PennKey Frequently Asked Questions
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I. General FAQ
What is a PennKey and who needs one?
A PennKey is an individual's username within the PennKey authentication system. Paired with an associated password, a PennKey
is required to authenticate your identity for access to many of
Penn's networked systems and services.
Anyone who needs access to PennKey-protected electronic resources must register
a PennKey and password.
Note: Alumni who graduated from Penn before
August, 2002, and individuals who separated from Penn before August,
2002, do not require a PennKey to access PennInTouch. They can continue
to access it as they did before the introduction of PennKey.
What is a"Non-Persistent" PennKey?
Non-Persistent PennKeys are issued to individuals such as conference
attendees and volunteers, who have a more fluid or shorter-term
relationship to Penn. Non-Persistent PennKeys take the form gxxxxxxx ("g" followed by seven digits); they have a limited
life-span and cannot be renewed. Individuals with Non-Persistent PennKeys
cannot set a new password if they forget theirs -- they need to
obtain a new PennKey and a new Penn ID.
Who is eligible for a PennKey?
University of Pennsylvania faculty, staff, and students; employees
of the University of Pennsylvania Health System; and sponsored
guests (individuals who have an official business need for accessing
restricted Penn resources) are eligible for a PennKey. Sponsored guests include consultants, contract
programmers, volunteers, temporary staff, research collaborators
from other institutions, CHOP and VA Hospital personnel, and course
auditors. Sponsorship information can be found in the How to Sponsor a Guest section of the web site.
How do I get a PennKey and password?
You establish your PennKey and password online using a PennKey Setup Code
to identify yourself. For details on how to get a Setup Code and register your
PennKey and password, refer to the information under Register
What should students, faculty,
and staff who don't have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) enter
when the last four digits of their SSN are requested on a PennKey
registration logon screen?
They should enter the last four digits of the 9-digit identifier (ID) they received from the University. This ID takes the form xxx-xx-xxxx and is variously referred to as a Student ID, a Federal Taxpayer ID, and a Penn-assigned SSN. Students typically receive this identifier from their admitting program office, while faculty and staff receive it from their business administrator.
I received an error message when I tried to
register my PennKey and was unable to complete the process. What
should I do?
You should contact your LSP or, if you live in a campus residence,
your ITA. You may also be able to solve the problem yourself after
reviewing descriptions of several common registration errors.
Can I change my PennKey once it's been assigned?
Your PennKey is based on your PennName, a unique identifier
that is the basis for usernames on many Penn systems. Thus a request
to change a PennKey is, in effect, a request to change your PennName.
PennNames can only be changed under the following circumstances:
If you have a legal name change
If the PennName assigned to you may be deemed offensive
If you are being harrassed and need to change your
To initiate a request for a PennName change, contact your Local
Support Provider. And remember that if your PennName changes, not
only will your PennKey change but also your username on all other
systems that are based on PennNames.
I've forgotten my PennKey and/or PennKey Password, What do I do now?
Your PennKey is usually identical to your username on your University email
account. For example, if your email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org",
then your PennKey is most likely "smith". If you need further assistance
determining what your PennKey is, please contact email@example.com.
No one can retrieve your password for you. If you've forgotten
it, you will need to reset it following the instructions at Set/Reset
How long will my PennKey stay active?
Except for Non-Persistent PennKeys, which are issued
to individuals with a short-term relationship to the University,
PennKeys generally do not expire. Non-Persistent PennKeys expire on
the date indicated at the time the key was created, and all PennKeys
are subject to suspension or expiration for security reasons.
Having an active PennKey is, however, independent of having authorization
to access PennKey-protected services. Authorization is determined
by the owners of individual services and may change or be terminated
if your job responsibilities change, if you change jobs within Penn,
or if you leave the University.
How long will my PennKey work for a given
Penn computing service?
Your PennKey alone doesn't authorize you to use campus computers
or services. It only proves your identity. Authorization is the
service owner's decision.
