A Williams College Student Publication

Fiction: Williams and Okta

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Last spring, while trying to log into williams.medicatconnect.com for a bloodwork appointment, I was presented with the following message:

(characters such as * & $ % ' < > ! # may not be used in your Password)

So I changed passwords. Had I known what I was doing, I would have gladly remained locked out of Medicat and not gotten my blood test done, as doing so forced me to sign up early for the privilege of using Okta. Since all students are familiar with this service by now, this piece won’t go into gory detail on how much of a detriment to productivity it is. Right now, I feel like speculating on how the idea to switch to Okta’s authentication service came about.

This is what I picture: a large roundtable in a dark room at the heart of the labyrinth that is Jesup, illuminated only at the edges. On one end, Maud Mandel and her cabinet; on the other, a cadre of OIT suits, harsh lights overhead throwing long shadows down their facial features and obscuring their eyes. A hologram of sorts, classified OIT technology, floats above the middle of the table, flickering with mysterious Liberal Arts statistics.

Maud looks at her watch; after this 15-minute meeting, she is scheduled to deliver an address on the terrible Liberal Arts war, and, after that, she is holding another press conference with the Department of Dining on the unfortunate necessity of rationing. Only thereafter will she have time for a brief nap. “Well? What do you have for me?”

The middle suit leans forward. “Any violation-of-privacy scandal will have devastating legal consequences for the College. We simply cannot risk a single student logging into another’s account. And we are afraid our current two-factor authentication system is not enough.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“The only way to prevent the wrong student logging into the wrong account is to make it impossible for any student to log in at all.” “And you can do this?”

I can’t think of any other reason for Okta to have been implemented.