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Securing the new education environment

George Chang, VP, Southeast Asia & Hong Kong, Fortinet | Sept. 5, 2014
Clever use of security policies and technologies can help institutions find relevance in a globalising world and get to the next level

In recent years, the education sector has gone through a transformation. From a world of individual and largely isolated institutions, it has become one at the forefront of computing, the Internet and international collaboration.

Over time, a couple of trends have emerged. Content-rich educational materials focused on computing applications have become widespread and teaching methods geared to take advantage of them have come into place. Concurrently, with the availability of bandwidth and smart mobile devices, young adults' lives have become much more centred around the Internet and the activities they carry out on it.

The instant availability of content, however, also exposes students to the worst ills of our global society. Websites that distort facts, promote violence or other unsuitable content are readily available, while cyber scams inundate Internet users to steal their money and personal information every day.

Yet, there are ways for institutions to harness the value of ubiquitous connectivity and the Internet while mitigating the inherent threats. This starts with an assessment of their own needs and challenges, and finding solutions to them based on current technologies and industry best practices. Let's review the common ones:

Campus Topologies and High Density Access

Many colleges and universities have multiple faculties and departments located in disparate buildings. Deploying wired networks can be cost prohibitive and impractical in many situations. An attractive alternative is to provide wireless connectivity based on the latest international standards to allow rapid and cost-effective extension of existing networks across the entire campus.

Where wireless networks are deployed, steps must be taken to ensure that users in high traffic areas like lecture theatres are well catered for. Channel interference, as well as channel frequency and access point overload, are also common issues that degrade the quality of wireless service and must be looked into. The solution would include the use of properly configured wireless networking equipment designed for high traffic conditions.

Students expect to be able to access the Internet from their personal mobile devices. Institutions must make sure that their wireless networks, particularly those in high user density environments, can cope with large variability in client numbers, load and traffic types. In addition, the security solutions put in place must allow the rapid and cost-effective extension of the network across large areas, between buildings and even in built-up areas. This is essential for optimal campus-wide service delivery.

User Identification for Profiling and Segmentation

Different user categories (i.e. students, staff, visitors) need to have different levels of access to internal and Internet based resources. Schools can dictate this in a number of ways, but the most common and efficient is through user identification at the point where users authenticate onto a network.


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