For example, say that you change jobs within Penn. Previously you
may have needed access to departmental financial data via BEN Reports,
but that's not part of your new job. You'll still be able to use
your PennKey for authorized services like U@Penn, but it won't give
you access to the financial data you previously were authorized
Does PennKey encrypt the contents of email?
No it doesn't. If you need to secure the contents of your email,
check with your LSP or ITA and review the information at the Secure
Electronic Messaging page.
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II. Setup Code and Password FAQ
What are PennKey Setup Codes and how do they work?
PennKey Setup Codes are temporary identifiers used to log in to the PennKey
application. A Setup Code expires once it's been used or 60 days from the the
date of issue, whichever comes first. You need to obtain a Setup Code
Setup Codes are described in detail on the About PennKey
Setup Codes page. It's important to review that information so you don't
inadvertently cancel your PennKey or nullify a Setup Code.
How do I get a Setup Code?
The various ways you can obtain a Setup Code are described on the About
PennKey Setup Codes page.
Can a Setup Code be reused?
No it can't. However, if you used a Setup
Code to log in but did not complete the PennKey registration or password reset
process, you can use the same Setup Code within 60 days of the date of issue to complete the process for which the Setup Code was issued.
How do I get another Setup Code if I lose mine or it expires?
You can always get a replacement Setup Code by visiting a
PennKey administration station or by requesting one via the Setup Code Service. Note that once you request another Setup Code by any means, the previously
requested Setup Code is nullified.
I requested a Setup Code via the automated PennKey Setup
Code Request Line more than a week ago, but it hasn't arrived. What should I
If you've allowed enough time for the Setup Code to reach you, send a followup
query to firstname.lastname@example.org to
learn the status of your request and what address the Setup Code was sent to.
Because a Setup Code can only be sent to your address
of record, it will not reach you if the University has out-of-date address information for you.
If you request a second Setup Code without checking on the status of the first
one, bear in mind that the new Setup Code request will cancel out the previous
Setup Code, so should the Setup Code you originally requested arrive, it will
not be useable. Moreover, if your address is incorrect, the second
Setup Code you requested won't reach you either. Information on updating your
address information is also available on the Addresses information page.
What is meant by address of record and how
can I determine that mine is correct?
Address of record is linked to your status (student, Penn employee,
UPHS employee, other). Details, including instructions on how to
check, and if necessary, update your address can be found on the
Address information page.
How do I update my address of record?
Please see the
Address information page for details.
When I try to create a password, it still gets rejected
because it supposedly contains a dictionary word, though I don't
think it does. What's going on?
This is a common and frustrating problem. "Dictionary"
does not simply mean a standard English language dictionary -- it
also includes foreign language dictionaries and all kinds of specialized
dictionaries that hackers use to crack passwords.
For example, the string "xyzzy" is found in a computer
dictionary -- it's a term from an early computer game and has found
its way into password cracking dictionaries, so it is not a suitable
The following approach can be helpful in choosing a strong password: Make
up a sentence that's meaningful to you. Then use the first letter
of each word as a letter in your password; if you wish, add additional
characters to make it more difficult to guess.
- Start with the phrase such as Orange elephants invade
Alaska; film at eleven.
- Take the first letter of each word as your password: OeiAfae
(This is an acceptable password; it follows the rules but is hard
for someone to guess since it's essentially a random string of
- To make the password even harder to guess, add punctuation,
numbers, and other non-alphanumeric symbols: OeiA;f@11
I've forgotten my PennKey password. What should I do?
You will need to reset it -- no one can retrieve a forgotten password for
you. If you are enrolled in Challenge-Response, you can reset your password online instantly. Otherwise, you will need to obtain a PennKey Setup Code
and then reset your password online. For details, see Set/Reset Your Password.
Can my PennKey password be reset manually by a PennKey administrator, or can someone tell me what it is if I forget it?
No. Passwords are stored in the system in encrypted form, and cannot be read by administrative personnel. Only you should ever know what your password is. The only manual operation that an administrator can perform on your PennKey is to issue a Setup Code against it, which effectively freezes it until you reset your password using that Setup Code or another that you subsequently obtain.
