Waterview residents don’t have to worry any longer about someone wire-tapping their wireless connection to UTD’s Internet system.
Over the summer, Information Resources (IR) has installed a new security protocol on the Waterview wireless system, which despite creating momentary havoc for Waterview dwellers returning from their summer slumber, will eventually lead to a more secure and protected network.
The protocol, known as 802.1x, does not require a user to enter his username and password every time, unlike the old BlueSocket system which used the Wireless Equivalency Protocol known as WEP. In the new system, the user is automatically verified on the network upon connection and at 15-minute intervals thereafter. Correspondence between the user’s machine and the campus network is then less likely to be intercepted by a malicious third-party.
Doug Jackson, director of IR, said he was not aware of any real issues dealing with the cracking of the previous WEP system to prompt the security upgrade, but it was an issue he had been wanting to address for some time.
“We’ve always said that this isn’t a secure network, but just saying it wasn’t enough. We had to address it,” Jackson said.
A team was named to consider a variety of security protocols headed by the director of communication and technical services Jim Gary and software systems specialist Michael Griego.
Over expensive custom products, the team created a “homegrown” solution, using 802.1x with a Radius server, an evolution of older technology once used to authenticate dial-up modem users, but one that corporate customers like T-Mobile are looking at for implementation in their nationwide wifi hot-spot system.
Gary explained that the 802.1x system takes a more knowledgeable support staff to set up, and that it wouldn’t have been possible without people like Griego.
The new protocol has only been deployed in the Waterview hot spots, but Jackson hopes it will extend throughout campus by the end of the semester.
To clear confusion, Jackson said 802.1x is not a speed upgrade to the network like the 802.11a and 802.11g standards are compared to 802.11b. It is simply an added layer of security through which the same flow of Internet data will pass. It works with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, though Jackson said there have been some issues with handhelds.
Students needing help setting up their computers can find information on how to upgrade at the computing help desk on the second floor of the McDermott Library, or browse the IR web site at www.utdallas.edu/ir/cats/network/wlan/8021x.
“The setup is more complex,” Jackson said, “but once you’re going, you’re pretty much on your own, it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.”
Students have generally been pleased at the steps taken to improve security, despite the inconvenience of having to adjust their internet connection settings.
“I think it’s a good thing that it’s more secure, although it has been a pain to make it work,” said graduate management student Kriangkrai Kittiphotwilai.