University Bans Access To Facebook; Claims It's A Security Issue

from the really? dept

We've seen plenty of stories of silly politicians trying to ban access to social networks in high schools, but in colleges especially things like Facebook are basically the way students communicate with each other. So it's rather surprising to find out (via Michael Geist) that Concordia University has banned access to Facebook on any computer connected to the university network via a wired connection. If you're using WiFi, the university allows it. First of all, that seems like a really strange split. Why should it matter whether the connection is wired or wireless? Even odder is the explanation for this:
The university has decided to implement these restrictions because of concerns that the continuing reliability of the Concordia network could be compromised because of spam, viruses and leaks of confidential information related to Facebook use.
There are spam, viruses and leaks of confidential info all over the internet. So why ban Facebook? And those same issues face wireless users as well as wired users. The whole thing sounds like someone who was very confused overreacted to something in the wrong way.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:35am

    Wired users are probably using a school's PC. Therefore they don't want their PC infected with the next big virus that is spread around Facebook. Wireless users are probably using their own laptop.

    I'm all for bans of Facebook. Most workplaces don't allow it anymore. Come to think of it, perhaps they are also banning it because the administration at the University is wasting too much time there. Again, on the wired network.

     

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      jonnyq, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      I think you pretty much nailed it.

      The given answer was BS. The real reason is that they don't want people screwing around on lab computers in the library that are reserved for research. Instead of putting software on each individual machine in the library or other labs on campus, it's easier to just segregate the network between wired and wifi and let the firewall do the rest.

       

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      mobiGeek, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      How is blocking Facebook going to resolve that? If they are productive employees they will use FB responsibly; if they are not productive employees/students/researchers, they'll find the next thing on the 'net that will waste their time.

      This move is bone headed; it does nothing to resolve the issue at hand. Rather than dealing with the root problem, they have shot one symptom, taking away a potentially useful too in the process. At our company, Facebook is used as a recruiting tool . And at my alma mater, FB is used as a fund-raising tool.

       

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    Matt Bennett, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    I was about to say the same thing. The wifi ones are probably all student owned, and the wired ones are probably university owned PCs. They just don't want people clogging up the university's PCs all day.

     

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    Justin, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:56am

    Working for a University's IT, I can speculate on other reasons. Facebook traffic currently is about 80% of all requests on our campus and 60% of the bandwidth. Additionally each profile page on facebook averages over 200 requests when first opening. It is a massive resource hog, and killer on small college campuses.

     

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      mobiGeek, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:33am

      Re:

      Seriously? The overwhelming majority of those 200 requests move less than 1k of data each. Your "small college" is either massive or needs to upgrade its bandwidth to post-1995 levels.

       

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    Buzz, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:01am

    heh

    Only a matter of time until the student uprising... I attend BYU-Idaho. Facebook was banned here until recently. The IT department claimed it was a bandwidth issue. However, the instant they banned it, bandwidth use actually increased! Students were just using proxy servers to access Facebook. So, the campus finally compromised. Facebook access is opened up after 6 PM on weekdays (all day on weekends).

     

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    Dave, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:02am

    BS

    What you are all forgetting to realize is that this would affect on-campus housing. Now I know nothing about this university, and maybe it doesn't even have on campus housing. But the housing is connected to the university's network, so if you lived on campus, Facebook would be blocked at your residence and I don't think that's fair. I had this issue when I was in college. I can understand blocking things on lab computers and such, but there are easier ways of accomplishing this (such as using local proxies) than simply restricting a website campus-wide. If a website as simple as facebook is what is clogging your bandwidth (and not a video streaming website such as Youtube), as a university you need to stop being so cheap and upgrade your network to increase BW.

     

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      jonnyq, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:09am

      Re: BS

      If there's campus-wide wifi, it's probably accessible from the on-campus housing. That would be a moot point.

       

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        Jon, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 12:40pm

        Re: Re: BS

        Actually most dorms do not have Wifi. Maybe on the bottom floors, computer labs, and other main buildings but certainly not on every floor of the dorm. At least not here at Penn State

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:08am

    Seems like the more prudent choice would have been to block it from school owned computers.

     

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      jonnyq, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      What's the easiest way to block it from all school computers? That's right: the wired network.

      (Sorry this is my 4th comment... )

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re:

        I guess if the admin is a monkey, that would be they way they would do it. God forbid they put an ounce of thought into it.

        There are plenty of more effective ways to do it and not trample all over the customers (students).

         

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          mobiGeek, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          They didn't put any thought into it. Instead of dealing with a SOCIAL issue, they simply threw up a (lame) TECHNICAL barrier.

          Look out...popularity of MySpace at Concordia about to go on the rise! Maybe the FB ban was all MySpace's doing??

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:10am

    ...oh, and assuming that the only computers on campus that are wired belong to the school is a HUGE assumption. Laptops are neato but I prefer the power you can get out of a desktop system for a fraction of the price and it would be my main computer vs. the laptop I carried around to class or library to take notes on.

