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[UTown] Wireless Predicament In UTown

Section 5.2 of the NUS Acceptable Use Policy for IT Resources / ©Augustin Chiam

If you live on campus and are contemplating plugging that wireless router into the Internet cable, you should think twice. According to NUS’ Acceptable Use Policy for IT resources, “setting up such devices without prior approval” could lead to “penalties ranging from fines to other more serious disciplinary actions”.

In a circular dated 17 September, NUS’ Computer Centre reminded residents of Utown of their stance against the unauthorized use of networking devices like the Wi-Fi router. The Service Delivery Manager of NUS Computer Centre’s IT Care, Pradap Mohan, enumerated certain concerns that may inconvenience both the router user and others around.

Chief among which was that connecting incorrectly configured Wi-Fi routers could “trigger built-in network security measures to prevent service disruption to other users”. Additionally, unsecured wireless signals ran the risk of cyber-hackers preying on students’ credentials and identity data, thereby compromising their privacy.

According to NUS’ Acceptable Use Policy for IT resources, “setting up such devices without prior approval” could lead to “penalties ranging from fines to other more serious disciplinary actions”.

One Cinnamon resident, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, expressed his concern as he relied heavily on the router he installed. The Year 2 Life Science student, who possesses at least five portable digital devices, on top of a printer, had to rely on the wireless router to maintain an internet connection. His room layout did not allow him to access the Local Area Network (LAN) port from his desk.

“These devices would be pretty much useless otherwise, since I cannot connect to the NUS wireless [network] from my $2,800-a-semester room,” he explained. Room rates for Tembusu, Cinnamon and Angsana Residential colleges range from about $2,000 to $2,400 per semester without meal plans.

He added that although he was aware of the policy, he had to continue using the wireless router for his schoolwork. “The wording is up to interpretation and to my understanding, I am not breaching it,” he explained. However, he said that he will discontinue using the router if ordered to do so.

In a snap poll done with 15 Tembusu residents yesterday, more than two-thirds of them expressed their unawareness of the policy against using network devices like the Wi-Fi router.

“These devices would be pretty much useless otherwise, since I cannot connect to the NUS wireless [network] from my $2,800-a-semester room,”

The management committees of Cinnamon, Angsana and Tembusu Colleges have drafted a letter to the NUS Computer Centre on behalf of their residents to protest the stand taken. Currently, many Utown residents use wireless routers in their rooms for their tablets and smartphones to access the Wi-Fi service. This is as wireless coverage from the NUS network does not extend beyond the lounges on each level of their Residences.

According to the Computer Centre’s website, there are currently 1,000 wireless access points in Kent Ridge campus, which has provided almost full wireless coverage throughout the campus.

The combined student committee objected to Computer Centre’s stand against using wireless routers as they felt that this practice was “neither clearly expressed nor expressly covered” by the Acceptable Use Policy.

They took issue with an article in the policy which stated that “Users shall not tamper with network points in any way, such as extending the cable to relocate the point to another room or open area temporarily or permanently, thereby blocking it from access by other Users” and had no clear instructions on the use of routers.

The Director of the Computer Centre had replied to the letter to clarify the Computer Centre’s concerns about the use of wireless routers as “signal interface, mis-configured [sic] routers and security exposure”. He also expressed the intention to meet with the Residences’ committee leaders to work out the issue. There was however no given timeline as to how long they will take to resolve the issue.

 

 

Gerrard Lai