Washtenaw Community College brought its new firewall system online on Jan. 14, replacing a system that had been in use for five years.
For students, faculty and staff, the change means a more secure network on campus.
“Our firewall was very old,” Bill Johnson, vice president and chief financial officer, commented as funding for the nearly $225,000 upgrade was approved last month. “It was five years old. It sounds like such a short life, but in the world of technology and in the world of data security, it feels like forever.”
The new system is expected to bring a new level of proactiveness to network security at WCC.
A subscription to the Palo Alto-specific blacklist database is included in the package purchased by WCC. The “WildFire” blacklist site will allow for the identification of potentially harmful sites, and WCC’s information technology services will block the sites from accessing WCC’s servers.
Sites used within classrooms should not be affected.
“We don’t want to block anything to the classroom; that’s always our priority,” said Patrick Hughes, director of networking and communications.
The ITS department intends to communicate with faculty about sites that may be flagged in error. A running whitelist, or database of approved sites, is planned to protect sites commonly used by students and faculty.
“We’re hoping to stop people from going to sites that pick up viruses; that’d be a major thing,” Hughes said. “There’s also those concerns of protecting our servers from outside hackers coming in.”
The only hacking attempts WCC has dealt with in the past have been attributed to phishing, Hughes said.
The school’s internet servers were shut down from 6 a.m. to noon on Jan. 14 to bring the new system online and test its effectiveness.
“That’s one of the few times that we can do it, because once we get it running it has to keep running,” said Hughes. “We only get that window a couple times a year.”