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Improved network security at Oxford University colleges

Khipu : 07 April, 2009  (Application Story)
Students of New College and Pembroke College at Oxford gain secure access to network and internet resources while IT staff improve levels of control
Networking and security integrator Khipu Networks has helped improve students' access to network facilities at two Oxford University colleges, while also helping them to better protect their networks against student misuse and access from unauthorised guests.

Khipu has deployed Bradford Networks' Campus Manager (BCM) at Pembroke College and New College - which between them comprise more than 1000 students - enabling IT staff to control student access to the colleges' existing fixed and wireless networks. Thanks to the deployment, students can now gain quick, easy and secure access to the internet as well as college network resources via their PCs, laptops and other mobile devices including iPod Touch and PDAs.

Both colleges had previously faced challenges handling large volumes of student network registrations, particularly at the start of each university year. Pembroke College relied upon a resource-intensive manual process, which left many students waiting to be connected for several weeks. New College had a legacy system for registering devices; however this was for its wired network only, could not be updated and would only recognise a limited range of devices.

The two colleges engaged with Khipu to help revamp their systems, and as a result both colleges now use BCM to conduct automatic device scans every time students attempt to connect to the network. BCM grants authorisation based on whether or not each device complies with the college's IT security policy - should a device fail, BCM will detail why and provide links to the required software or system patches. It also provides IT managers with greater insight, detailing who is using the network at any given time and highlighting any misuse of facilities so that users engaging in inappropriate online behaviour can be blocked.

At Pembroke College, BCM grants different levels of access depending on students' purposes - e.g. studying etc. - providing access to only the specific tools/services they require at that moment, in order to better protect the overall network and its data. BCM also performs monthly network-wide 'health checks' to ensure all devices remain fully compliant with the College's security policy.

"The new solution greatly relieves the burden on our IT team, automatically ensuring that no one connecting to the Pembroke College network runs the risk of infecting our systems and jeopardising sensitive data," said Simon Thomson at Pembroke College. "Equally, the ability to segregate users provides an additional layer of protection - if you don't have an immediate need to access network data, then you won't be given access to it, further reducing the risk of data breaches."

Within New College, BCM has greatly streamlined access to the college's network facilities. BCM makes it easier for students to register on either the wired or wireless network using a single ID, without impacting on connection speeds or overall network performance. New College is also using BCM to enforce the installation of security patches and important software updates, reducing the overall number of support calls to the IT team.

"Thanks to Khipu we now have a more reliable network, from both a student and an IT perspective. Student feedback about Bradford Campus Manager has been especially positive, as it requires fewer passwords and login screens than our previous system. Ultimately this means that once students are logged in - and as long as they comply with our IT security policy - they are left to their own devices," said James Dore at New College.

Having been recommended to Pembroke College and New College by several other higher education facilities, including colleges at Cambridge University, Khipu was invited to present at Oxford and Cambridge University's annual IT conference, before being selected to carry out the BCM deployment. Since engaging Khipu, the two colleges have both been impressed by Khipu's responsiveness and speed - in each case, Khipu was able to complete deployment in less than one week.

"Students expect to be connected and online the moment they arrive at College - every year this causes massive problems for institutions throughout the country, as they simply don't have the IT resources to cope with the demand," said Matt Ashman, commercial consultant at Khipu. "Network access control is by far the most effective means of automating the registration process without compromising security, while also providing universities with a management platform capable of ensuring that safe computing policies are upheld from day one onwards."

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