I know my PennKey password but would like to change it. How do I do it?
To change your PennKey password, you need to use special software
known as a ticket manager. Windows and Macintosh users can obtain
ticket managers from the PennConnect
DVD or the Supported
Products web site. Instructions for using ticket manager are available
for Windows and Macintosh.
For UNIX operating systems, use kinit.
How often should I change my PennKey password?
There is no need to regularly change your password. But, if
you suspect that someone has learned your password or could easily
guess it, then you should change it immediately. See the Set/Reset
Your Password page for more information.
I think somebody stole, or accidentally found out what my PennKey password is. What should I do?
If you believe that the security of your PennKey password has been compromised, and that someone has or will use it to access your account(s), contact ISC Information Security at email@example.com, or 215-898-2172. They can immediately issue a Setup Code against your PennKey that will effectively freeze your PennKey until you can obtain a Setup Code to reset your password.
If you believe that any criminal activity has taken place or will take place, it is strongly recommended that you contact Penn Public Safety at 511 (on-campus) or 215-573-3333 (off-campus).
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III. Usage FAQs
For what services do I use my PennKey and
Talk to your LSP or ITA to find out how else PennKey is being used
in your local environment. Authentication using a PennKey and password
is being offered as an option on some campus email services. Note:
Alumni who graduated from Penn before August, 2002, and individuals
who separated from Penn before August, 2002, do not require a PennKey
to access PennInTouch. They can continue to access it as they did
before the introduction of PennKey.
I'm able to access most things that require PennKey (PennInTouch, PennPortal, etc.), but cannot access some of the Library resources I need. What's wrong?
In the fall of 2003, the Library changed its rules for granting access to many of its resources, and does not rely entirely on PennKey. If you are having trouble accessing Library resources, visit any Library Circulation Desk and consult with Library staff. More information is available at http://www.library.upenn.edu/access/electronic.html.
How can I tell if my PennKey works?
Try it out on the Test Your PennKey page. If you can authenticate successfully on this page, your PennKey and password are valid.
I used my PennKey 6 months ago, but now it's
not working. Why?
Persistent PennKeys, the kind issued to faculty, staff and students, generally
do not expire. Non-persistent PennKeys, issued to individuals with a short-term
relationship to the University, expire on the date indicated at the time the
key was created. Non-Persistent PennKeys start with a "g" followed
by seven digits. All PennKeys are subject to suspension or expiration for security
A PennKey is used for authentication, proving identity, not for authorization. An
active PennKey is independent of having authorization to access PennKey-protected
services. Authorization is determined by the owners of individual services
and may change or be terminated if your University affiliation or status changes.
For example, if you change jobs within Penn, previously you may have needed
access to departmental financial data via BEN Reports, but now that's not
part of your new job. You'll still be able to use your PennKey for authorized
services like U@Penn, but it won't give you access to the financial data
you previously were authorized to access.
To verify that your PennKey is working, visit the Test your PennKey & password
link on the PennKey home page. If
your PennKey does not work with the test application, you'll need to reset
your password. If
it does work, you'll need to contact the service owner of the service you are
unable to access in order to obtain authorization to use that service.
I verified my PennKey at the PennKey test page, but I still can't access <name of an electronic service>. What do I do?
First, make sure the service uses PennKey authentication.
If the service does use PennKey, report your access problem to the organization that is providing the service. Your login problem may be specific to that service, rather than being a PennKey problem. Avoid requesting another PennKey Setup Code to reset your PennKey and password until you determine a general failure to access more than one PennKey-protected resource, because doing so will freeze your PennKey (until you use the Setup Code to reset your PennKey and password).
What's a ticket manager? Do I need one?
A ticket manager is software that allows you to use your PennKey to access Kerberized services or to change
your known PennKey password.
It's a good idea to have ticket manager software installed on
your desktop. Users can obtain supported ticket managers
from the PennConnect
DVD or the Supported
Products web site. Instructions for using Windows and Macintosh ticket
managers are also available.
For UNIX operating systems, use kinit. Talk to your LSP or ITA if
you need help or more information.
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