Computer-based systems often require that each user has a unique username and a secure password to access them. Many MIT computer-based systems and services share the same username/password authentication service: Kerberos. This means you only have to keep track of one username and password for many systems: Your MIT Kerberos username and password (Kerberos Identity).
When you enter your Kerberos username and password at a login prompt, the password is never actually sent across the network. Instead, it is converted into a specially coded format that is then compared with a special time-stamped code string sent from the Kerberos authentication server. Your password isn't sent anywhere, yet your identity is confirmed.
MIT has an open networking environment, e.g., we are not behind a firewall. Therefore, it is especially important to have secure authentication systems. Kerberos is the backbone authentication system for MIT's core computer systems.
When registering, you'll provide your MIT ID number, your real name, and (if you are a new student) a set of six "magic words". You will then specify:
- A unique username for yourself that is eight characters or shorter (this is permanent and can't be changed).
- An initial password for your identity (you can change this at any time).
The act of registering also creates an account for you on the Athena system (including 1.5 GB of file space).
Establishing a Kerberos identity implies that you will be using networked computer services at MIT. Registering for your Kerberos identity requires that you agree to abide by the MITnet Rules of Use. There are additional rules for each computer system or facility that you can now access, e.g., you are also given an Athena account when you register. See the Rules for Athena Facilities.
Your MIT Kerberos Identity gives you access to a variety of systems and facilities on campus and on MITnet. These systems and services are primarily for current students, faculty, and staff of the MIT community. Certain MIT websites and online systems are considered essential to new students. For more details, see: The First Year at MIT and Housing at MIT.
The following systems require a Kerberos Identity:
Athena: MIT's campus-wide UNIX-based academic computing facility
- Typical user: Everyone, especially students and web publishers
Key features: In addition to ample filespace (1.5 GB by default), you can use Athena to:
- Do class work
- Communicate with other students and faculty online
- Explore the Internet
- Publish your own web pages
- Make use of many other features and applications (e.g., third-party software)
- Support provider: Athena Consulting (IS&T)
- More information: Athena at MIT
Email: MIT's central email services
- Typical user: Everyone
Key features: With an MIT Kerberos identity:
- You can use MIT's mail servers to send email
- Others can send email to you at an @mit.edu email address
- You can have incoming mail redirected to another email account temporarily
Support provider: IS&T Help Desk
- More information: Email at MIT
Certificates: Web certificate-based online services
- Typical user: Everyone
Key features: Some of the web services that require you to have an MIT web certificate:
- Educational discounts for computer purchases offered electronically through vendor partners with MIT
- Access to MIT-only web pages
- MIT-licensed software downloads
- Support provider: IS&T Help Desk
- More information: MIT Electronic Catalogs (ECAT) | MIT Software Download
- Typical user: Students (housing lottery is for pre-frosh)
- Key features: Electronically-run campus lotteries like Housing and PhysEd
- More information: Housing Lottery
Off-campus housing resources: Access to the database of off-campus housing opportunities (Graduate students only)
- Typical user: Graduate students
- Key features: MIT's Office of Off-Campus Housing maintains a database of available housing for graduate students
- Support provider: Residential Life Programs Office
- More information: Off Campus Housing and Graduate Living Options
Sloan systems: Sloan web pages and facilities (Sloan students only)
- Typical user: Sloan students
- Key features: Access to Sloan web portal and Sloan's NT lab.
- Support provider: Sloan Information Technology
WebSIS: MIT's web interface to the online MITSIS student information system
- Typical user: Students
- Course pre-registration.
- Online access to your financial and academic record.
- Support provider: MITSIS Support (Student Services)
- More information: WebSIS