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Big Fix and ActiveSync

BigFix and ActiveSync are programs that Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is using to protect devices from security lapses, ensure a standard for information technology security, and confirm compliance with University and Feinberg policies. Feinberg has many regulatory mandates with which it must comply, including HIPAA/HITECH, FERPA, and PIPA.

BigFix works by collecting selected data about the security of that device. It allows Feinberg to ensure sensitive data that should remain private—such as faculty and staff social security numbers, student information, or research participant data— is adequately protected. It confirms that devices used for business purposes are configured to provide protection in cases of loss or theft. As we, and other universities have learned, a stolen device may be determined after the fact to have regulated data, even when the user believed there was none. 

  • BigFix is automatically installed on all devices owned and managed by Feinberg Information Technology, and must also be installed on all personal devices used to conduct Feinberg business. 

ActiveSync is the system that email clients on smartphones and tablets use to check email at Northwestern and elsewhere. It can implement policies such as ensuring a PIN is enabled on a phone or that a tablet is encrypted before email can be downloaded.  

  • ActiveSync requires no installation on any personal computing devices. 

All desktop computers and laptop computers, and all smartphones and tablets, can access Northwestern email at anytime, with no security updates needed, by using Outlook webmail.

BigFix and ActiveSync Benefits

  • Protects your device, whether University-owned or personal, from becoming the source of a major University data breach
  • Protects PHI/PII and other sensitive data on the Northwestern network
  • Ensures compliance with Feinberg’s information security policies
  • Allows Feinberg IT to install or require critical security patches on computers shortly after they become available by Microsoft, Apple and other vendors and are tested locally (BigFix)
  • Provides power consumption management for the University 
  • Streamlines software updates (BigFix)


  • All current faculty, staff, residents, fellows and students

Related Information

Learn more about IBM Big Fix from the links below: