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What in the Wi-Fi?

Two major issues have been identified regarding Bradley’s network over the past few weeks. There has been sporadic internet access and outages of access to many administration systems, according to chief information officer Zach Gorman.

“In the last couple of weeks, there’s been some increased challenges with some of our wireless is what we’ve been told,” Gorman said. “We’ve been working to try and resolve some of those.”

Some students have experienced an inconsistent connection to BUsecure because it is more complex and requires more authentication than BUguest.

“The challenges that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks are actually not as directly related to what everyone wants to call as a ‘Wi-Fi problem,’” Gorman said. “Some of the challenges that we’ve been experiencing lately are related to those back-end systems and its processing of that data. Unfortunately, that manifests in terms of access to BUsecure.”

The information needed to connect to BUsecure is stored and devices remember it. However, the network still needs to authenticate the passwords on a regular basis.

There have been multiple emails sent to students regarding updates on the status of the network and progress on projects.

“The messages that have been going out to campus are attempts to make sure that communication is going out, that the students are aware that we are working on some of the issues that they have presented us,” Gorman said.

The campus experienced a major systems outage on Monday, March 11 around 8:30 p.m. and lasted until about 1 a.m. and smaller outages on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Director of Information Security David Scuffham discovered the cause of the outages Thursday, March 14.

According to Scuffham, a desktop computer running a pay-to-play gaming platform in Geisert was using more than 25 percent of the network’s bandwidth. This was an unusual occurrence and the university’s next generation firewall, one of the network’s security controls, classified the traffic as unknown. Traffic being classified as unknown is rare.

“They were inadvertently and unwittingly using a program on their computer that, behind the scenes, was essentially just spitting out a whole bunch of information,” Gorman said. “That essentially flooded our network with just random garbage.”

Gorman said this created the challenge of being unable to access the monitoring systems to see what was happening. He also said this problem was paired with a misconfigured network switch that amplified the situation.

“We were able to quarantine that computer, which stopped all of the traffic in the first place,” Gorman said. “Then that allowed us to kind of dig in a little bit further and find this network switch that was misconfigured and configure it properly, so that it shouldn’t ever happen again.”

Scuffham worked with the student to troubleshoot the issue by trying to replicate what they were doing on March 11 after the network switch had been configured properly. The computer did not generate the same amount of traffic as before.

Members of the networking team have left in the past two months and it became more challenging to monitor certain things with the network. Two of the three vacated positions have been filled.

According to Gorman, the staff had institutional knowledge since they were the members that helped build the initial network. When they left, they took that knowledge with them. He explained that this is also an opportunity to bring new perspectives.

“They may look at things slightly differently,” Gorman said. “[They may] recognize perhaps that there’s a better way of doing something and bring different ideas to the table, which allows us to continue to strengthen our abilities to do our work.”

When the team knows where a problem is occurring, they can better target where they need to focus their attention and identify trends in the issues facing the network.

“If we don’t know what’s happening, there’s no way for us to fix it,” Gorman said. “We have monitoring tools that tell us what our network is doing and traffic … but if someone’s physical device isn’t wanting to communicate with our network, there’s no way for us really to recognize that because we don’t monitor you and your individual activities.” 

After student found out they should report their problems after the initial email from the Office of the CIO, information about issues started coming in.

“We were not overly aware that challenges were actually occurring,” Gorman said. “From an administrative standpoint, things seemed to be functioning. Our systems were operating fine [and] our reporting systems were telling us that things were okay.”

Gorman said that he wants to stress the importance of reporting problems to the Service Desk, even if students have already contacted it. He added that they are open to suggestions regarding how to communicate issues.

Bradley partnered with Presidio, an IT solutions provider, to assist with the network problems during the turnover period.

“They’re going to continue working with us for a little bit to see what things we can be taking advantage of and perhaps some direction forward,” Gorman said.

Presidio wants IT to conduct five or six tests on the network, according to Scuffham.

“We’ve got eyes on how do we need to grow our network and continue to make sure that it’s strengthened and reliable,” Gorman said. “In order to do that we are essentially looking at the current network and its configuration and making sure that the configuration meets the needs of the growth as we progress forward.”

Bradley is in the third year of an $8-10 million seven-year network upgrade. The new access points have been installed in roughly 40 percent of the buildings. The new business and engineering complex is currently a priority to ensure that it will be wired correctly. Then, the remaining 60 percent of the campus buildings will be

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