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Rules governing the use of computers

Informal description of the rules governing the use of computers

All visitors of the ICTP get a computer account for the duration of their stay.

The following is an informal description of ICTP rules governing the use of the computing and network facilities. It introduces and explains, in an informal style, the content and the spirit of the the RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF ICTP'S COMPUTING AND NETWORK FACILITIES with the intention of presenting its salient features in a reader-friendly way. Please note, however, that the RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF ICTP'S COMPUTING AND NETWORK FACILITIES remains the only official document for legal reference.


The document "RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF ICTP'S COMPUTING AND NETWORK FACILITIES" sets out the basic rules of use for all computing facilities at ICTP. As the field of computing is evolving at a rapid rate, we needed to find a way to cover the general aspects of the use of ICTP computing facilities as well as permitting a more flexible way of managing rules of use related to new aspects of computing facilities or to changes in technology.

ICTP provides computing resources, network infrastructure, e-mail and other services for the purpose of enabling the scientific community to participate and fulfill the ICTP programme. Resources are limited and intended to be used in the context of official work. Even if the educational and research aspects of ICTP's life - providing an environment conducive to work - introduces the need for a certain amount of freedom of interest and development of ideas, ICTP wishes to ensure that the resources it provides to researchers are used in the way they were intended.

ICTP has a professional standing that it wishes to maintain. Computing and networking technologies have potentially placed users in the public eye, through e-mail discussion lists, news groups, and web sites where each user's contribution carries ICTP's name - in the form It is now trivial to "publish" in ways that would not have been imagined a few years ago, bypassing the peer review process that has been normal for our community. Users need to be aware that whatever they place on web pages, send to discussion lists or post to news groups from ICTP computing facilities carries ICTP's name. People wishing to use their own web sites or e-mail addresses should make use of local Internet Service Providers who offer these services.

ICTP provides a network infrastructure for the whole site; visitors may bring equipment to ICTP and connect to ICTP's network. All networked equipment on the ICTP site is considered to fall under the "RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF ICTP'S COMPUTING AND NETWORK FACILITIES". This (as mentioned above) is because abuse in e-mail, news groups, SPAM etc. from networked equipment will appear to originate from ICTP and may be detrimental to the organization's image. Access from home via ICTP facilities, such as the Dial-up server, is considered in the same way.

Accounts and Services

Computing resources are allocated to users in the form of accounts and network connections. Users are responsible for and accountable for the use of their accounts and resources allocated to them. They should take reasonable precautions to prevent other persons from accessing their accounts by choosing good passwords and proper access protection settings. ICTP will not tolerate any attempt at unauthorized access to accounts.

Some users may be given privileged accounts or access to accounts created for projects or other special reasons. In these cases the users must only use the accounts for the purpose for which they were intended and if the user's work changes he/she must inform the service manager who may revoke access to the account(s).

Computing resources are often shared and limited. Excessive use by users may impact others. Each service (mail, network, files, printing...) monitors its quality and usage to enable all to work smoothly. Users may accidentally abuse these resources, in which case the service manager will, as a general principle, take action to protect the service and contact the user concerned to rectify the situation. Refusal by users to cooperate with service managers is not tolerated.


ICTP takes a proactive interest in protecting its resources and users' accounts against attacks. These attacks may take many forms, from e-mail SPAM to forged mail messages appearing to originate from ICTP; virus propagation by various means; unauthorized use of accounts due to various circumstances (compromised passwords, operating system bugs, web server bugs, etc.).

Security measures to combat these are implemented for ICTP as a whole and possibly for each service, and are coordinated through ICTS. A team, reachable via, will handle security related problems. Users who think that their account has been used by someone else, or suspect some other security related problem, should contact this team or their service manager. In cases of a suspected break-in from outside the user's account is normally blocked until the situation is resolved and new passwords are enforced. Any private or confidential information revealed during the detection of security problems or subsequent investigation is kept confidential.

The security checks include checks for viruses and the existence of suspicious programs using commercial virus scanning software. The virus checking programs may check all user files. If a user is informed that his files are infected by viruses or that suspicious programs have been found in his directory he must follow the service managers' instructions. E-mail can be scanned to identify virus patterns. Similarly checks on "good" passwords can be performed. These are performed through tools similar to those used by hackers to try to guess passwords. If the tool succeeds in guessing a user's password then the user will be informed and asked to change it. Refusal by users to cooperate with service managers is not tolerated.

Privacy, Confidentiality, Copyright and Illegal activities.

Illegal activities, breach of copyright, dissemination of confidential information, pirating software, commercial activities, to mention a few activities which are not tolerated.

In these respect, we add a few examples and clarifcations: Among the illegal activities, we indicate at least the following:

  • unauthorized access to computers or data, inside or outside the ICTP, or any attempt to perform such access;
  • abuse of computer communications to harass other people, inside or outside the ICTP;
  • distribution of libelous or pornographic material, or material instigating/professing racial or religious hatred;
  • forging the identity of the originator of computer communications (e-mail or network chat or network phone);

With respect to the breach of copyright, we recall the fact that the ICTP has access to copyrighted information published on the network, in particular on-line scientific journals and databases. Users must comply with the licenses' provisions that defines the ICTP access rights. In particular, massive downloads from any source of copyrighted information on the network are generally forbidden. Users who whish to "bring home" significant portions of any on-line information resources must obtain a written authorization by the owner of the relevant resource.

Copying licensed software from the ICTP computers or from the installation kits belonging to the ICTP's computers, or using pirated software on the ICTP computers is forbidden. ICTP occasionally has special requirements to abide by. For example, it is not infrequent the case when ICTP is given temporary access to licensed software for a specific training activity or is receiving licensed software for donation to specific institutions in developing countries. These time and purpose limitations are part of the license agreement, and must be respected.

Should users inadvertently come into contact with confidential information they must respect its confidentiality.

ICTP accepts no liability for private or confidential information stored on its computer facilities. This includes all file stores and e-mail. Service managers may have to access private or confidential data in the course of maintaining and providing optimum services and in maintaining the security of the service . Any such information will be treated with confidentiality.

Personal Use

Networking, or rather the use of the Internet, now pervades almost everyone's life. It is unreasonable, if not impossible, to separate completely work and personal use of facilities such as e-mail, calendaring and address books - to give some trivial examples. In addition, as for the telephone, Internet access is available to most ICTP users and some reasonable statement of an acceptable use was felt necessary. Basically the "Rules for personal use" section of the "RULES GOVERNING THE USE OF ICTP'S COMPUTING AND NETWORK FACILITIES" states that using ICTP computing facilities for personal use still means that all the relevant rules and regulations apply with a few additional constraints. For personal use, users must ensure that frequency and duration is limited, that resources used are negligible and that any such use is at a time and priority that does not impact their normal work. For example, outside working hours, at lunch break or coffee break.

Lastly, the use of ICTP's computing facilities as part of ICTP's social activities (Clubs etc.) is explicitly mentioned as permitted in the context of personal use.

Official Documentation

This document is based on the UNESCO IT Security/Guidelines - AM9.3, which covers other items not discussed. Please contact the ICTS helpdesk ( if additional information is required.


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