NUIT launches new program to target computer viruses

Ally Mutnick

Northwestern University Information Technology has changed its Internet security system to provide more secure and stable Internet access to students on campus.

NUIT installed the new system over spring break. The program, Bradford Network Access Control, helps NUIT easily identify computers or other devices that have viruses or a vulnerability to viruses and allows them to block that single machine’s access to the Internet, said Wendy Woodward, NUIT director of technology support services.

Previously, NUIT had to shut down an entire part of the wireless network that the infected computer was accessing, which can restrict Internet for 30 to 50 users in the area rather than just the user with the virus.

“It’s more effective in how we can identify threats and address them,” Woodward said of the new system.

Before obtaining this new system, NUIT also shut down any Ethernet port that an infected computer was using to access the Internet.

Jim Roberts, IT director for student affairs, helped implement the new systems into the residence halls. Roberts said the security system would make Internet access more available to students.

“I think that was a broader solution to shut down that port and to prohibit access by any device via that port,” Roberts said about gaining Internet access via Ethernet cable. “This is a more targeted problem solving procedure. You just target the device, whatever the device is that is causing the problem, so I think that from a student service perspective it’s much less limiting.”

Woodward said NUIT typically had to shut down a part of the Internet access around 100 times a month before the switch.

Virus-infected machines can jeopardize the security of students’ personal information and other users on the NU network, Woodward said. The new system has the ability to do more in-depth screening of computers that are vulnerable to viruses, allowing NUIT to contact the student to have them update their software before the virus occurs, she said.

The new software also allows campus visitors to access a new guest network that does not require a NetID or password. Woodward said NUIT added this to stop students from giving out their NetIDs to visitors. The guest network is a slower connection, and it restricts access to NU data systems such as CAESAR or Blackboard.

Matt Bellassai, a member of the NUIT Student Advisory Committee, said he thinks guest access will be useful to anyone coming to University to do research and current NU students.

“I know from personal experience, having people come to the University to visit, even just for the day and they wanted to access that and couldn’t,” the Medill senior said. “I think it was a good update to do.”

Ethan Romba, the Associated Student Government technology vice president, said he felt the new system was a good idea because NU’s system is a popular spot for hackers.

“It’s a high target, a high priority target for a lot of not so nice people, simply because there are a whole lot of resources, a whole lot of research, very high profile valuable resources that Northwestern provides on its network,” the McCormick junior said. “It’s especially crucial that we secure every single part of it.”

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