Laptops and desktops are easy places for thieves to get personal and financial information. For this reason, the computers students bring to campus and connect to Simpson’s network are protected from outside attacks by a firewall that was put in place in 1998.
Firewalls are configured to block anyone outside the network from getting into the network and obtaining personal information. However, it must also allow computers on the network to access systems outside the network. This helps to block attacks on internal sources of information from any outside computers.
Students who download music and use online gambling are affected most by the firewall.
“Besides the fact that downloading some music is illegal, if we had to open that many ports on the firewall, it would be like Swiss cheese,” Systems Administrator Paul Crittenden said. “If nobody cared and wasn’t after your information then we could open it up, but we are required to abide by the laws and protect that information.”
Crittenden said the reason some Web sites are inaccessible is because the firewall would be less secure with those options available.
“If we were to open more ports on the firewall, then we are making the network more insecure,” Crittenden said. “We are making plans to move everyone behind the firewall within a year or so.”
Even though some students feel restricted, others see the firewall as a tool to deny access to hackers.
“I feel that Simpson’s firewall is working fine,” freshman Nathan Arentsen said. “I haven’t heard of any problems – it’s a secure network.”
According to Vice President and Chief Information Officer Kelley Bradder, the firewall is a necessity and is mandated by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
“We take the students privacy and the protection of their personal information very seriously,” Bradder said. “The school is federally mandated because of financial aid and we are held to the same level as banks and financial institutions.”
The GLB Act states that all financial institutions, which include public and non-public universities, must develop plans and policies to protect personal information about students, faculty and staff. Colleges that offer financial services like student loans and Federal Perkins Loans are required to provide protection of that information.
This summer a computer hacker accessed names and social security numbers of about 1.4 million Californians after breaking into the University of California Berkeley’s network.
“This is the reason why we have the security in place,” Bradder said. “Attacks like that are what we want to prevent.”