An email sent out by CIT on August 12th concerning Safe Connect, the new Network Access Control system, inspired a small student reaction that caused CIT to put the program on hold. CIT will hold two open forums on the weeks of September 14th and 21st to present their plan to students directly and walk them through it.
The current system has been around for 5 years now and is nearing its end. After years of keeping the network relatively safe, “There are now viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, adware, malware,” said Cindy Sanders, Director of Client Services. “Real numbers wise, we’re looking at about 390 attacks to our network per second.” Though these attacks are dealt with automatically, CIT works behind the scenes to keep them from coming through.
Safe Connect is a one megabyte application that students must install on their computers. It scans for three things: the current version of any anti-virus software, the latest Windows patches and peer to peer (P2P), or file sharing, programs. The program scans your computer’s running processes without looking at your files. You won’t be able to connect until you have current anti-virus software and Microsoft patches, though P2P programs won’t limit access.
If it finds that your computer does not have current anti-virus software and patches, a pop up window will tell you to download the updates or tell you where to get some software. If it discovers a running P2P program, it will tell you that it found one. These notifications will be sent every other day for two weeks at the start of each semester.
While CIT protects the network from attacks from the outside, it can’t protect the network from viruses that already exist on computers. CIT wants every student to have an anti-virus program to keep viruses contained to single computers and to prevent viruses from being spread around the network to other students.
The P2P reminder lets students know that they are running P2P software. CIT thought this would be useful, because the College received 165 takedown notices for copyright infringement last semester. CIT deals with these notices privately and does not disclose any student information to the inquiring parties. If that number of letters rises dramatically, keeping information private might become a bigger issue, and tracking down students to tell them to delete movies or songs would become even more time-consuming for the CIT staff.
“I’d have to say about 99% of students when we have investigated this and said [to them], ‘Hey, you had such and such on your computer and it was being shared out to the world,’” said Sanders, “they say A) ‘I don’t know anything about that file’ or B) ‘I have never heard of peer to peer file sharing software and I wouldn’t know it if I had seen it.’” The network’s pop-up notifications are aimed at removing that excuse. For users who run P2P legitimately, Sanders says, “Continue to use it. We’re not turning it off. We’re not blocking it.”
Sanders also insures that Safe Connect does not scan any personal files. “It can tell us nothing about a person’s computer except for those processes that it searches for,” and CIT wants to keep it that way. “We love the fact that we can’t see anything; we don’t want to see anything,” said Sanders.