GW recently installed security measures to deter students from illegally posting copyrighted software programs on the University’s computer network.
The security device, known as a firewall, has been in place for about two weeks to stop file transfer protocol (FTP) servers from posting large amounts of information on Web sites. Postings such as copyrighted software programs that could be accessed from off-campus sites are illegal, according to Computer Information and Resource Center and ResNet policies.
“We don’t feel that it’s our place to maintain technology for illegal hackers and illegal distribution sites,” said Network Integration Team Coordinator Guy Jones. “We don’t feel obligated to provide free (network) space for nonacademic or non-normal use.”
Jones said several students ran servers with their University Ethernet accounts and some posted copyrighted software such as Adobe Photoshop and virus scanners on their sites.
Jones said the firewall was implemented to prevent this type of use.
But several students have complained that the firewall prevents them from performing legal Internet functions such as participating in Internet games and using ICQ chat programs that allow a user to monitor who else is online.
Sophomore Robert Lawrence said the firewall prevents him from using the program he used to chat with his family, a common Internet function.
“I just do normal Internet stuff that normal people do,” Lawrence said. “ICQ is a free program that a lot of people use and that a lot of people have.”
Lawrence said since the firewall was put in place he has been unable to initiate a cyberchat with his family, although other users can still initiate conversations with him. He said the University should investigate other security options that would be less restrictive.
Jones said legitimate uses of the Internet should not be impacted by the firewall.
But the firewall also prevents students from running FTP sites to post large amounts of academic research. For instance, computer science students are unable to post new computer programs.
An e-mail recently was sent to several GW students asking them to send complaints about the firewall’s limitations to CIRC. The e-mail also asked students to omit the fact that they could not use their FTP servers with the firewall in place because it is a “good reason for them (CIRC) to keep the firewall.”
Jones said the reasons for the new security measures will become more apparent as University technology upgrades become more sophisticated and advanced during the next two year.
“We will respond to students’ legitimate concerns,” Jones said. “If there’s something they can’t do, we’ll work with them.”
CIRC will make space available to students who need to post information for academic purposes.
“If (the postings) are small, (students) can still do them from their machines, as long as they follow the proper procedures,” he said.
Students who need larger amounts of space should contact a faculty member to sponsor the use of the space, and the information can be placed on the University’s system.
“We have to balance academic freedom while providing general security,” Jones said. “At this point, we don’t want to be Net police, but we have . limitations and requirements for the network.”