go to the Office of Information Technology (Multipurpose Science and Technology Building (Building 415 - 2nd Floor)). They provide computing for non-Bren School people.

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 can contact the system administrator by sending mail to helpdesk@ics.uci.edu). 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 group. More details about this are given below. If you are in doubt about whether some use of the machines is allowed, ask the Support Group.

Ethical Behavior and Computer/Network Misuse

Here is a list of policies and examples of activities that the department and UCI does not allow. If a student makes such unethical use of Bren School computers, he/she will be subject to the penalties described in the section on Disciplinary Procedures. This is based on the the UC Irvine Administrative Policies and Procedures

    • Knowingly running, installing, or giving to another user, any program on any computer system or network with the intended purpose of damaging or placing excessive load on a computer system or network used by others. This includes, but is not limited to, computer viruses, Trojan horses, worms, bots, spamming, and password cracking programs.
      • In fact, because of the serious damage such programs can cause, the Bren School faculty have adopted a policy which forbids students even to have these types of programs in their accounts or to place them onto any Bren School computer; you may not store such a program on a Bren School computer even if you only wish to study it.
    • Attempting to circumvent data protection schemes or uncover security loopholes without prior written consent of the appropriate authority. This includes creating and/or running programs that are designed to identify security loopholes and/or intentionally decrypt secure data.
    • Posting on electronic bulletin boards, Web pages, or any other computer network based dissemination channel, any materials that violate University policy or codes of conduct.
    • Attempting to monitor or tamper with another user's electronic communications or reading, copying, changing, or deleting another user's files or software without the explicit agreement of the owner.
    • Violating copyright laws or restrictions. You may not use Bren School resources to illegally distribute copyrighted material.
    • Violating terms of applicable software licensing agreements.
    • Using campus networks to gain, or attempt to gain, unauthorized access to any computer system.
    • Using a computer account or obtaining a password without appropriate authorization.
    • Facilitating or allowing use of a computer account, password, and/or network access or resources by any unauthorized person.
    • Employing, either directly or by implication, a false identity when using an account or other electronic resources. This includes sending unauthorized mail that appears to come from someone else as well as posting or otherwise disseminating materials which misrepresent the identity of the sender.
    • Disguising, misrepresenting, or concealing the identity of a computer system connected to the network.
    • Performing an act without authorization that will interfere with the normal operation of computers, networks, or peripherals, or will interfere with others' ability to make use of such resources.
    • Using an account for any activity that is commercial in nature not related to work at UCI, such as consulting services, typing services, developing software for sale, advertising products, and/or other commercial enterprises for personal financial gain. Non-commercial things like posting your used car advertisement on ics.market are permitted, though. If for some reason you need an account that can be used for commercial purposes, see the Office of Information Technology.
    • Distributing, posting, or otherwise making available to those not authorized any confidential, sensitive, or private information.
    • You may not try to use equipment or accounts that have not been assigned to you.
    • 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 doing something that ties up all or a significant fraction of the machine, thus preventing others from receiving their fair share.
    • 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 or Support Group 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 agree to respect your privacy. 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 use the computers' printers as copying machines. For example, you may not print out one hundred copies of a report; instead, print out one copy of the report and use a copying machine to obtain the other 99.

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 do not waste anything (i.e., paper, disk space, CPU time, people time, etc.). Please 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.