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Setting a New Login Password

All members of the Engineering Department are given an account on the Department's Central Computing System. The user identifier issued is for use only by the individual to whom it is issued and it is important that you set a suitably secure password and keep it secret in order to prevent other persons from using it.

You will probably also be issued with passwords for other University facilities, as well as an Engineering Department PIN. Follow this link for brief descriptions and what to do if you forget one.

The majority of members of the Department do need to maintain their account on the Central System (even if they don't need access to the "Teaching System" itself) and to ensure that passwords are up-to-date and secure.

If you have any doubts about what your userid/password are useful for or whether you actually need one at all then look HERE.

Note that the Computing Service's hermes mail server is an entirely separate facility and there is no connection between hermes passwords and Engineering Central Computing System passwords. In fact we would strongly recommend, for security reasons, that you set a different password on hermes from the one you use on the Engineering Department Central System.

In order to maintain security all users are required to change their passwords at least once a year. Warning e-mails are sent out well in advance of expiry to allow time to think up a new password and to effect the change.

At present there is no way to change your password for access to Departmental facilities without logging on to a Unix-based machine (e.g. x-access or a DPO Teaching System machine). Work is underway to improve password changing, probably by making it web-accessible, but the inherently sensitive nature of personal passwords means that a quick fix is not acceptable - we have to get it right. In the meantime if you have any difficulty with password changing please get in touch with the DPO Computer Operators or the Teaching System Manager.

Assuming you are in the position where you do need to change your password there are two main ways to access the Central System:

1) Use a Secure Shell (ssh) client to login to On a unix machine this usually means using the slogin or ssh command. On a PC use a suitable ssh client such as PuTTY (a download link can be found by following the ssh link above).

At the resulting log in prompt enter your Engineering userid (usually, but not always, the same as your hermes userid if you have one) and existing password.

For Macs running OSX (both those within and outside the Department) use the terminal application and then type:

slogin -l userid

Where "userid" is your login id for the Central Departmental System.

2) The simplest method is to go to the DPO (avoid teaching periods) and log in directly on one of the terminals which will provide a suitable terminal window for the next stage.

Once logged in by any of these methods you need to type


at the command prompt. You will be prompted for your current password and asked to type your new password twice.

Please note that it is not possible to change back to your previous password after setting a new one. Otherwise there'd really be no point in enforcing annual changes.

Note that upper and lower case characters are not equivalent in passwords.

In order to be as secure as possible your password should:

Use something like 74!7aDa. Using the initial letters of a phrase (with added punctuation) can be a good way to create passwords which are safe but memorable to you.

Because the CUED Central System is a distributed one it is necessary to have some means of maintaining consistent password information across all servers. This is achieved by a password propagation mechanism devised in the department through which password changes are communicated to a central server which keeps the master copies of password related data. Password changes are propagated from this central server to the rest of the System network every 15 minutes, therefore it could be up to 15 minutes in normal circumstances before the new password becomes active. Please bear this in mind before making a complaint about a failed password change! If you forget your password ask the Computer Operator to reset it - you will be asked for proof of identity.

Information relating to password changing on systems run by the University Computing Service can be found here.

© Cambridge University Engineering Dept
Information provided by Stephen Mounsey (sjm)
Last updated: October 2006