Students logging on to wireless Internet on campus have noticed some changes in the network. Starting in fall, Information Technology Services (ITS) began implementing a more secure wireless network, but not without complaints from students.
ITS Director Paul Jurasin said the change is meant to provide more security to wireless network users. The previous Mustang Wireless network allowed intercepted data to be read by a third party.
“The data that was being transmitted through our wireless network before Secure Mustang was not encrypted, so if someone, a hacker for example, happened to be out on campus and wanted to intercept the data that was flowing through the wireless network, because that was clear text data and not encrypted, they could gather that data and actually be able to read it,” Jurasin said.
The benefit of Secure Mustang Wireless, according to Jurasin, is that it encrypts data passed through the network. This protection, Jurasin said, is important for students in situations such as using credit cards to make online purchases.
“When the data goes through the network, it becomes encrypted so that it’s unreadable, so even if someone did capture that data they couldn’t read it,” Jurasin said. “If you were to buy something with a credit card, that credit card data that’s going through the airwaves is now unreadable.”
In addition, ITS is working to keep up with the sheer number of devices on campus by issuing higher numbers of potential internet protocol (IP) addresses.
“What we’ve been doing is steadily increasing the number of IP addresses that are available through the new Secure Mustang Wireless as people are switching,” Jurasin said. “What we have to do is make sure there’s enough IP addresses for everyone walking around on campus. Pretty much everyone has two or three (devices), so we’re tracking that to make sure there’s enough.”
The process of converting campus to Secure Mustang Wireless started in Fall 2012, and has been evolving gradually since then. According to Jurasin, the former Mustang Wireless network was completely phased out in January 2013.
“It was in the fall when we started to implement Secure Mustang, and then at the end of the year we started to phase out the non-secure Mustang Wireless,” Jurasin said.
Jurasin said the process by which the new network was implemented was gradual for the sake of prudence.
“It was one building at a time,” Jurasin said. “The reason we wanted to do it that way is if we did run into any glitches then we could always roll it back to the old system one at a time, rather than doing the whole campus at one time because then if there was a problem, the whole campus would be down. We just did it in stages to make sure everything ran smoothly and if there was a problem it didn’t cause a huge catastrophic event.”
Though Jurasin spoke to the network’s benefits, some students have had trouble logging on to the system.
“I just have had a hard time because it takes my computer a long time to connect sometimes,” English senior Chrissy Berry said. “I think I did it (change the wireless settings) the first time, but it was just a pain to have to go back and forth.”
Jurasin said because the system is currently running smoothly, the problems students may run into could involve their computer settings.
“It’s not even so much more complicated, it’s just that you have to set up your computer or laptop to be able to access the secure network, and there’s a few settings that have to happen the first time you log in,” Jurasin said. “After you log in that first time, everything should be smooth.”
Jurasin said ITS has attempted to avoid this issue by providing step-by-step instructions for logging on to Secure Mustang Wireless on a variety of devices.
“We created that to make it easier, and hopefully it is making it easier for some people,” Jurasin said.
Others cited a problem with connecting to the system when they have already changed their settings.
“In my four years here at Cal Poly, I’ve never had so much trouble with the Wi-Fi at Cal Poly,” business administration senior Sam Cates said. “It constantly goes out on my laptop, it has trouble connecting on my phone and just finding it seems to be a problem with all my devices.”
Some students who have had trouble connecting have been able to use the Guest Mustang Wireless network that ITS set up as a fallback for those who encounter technical issues. The issue that some have with Guest Mustang Wireless, however, is that it can run slower than some are accustomed to.
“I used to use Guest Mustang Wireless to avoid going through the hassle of connecting to the network, but then it would just run really slow,” business administration senior Melissa Schaef said. “Eventually it just wasn’t worth it and I connected to Secure Mustang Wireless.”
To Jurasin, however, the switch had more to do with the campus security than saving a few seconds.
“I don’t know that you’ll notice that it’s faster, but it should be slightly faster than before,” Jurasin said. “You probably would notice almost nothing, so it’s really just to keep your data safe.”