     

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    Captain Obvious, Local FOX afflilate, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:11am

    Tonight at 11...

    Newsflash!

    Concordia IT Admins Lost at definition of "Security". "We use locks and pepper spray to keep it secure" says head Concordia IT Security Guy.

    And after the commercial break, Be scared! Grandma and Pet Hamster proves Email Could Be A Security Issue too. We'll show you how...

     

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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    As Network Engineer I hate this, but understand some of it.

    In a college setting the college could have two networks, one in which the wired network runs on, and one with lesser bandwidth for the wireless. Network segmentation is very good for protecting critical needs like VOIP, or intra-office communication. I still hate to see bans as there is always going to a way around it. And any person that wants to see something on the web bad enough will find a way to see it. So maybe that is why the have done it the way they have. The better method is to segment traffic using something as simple as QOS protocols.

     

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    jjjstokes, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:49am

    What's the big deal????

     

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    jjjstokes, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    FAcebook

    Sorry for the previous unfinished comment.....


    Isn't university a place of higher learning...... Facebook definitely does not fall into that category!!!

     

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      mobiGeek, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:07pm

      Re: FAcebook

      One, universities are multifaceted environments.

      Two, Facebook was developed for university students, by a university student.

      Three, cut off Facebook, then what else?

      Four, there are many things that can be learned from Facebook.

      Five, university is a social experience as well as an educational one.

      Need more?

       

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    College Student, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    Great idea, i go to a community college with about 500-600 computers that are setup in the library for school use. I have a 2 hour break monday and wednesday. I walk into the library looking for a computer to type up a lab report or a paper, and I see nearly half the students on myspace and facebook, just wasting time waiting for thier class to begin. extremely unfair.

    especially the students that are only there for the first couple of weeks only to drop later because they dont do thier work...

     

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    John, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    Facebook a time waster

    I agree that Facebook can be a big time waster, but the bigger question is whether a *college* has a say over how students should spend their time. Is this the job of say a high school? Aren't people in college supposed to be treated like adults? If they can't manage their time well, then it's their fault.

    And is Facebook any more or less vulnerable to spam and viruses than regular e-mail or any of the other social networking sites?
    And how does Facebook use more bandwidth than YouTube? In fact, I would argue that YouTube should be banned (if it isn't already) because it's a bigger time waster than Facebook.

     

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      mobiGeek, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:09pm

      Re: Facebook a time waster

      There are many, many, many(!) educational clips on YouTube too. I recently watched a series by Arthur C. Clark on the mathematics of fractals.

       

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    Charming Charlie, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

    I started the Facebook group Are you in the Valley Library? Get off Facebook! I'm waiting for a computer. It has been less successful than I had hoped.

     

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    Brian, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:24pm

    Facebook

    The fact of the matter is that anyone connected to a university's or businesses network is subject to their rules and bylaws. If a University wants to block Facebook because it is taking up a lot of bandwidth then thats how it is. Maybe it's a business decision or maybe it's not in the budget to upgrade their connectivity or maybe they're noticing too many high paid staff visiting during the day. People that arbitrarily surf the web on other peoples network need to think about the ramifications of their actions. Some people actually work while connected to networks.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:42am

      Re: Facebook

      The fact of the matter is that anyone connected to a university's or businesses network is subject to their rules and bylaws.
      Who said otherwise? Congratulations on defeating that strawman there.
      If a University wants to block Facebook because it is taking up a lot of bandwidth then thats how it is.
      And if people want to publicly criticize that action they are free to do so and "thats how it is" (at least in the US).

       

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    Joe, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:27pm

    You have got to be kidding

    Why not just filter the parts of facebook that are inappropriate or contain malware. Websense offers an on the fly categorization solution that solves this 2.0 issue -

     

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    DFunny990, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:41pm

    Absurd

    Yes, the ban is idiotic because college is a social environment as well as a learning facility. If you decide that you would rather have your dorm computer hard lined because it delivers the faster speed you would like for your online activities, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to access certain web pages in order to keep your social life intact. Also, yes you do have to obey the rules of the institution you are attending, but YOU are paying THEM. The system is set up to work for you not the other way around. Thirdly, if you can't find a computer then you can't possibly be looking hard enough. At the Colorado School of Mines, there are 3 rooms dedicated to open computer use besides the library. Your college either needs to upgrade the BW as was mentioned earlier, or expand their computer facilities. One last note, your campus might not do this, but we can borrow laptops (complete with wifi) from the library and thus have access to facebook on a school's computer....just a thought.

     

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    Jon, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 1:49pm

    RTFA

    Read the article people:
    "Facebook is still accessible at Concordia if you connect using a wireless network connection. It is also accessible in all residences."

