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Reference for Data and System Classification

About This Policy

Effective Date Supersedes N/A Issuing Authority Executive Vice President; Vice President, Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Responsible Officer Vice President, Information Technology and Chief Information Officer

Covered Systems

This classification is applicable to a wide variety of IT resources which are connected to NYU-NET or are used for any NYU business purpose. A system may be any IT resource to which the security safeguards may be applied. Examples of systems include, but are not limited to:

  1. Desktop, laptop, or server computers running general purpose operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS, and Unix
  2. Network server applications, such as an FTP-server application
  3. Web applications, such as a wiki
  4. Databases

All of the above systems may perform their own authentication and authorization, logging and auditing, and have their own configurations which must be managed, and each of them is considered a compliance object to be protected.

Follow these steps to determine a system’s classification:

  1. Determine the Data Classification of the data stored on the system
  2. Determine the Availability Requirements of that system, including whether it is a server, or personal workstation
  3. Select the appropriate Classification from the System Criticality Table

A system owner may choose to classify a system as higher criticality than that indicated by the table. However, if they choose to do so, the system must meet the security measures for that higher level.

Data Classification

The authoritative source of information on data classification at NYU is the University Data Classification Table. It outlines four levels of data classification which are related to the impact of an unauthorized disclosure of the data in question. For the convenience of the reader, the data types are listed below along with descriptions and examples; however the table linked above is always the most accurate and up-to-date source of information on data classification. The Data Classification Table is meant to describe the confidentiality of the data in question and does not factor in the integrity or availability requirements in its rating. Note that if a piece of data fits into more than one category it is considered to be the highest of those classes.

Data Classification Institutional Risk
from Disclosure
Description Examples
Restricted High Data whose
unauthorized access or
loss could seriously or
adversely affect NYU,
a partner, or the
• Social Security Number
• Driver's License Number
• Bank/Financial Account
• Credit/Debit Card Number
  (see Special Data Types)
• Electronic Protected
  Health Information
• Central Authentication
  Credentials, when stored
  in large numbers
• University Financial Data
  on Central Systems
Protected Medium Data with a less high
level of importance,
but that should be
protected from
general access.
• University Intellectual
• University Proprietary Data
• Passport Numbers
• Final Course Grades
• FERPA-covered records
• External Steward Data
• Human Resources Data
Confidential Low All other non-public
data not included in
the Restricted or
Protected classes
• NetID
• University Identification
• Licensed Software
• Other University Owned
  Non-Public Data
Public None All public data • General access data,
  such as that on
  unauthenticated portions

Special Data Types

  • Credit Card numbers are subject to specific industry standards and thus may need to be handled differently in some situations. See Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
  • Other data covered by export controls are subject to additional rules on distribution, in particular sharing with non-U.S. persons. See NYU's Export Control Regulations policy.

The system classification framework draws a distinction between systems which store data directly, systems which have privileged access to data, but which do not store it directly, and systems which make general use of data, as follows:

  • "Storing" data indicates that the data is transparently available through normal file system access methods. For example, data residing in NFS mounts or Windows mapped drives (e.g., an X: drive) is considered to be stored on any client systems which actively mount the shares, as well as the system which physically houses the disks. However, data residing in a database is considered to be stored only on the database server itself since no file system access methods allow clients to obtain direct access to the data.
  • "Privileged Access" exists when there is a non-file system method of accessing data that is stored on another system. For example, a web server that connects to a separate back-end database server has privileged access to data stored on that system. Similarly, the workstation of a system administrator who commonly logs into both servers with administrator credentials has privileged access to both systems.
  • "General use" includes access or processing of data by end-user workstations, using a non-privileged account.  

Availability Requirements

There are three availability classifications, which represent the impact to the University if a given system were unavailable to perform its task.

Institutional Risk
from Downtime
Description Examples
High Loss of access to the
system could have a
significant impact on
NYU, a partner, or
the public.
• Systems participate in a
  University-level disaster
  preparedness plan
• Systems participate in
  the NYU IT XSC initiative
• Systems have redundant
  hardware in separate
  geographic regions
• Systems that serve
  10,000 or more users
Medium Loss of access to the
system could have a
significant impact on
a large number of
users or multiple
business units.
• Systems participate in
  the disaster preparedness
  plan of a large University
• Systems have redundant
  hardware in a single
  geographic region
• Systems serve 1,000 to
  10,000 users
Low Loss of access to the
system could have a
significant impact on
an individual user or
• Systems do not
  participate in a disaster
  preparedness plan
• Systems have no
  redundant hardware

Server/Personal Context

  • Servers are characterized by the presence of network accessible services, they are typically accessed simultaneously by many remote users concurrently, via the network services they provide.
  • Personal Workstations typically do not have network accessible services, and are typically accessed by a single user at a time.

System Criticality Categories

System Criticality is determined according to the following table, when more than one category applies, the system should be classified in the highest applicable category.

Classification Guidelines Examples
Servers that store
Restricted Data
OR servers that host
High Availability
• A human resources database
  which stores employee social
  security numbers for tax
• The homepage
  which is designated as a
  channel for distributing
   information in the event of
   a campus emergency
Servers that store
Protected Data
OR servers that have
privileged access to
systems that store
Restricted Data
OR servers that host
Medium Availability
• A departmental file
  server where salary and
  benefits information is stored
• A web-server which stores
  no data locally, but which
  runs an application that
  accesses a human resources
  database stored on a separate
  database server that contains
  social security numbers of
  employees for tax purposes
• The email server for a school
  which is required to deliver
  email messages to students
  in the event of an emergency
Servers that store only
Confidential or Public
OR servers that
have privileged access
to systems that store
Protected Data OR
servers that host
Standard Availability
applications OR
personal workstations
• All IT systems that are not
  classified as Medium or
  Criticality High
• Workgroup servers that do
  not store Protected or
  Restricted Data

Send questions or comments to:

  1. Dates of official enactment and amendments: Not Available
  2. History: Last Review: February 17, 2017. Last Revision: February 17, 2017.
  3. Cross References: N/A