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Improving Account Security Use Multi-Factor Authentication and strong passwords to secure your data

Have you ever been the victim of a phishing attack or received an email pretending to be from a colleague after their account was compromised? Attacks are on the rise, so it is critical for faculty and staff to act now to enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on your Outlook/Office 365 account and students to enable 2-Step Verification on your AU Gmail account.

American University is taking steps to improve security for email services, by requiring use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on both Outlook/Office 365 (Faculty and Staff) and Gmail (Students). You may already use Duo or 2-Step Verification when authenticating to AU platforms. This security standard helps all users to prevent unauthorized access to email and data, and reduces phishing attacks within the AU community.

OIT will also be retiring the 90 day/8 character password policy, requiring that all users utilize the 1 year/16 character passphrase policy.

Required Steps for Faculty and Staff

  1. Enroll your mobile device to use the Duo Multi-Factor App
    • Click to view the instructions for enrolling your smartphone in Duo.
    • Skip to Step 2 if you have already enrolled your smartphone to access the AU VPN or other services.
  2. Add Multi-Factor (DUO) to your Outlook/Office 365 account
    • Complete the form to opt-in to using MFA with your Outlook/Office 365 account.
    • Then, review what to expect for your email client.

An Introduction to Duo Security


Two-factor authentication adds a second layer of security to your logins. Verifying your identity using a second factor (like your phone or other mobile device) prevents anyone but you from logging in, even if they know your password.

Required Steps for Students and Alumni

  1. Setting Up 2-Step Verification for Your AU Gmail Account
    • Click to view the instructions for setting up 2-step verification.

Help protect your account with 2-Step Verification


2-step verification adds a second layer of security to your logins. Verifying your identity using a second factor (like your phone or other mobile device) prevents anyone but you from logging in, even if they know your password.

Required Steps for All Users with an 8 Character Password

  1. If your password expires every 90 days, update it to use the 16 Character password policy in the myAU portal

Popular Topics

MFA Rollout Plan See what progress AU is making towards MFA

OIT has taken a phased approach in communicating how to work through the outlined steps above, with the goal of elevating the security posture among all members of the AU community. See the details below.

Starting in June, staff will receive a series of communications instructing them to enroll in Duo MFA on Outlook/Office 365. 

Effective September 30, 2021, Multi-Factor Authentication will be required to authenticate to your AU staff email account and Office 365 applications. 

Starting in mid-September, faculty will receive a series of communications instructing them to enroll in Duo MFA on Office 365. 

Effective November 18, 2021, Multi-Factor Authentication will be required to authenticate to your AU faculty email account and Office 365 applications. 

Starting in mid-September, students and alumni will receive a series of communications instructing them to enable 2-step verification on their AU Gmail accounts. 

Effective November 18, 2021, 2-step verification will be required for students and alumni to authenticate to their AU email account. 

85 percent Staff MFA Enrollment for Outlook/O365

27 percent Faculty MFA Enrollment for Outlook/O365

2 percent Student & Alumni Two-Step Verification Enrollment

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do we need two-factor authentication?

    Login credentials are more valuable than ever and are increasingly easy to compromise. Over 90% of breaches today involve compromised usernames and passwords. Two-factor authentication enhances the security of your account by using a secondary device to verify your identity. This prevents anyone but you from accessing your account, even if they know your password. Enabling two-factor authentication for O365 dramatically reduces the chance that someone can access or send unauthorized messages from your email account, or access documents and other data stored in your OneDrive.
  2. Why do we need stronger passwords?

    Industry password guidance points to password length as a better metric for security than password complexity (e.g., combinations of upper, lower case, numbers, and special characters). Many staff and faculty are already onboard with the 16-character minimum, but there are still some users that will need to be switched to adopt best practices. By adopting the 16-character policy, (which simply calls for longer, less complex, passwords) users can author passwords that are more memorable, can be retained longer, and are above all, harder to “crack”.
  3. Will this impact my ability to view or send AU email through a third party mail client or platform like Thunderbird or Gmail?

    Yes. It will be dependent on the email client, however. The email client will need to use a secure method to connect to your email, and specifically one that is capable of soliciting the multiple inputs required by Duo. Compatible email clients are most likely those that readily provide a "Microsoft Exchange" option for connecting to an O365 account (not ones that require you to input manual server settings). As examples, Thunderbird and Gmail do not currently offer this. Apple Mail and Windows Mail do, however.
  4. Will I be able to "Send As" from my Gmail account (or other email client)?

    The "Send As" setup steps within Gmail require that you enter your O365 credentials, which is what allows Gmail to emulate you as a sender from an AU email account. With MFA enabled, however, anything that needs to perform an authentication to your O365 account also needs to also be able to perform multi-factor authentication. At this time, Gmail's "Send As" function is not compatible with MFA.
  5. I thought I already did my MFA enrollment a long time ago. How is this different?

    Prior to communicating this new security standard, much of the AU community has already been using Duo to authenticate to select AU platforms like the VPN or Virtual Apps, as examples. Your Office 365 account, however, hasn't previously been safeguarded with MFA. The goal of this current effort is to expand utilization of MFA to include your Office 365 account (ie. email, OneDrive, etc.). In this case, there are potential impacts to email delivery, though following the provided instructions will reduce/eliminate disruptions.
  6. How do I know if I've opted in already?

    Faculty and staff can tell if they've fulfilled the requirements by navigating to webmail, Users who have successfully enrolled in MFA on O365 will receive the prompt for Duo's secondary authentication after providing their regular login credentials. If you are not prompted for secondary authentication, you have not completed the steps required.
  7. Is my phone/computer compatible with MFA?

    Users should have two areas of concern around compatibility. To have a fully compatible experience, A. your phone needs to be able to run Duo Mobile, and B. your email client needs to be capable of prompting for Duo during the authentication process. See the corresponding requirements below:

    A. The current version of Duo Mobile runs on:
    • Android 8.0 and greater
    • iOS 12.0 and greater
    B. Duo MFA is supported in:
    • The native Mail app on iOS 11.x and greater
    • The native Mail app on iPadOS 13.1 and greater
    • Mac Mail on macOS 10.14 or greater
    • Outlook on iOS 10.x and greater
    • Outlook on all supported versions of Android
    • Outlook 2016 or greater on Windows and Mac 
  8. What if I can't download the Duo Mobile app on my phone?

    We advertise Duo Mobile, the smartphone app, as the most efficient way of facilitating MFA here at AU. It is not, however, the explicit requirement for getting through MFA prompts. It is possible to enroll in MFA without a smartphone, and still have a relatively seamless MFA experience. Please refer to KB0017302 for details on alternative MFA methods.