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Technology | Web Update

Mandatory ClearPass installation causing problems on campus

Published: March 6, 2014, 4:15 am ET
Content Managing Editor

When junior Juliana Sorrentino’s computer finished installing ClearPass OnGuard, the effect it had on her Mac was evident instantly. Programs froze, the Internet was slow and web pages needed to be refreshed multiple times before loading, she said.

Feb. 18, Information Services made it mandatory that computers accessing the University of Richmond’s wireless network install the computer registration program ClearPass or they would experience limited network connectivity. Students like Sorrentino who have experienced similar issues with the program are frustrated with the effect it is having on their devices.

Senior Andrew Tallman encountered problems with his computer immediately after he installed ClearPass as well. Because his PC was rendered almost useless while running the software, Tallman decided to uninstall, and hoped that he would still be able to access the network, he said. However, after a week of using the computer without ClearPass, it stopped connecting to the Internet, forcing him to reinstall.

Without ClearPass installed, student computers are vulnerable to the ever-growing threat of viruses, Scott Tilghman, help desk manager, said. Upon login, the software checks that computers have the most updated versions of firewall and antivirus.

Information Services has received notices from other institutions saying that someone from the university had tried to hack them. Those campus “hackers” are really unsuspecting students or faculty members whose virus-infected machines are being used to launch an attack against that institution, said Troy Boroughs, associate vice president for systems and networks.

Implementing ClearPass aimed to increase campus network security to avoid incidents like the attack on University of Maryland on Feb. 18, when hackers stole 307,000 faculty and staff social security numbers, Boroughs said.

“We hear these kind of stories every single day and week,” Boroughs said. “Our worst nightmare is to be one of those headlines.”

In addition to increasing security, ClearPass records the MAC address, a unique identification number, of every computer on the campus network so potential virus attacks can be tracked to a specific device.

Tilghman said concerns that the program was an invasion of privacy or could remotely wipe devices were absolutely untrue because MAC addresses were the only information that ClearPass collects.

“This program does not capture any information about you,” Tilghman said.

“You hear all this stuff about the NSA, but even if we could collect all the data, we wouldn’t have time to look at it,” Boroughs said. “I want to have less data.”

The bolstered security does not come without costs.

“Security and convenience are always enemies of one another,” Boroughs said. “You make it really convenient, but then your stuff can be wide open, and get hacked.”

The inconvenience outweighed the added security for senior Martin King, whose PC was slow to start after installing ClearPass.

“The difference was night and day,” King said. “I installed [ClearPass] right after we got the email about it and immediately regretted it. It’s not clear, and it’s not a pass. It’s a hurdle, and I hate it.”

Tilghman maintained that the ClearPass program does not cause a performance hit to people’s computers, regardless of their brand, he said.

Boroughs was running the program on his PC, and had noted that startup took only about ten seconds longer with the program installed, he said.

The delay in startup time that King and Boroughs experienced is a minor inconvenience in exchange for higher security, Tilghman said.

“If you need to go out to the internet within 10 seconds of turning on your computer, then you’re going to say, ‘I have a performance problem,’ when you really don’t,” Tilghman said. “This is high security so it’s going to be not inconvenient, but not like you snap your fingers and have instant access to [wifi].”

Despite the complaints about ClearPass, less than 25 percent of the student body (596 students) has needed Help Desk assistance with the program, Tilghman said.

Contact staff writer Erin Flynn at erin.flynn@richmond.edu

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  • Catherine

    I can’t get this thing off of my computer. I’ve graduated, so I don’t need it anymore, but there’s no way to uninstall it. Really not happy about this.