May 18 2012

BYOD Is a Big Deal on Campus

Accepting students’ mobile devices on campus networks requires IT shops to shore up security.

About a year ago, West Chester University of Pennsylvania created a formal policy to allow students and guests to use their own mobile devices on the campus network. The decision to implement a “bring your own device” (BYOD) program was made partially to coincide with a campus move to go fully wireless and partially to acknowledge that students had been using their own devices on campus for years anyway. That’s when the real work began.

Because students would no longer be accessing the network as guests but would be full-fledged users, security and management had to be iron-clad. West Chester implemented a system under which students enter the network through Microsoft Active Directory and are validated through Aruba Networks’ AirWave, a mobile-device management (MDM) solution that keeps track in real time of which devices and users are on the network, what they are accessing and how much bandwidth specific devices are consuming.

For guests — for example, users on campus for a conference — the IT staff installed Aruba Networks’ Amigopod, which provides secure wireless Internet access.

CIO Adel Barimani is considering implementing a third Aruba solution, AirGroup, which securely identifies users based on their roles (student, visiting professor, etc.) and location before allowing them access to network services, such as wireless printing.

“So far, the technologies are working really well,” Barimani says. “Our latest numbers show that we have an average of 8,000 unique wireless devices registered, with 2,200 concurrent users daily.”

Barimani realizes that accepting mobile devices onto the campus network requires the IT staff to strengthen network security. Without that, the IT department can quickly lose control of who is accessing data and applications and whether the devices they are using are fully secure, leaving the organization vulnerable to unauthorized access to sensitive information.

For organizations that let users save or download data to their mobile devices, the first step is to implement some type of mobile-device management solution. MDM monitors devices that are connected to the network and can remotely lock or wipe these devices.

Even if an organization doesn’t let users download or save data on their personal devices, security is still a priority, says Andrew Braunberg, research director for enterprise networks and security at Current Analysis in Herndon, Va. Many solutions can bolster network security for BYOD. The goal of mobile application management (MAM) products is to make apps more manageable and secure. Some solutions accomplish this with “wrappers” that control the use of the application. Others use containerization, which creates private “sandboxes” for sensitive apps.

Hypervisors, which create virtualized platforms that ride on top of the operating system, and data loss prevention technology also help protect the network against the risks associated with personal devices.

BYOD is standard practice for the University of South Florida’s 47,000 students, who access the school’s open wireless network from a variety of devices. Students must register their devices each semester to use the network, which then authenticates the device’s MAC address. The unencrypted open network uses a homegrown network access control (NAC) system for protection and can quarantine a device if it is found to have a virus or otherwise poses a security risk, says Senior Network Engineer Joe Rogers.

The percentage of organizations that allow users to access network resources via personal devices.

SOURCE: SANS Mobility/BYOD Security Survey, March 2012

The university has a second, more secure network as well, which students can use if they need they need public IP addresses (the open network uses private IP addresses and limits some applications that don’t deal well with network address translation).

Both networks use an intrusion detection system that combines analysis and log monitoring tools based on NetFlow, a protocol developed by Cisco Systems to collect IP traffic information, along with Tenable Network Security’s Nessus vulnerability and configuration assessment product. Together, these tools help Rogers’ group monitor network traffic to scan for virus activity and remove devices from the network when necessary.

The university also uses Cisco’s NAC Appliance to monitor devices on the wired network of the residence hall on its St. Petersburg campus. With more devices using the network every semester, Rogers knows the university will need better tools for identifying traffic and unusual patterns.

“We are doing well, but we can do better,” he says. “It’s more of a budget and time constraint issue than anything else.”

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