    This is NOT a big deal, and is not surprising at all. It is very likely that the residence halls and the campus-wide wi-fi network are segregated from the main wired network that all the university-owned PCs connect to. Think of the regular wired non-residence-hall network at any university like a secure Corporate network. They have every reason and right to block certain sites that they deem insecure or inappropriate for any reason.

     

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    Scott, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Please re-read the article...

    The article states that they are "banning" the service as the subject. They then go on to reveal that the wireless networks/residences are open to it, but in fact -the hard-wired LAN is the only thing blocked off.. As an IT Professional, this is actually not a terrible idea...

    Wired LANs and Wireless LANs are generally segmented. If a Wired LAN does now allow packets from Facebook, it is reducing it's attack surface, as it considers Facebook a threat. Whether Facebook is a threat or not is not the issue. The issue is that management of *any* network can block *any* network resource it damn well feels like. Having access to Facebook on a network you don't own/run is not a god-given right. They have every right, whether or not you agree with the reasons, to block the site, whatever their reasons are.

    It is clear to me by the nature of this article, it was written by someone whom has never had to administer a network.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 9:56am

      Re: Please re-read the article...

      The article states that they are "banning" the service as the subject. They then go on to reveal that the wireless networks/residences are open to it, but in fact -the hard-wired LAN is the only thing blocked off
      Banned from the wired network.
      As an IT Professional, this is actually not a terrible idea...
      OK Adolph, err, I mean Scott.
      Whether Facebook is a threat or not is not the issue.
      If they are claiming so then it certainly is an issue for discussion.
      Having access to Facebook on a network you don't own/run is not a god-given right.
      Who said it was?
      It is clear to me by the nature of this article, it was written by someone whom has never had to administer a network.
      How's that? Is it because someone like Michael Geist who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa and is also a board member of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority probably has people working under him who do those kinds of things instead? It sounds to me like maybe you're just a tab resentful of those with greater authority than yourself.

       

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    Dan, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 7:17pm

    Why its almost like book burning. They could improve security so much more if they would only evict everybody from the campus, string concertina wire and erect guard towers.

     

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    Clueby4, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:19pm

    You don't need Facebook to complete your degree so STFU

    You don't need Facebook to complete your degree so STFU. I can't browse pr0n at work you don't see me squirting tears.

     

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    Don't go to Concordia University, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 6:10pm

    That's not a university I'll ever willingly choose

    Sounds like a terrible "educational" institution.

     

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    Josh from Canada, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 6:29am

    Perhaps there's more to this

    Maybe in addition to "bandwidth" problems, Concordia is banning Facebook after the "cheating" fiasco that happened last year at Ryerson University (if I remember correctly), where a first year engineering student almost got expelled for starting a Facebook-based study group. Just an idea.

     

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    David Dines, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:35am

    The same arugment was made for email and IM

    This is a typical reaction by corporate IT departments to new consumer technology. In fact I remember when IT departments feared email would allow corporate secrets to be leaked. Social networking inside corporations is inevitable and eventually IT will figure out how to deal with it and even offer an internal version for company specific use.

     

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    Mark, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 8:44pm

    Two Hands...on the one, and on the other

    First Hand: As a professor, I HATE it when students have their laptops open in class, passing what amount to high-tech personal notes via Facebook. Makes it impossible for me to allow students to use their laptops in class. So I sometimes ban them.

    Second Hand: How can I incorporate FaceBook into my teaching?

     

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      Blaise Alleyne (profile), Sep 19th, 2008 @ 7:43pm

      Re: Two Hands...on the one, and on the other

      As a student, first of all, let me say that I find laptops in class distracting too. I try to avoid using mine at all costs, because I'm bound to start doing something else once it's open. And it's distracting when someone in front of me is playing counterstrike.

      That said, banning them seems like a really bad idea. Some people use their laptops to take notes.

      I'm not sure that incorporating Facebook (or similar tools) into a lecture makes sense, because that might just add to the distraction... I mean, I have a few ideas, but part of the problem is... if you start making use of Facebook, students will feel left out if they don't have a laptop and can't participate, so you'll be encouraging more people to use laptops during the lecture.

      I think it'd make more sense to use Facebook around lectures. Say, creating a group where students can share links and resources, ask questions, form study groups, meet other people in the class, etc... (obviously not anything that gives away answers for assignments though). But if you have good online resources at your school, Facebook would seem redundant (and inflexible). Though, it's where students are.

      *shrugs* My two cents...

       

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    B, Dec 3rd, 2008 @ 6:37pm

    This is rediculous

    I don't know what all the complaining is about. As the article says, it's allowed in the residence halls and the wifi. Why, oh why, should students play on facebook on school-owned computers? These computers are owned by the university, and the university can do whatever they want with them.

    Also, 90% of colleges run A LOT of different networks... not one or two. Try thirty or forty. At Ohio State, 1 single department is running on 4 different networks at least (that I've worked on). Of course, OSU is a large school with thousands of employees, and over 35,000 students.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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