Netreg difficulties quarantine hundreds of students from network; ITS engages in public awareness campaign for three strikes policy on copyright infringements

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Difficulties in the registration process for personal computers have kept many students off the campus network since the annual requirements were put in place Monday, preventing them from completing routine tasks such as checking email and browsing the internet. As of Wednesday afternoon, 900 students were registered and roughly 700 were both registered and no longer quarantined.

According to Robin Jacobsen, Manager of Client Services for ITS, “high levels of virus traffic related to the sasser worm, korgo, netsky, and gaobot [hit] all unprotected computers on the network” as soon as students started returning to campus. A scan of the residential network Wednesday morning found more than 58,000 virus infections. Jacobsen also noted that some of the prevalent viruses on campus “can allow remote control of machines or remote shutdown of services and operating systems…but are identified and removed with up to date virus software.”

In working to address the registration issues, ITS staff made a number of adjustments to campus manager and the registration server on Wednesday. Staff met in the afternoon with dorm consultants to learn about the common problems they face in the residence halls. ITS has also assembled a response team that will be reviewing problem reports from the dorm techs and visiting dorms to help with registration processes.

Jacobsen could not provide foolproof advice for how to connect to the network, commenting that ITS has not seen one specific problem but a number of different issues including firewall problems, password problems, and network bridging. She did recommend, however, that students using spybot stop doing so, since it will remove the ePolicy agent used by ITS to manage campus security.

A sizable fraction of those computers that remain quarantined have problems due to incorrect firewall settings. As outlined by Jacobsen, “this is in part due due to the fact that ITS recommends different firewall settings for different operating systems.” All non-OS based firewalls should be turned off as well as the operating system firewalls for computers running any Mac OS or Windows XP Service Pack 1. The OS firewall in Windows XP Service Pack 2 does not cause problems with registration.

Concerns about processing speed have led ITS to allow students to temporarily disable the On-Access Scanner when engaging in other processor-intensive tasks such as watching videos or playing games. However, Jacobsen said the “actual updates don’t [use any] more resources than loading a web page.”

Despite the challenges being faced by ITS, students seemed largely unsympathetic. While unwilling to be quoted in a campus wide publication many students commented that given the time ITS staff members had to prepare for the registration process, they expected a higher level of service.

Also marking the beginning of the new school year, ITS has engaged in a new public awareness campaign for the policy for copyright violations and other forms of illegal file sharing. After being served with three notices, students will be barred from accessing the campus network.

Remarked Judy Downing, Director of ITS, “the three strikes [signs around campus] do not actually represent a change in policy.” After a difficult series of file sharing violations involving one student last spring, ITS and the Dean’s office worked together to craft the current practice.

According to Downing, nearly 100% of students are “very, very cooperative” when they receive a notice of copyright violation and remove the material or stop file sharing. A number of students over the years have received two notices, but only one has received three.

As part of the policy, students who work for ITS may be asked to give up their employment if they are guilty of violating copyright. Downing commented on the matter, “because it involves a computer many people seem to think it isn’t as serious [a crime]. I don’t think we can accept that behavior in employees.”

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