New firewall to be implemented

Chief Information Officer hopes to boost security


Sarah Pope

Seniors David Bishop, Nicolas Widel and Daniel Willey work on their iPads.

Mary Stempky, Reporter

While students, faculty and staff use the school’s Wi-Fi daily, they may not be aware that the firewall restricts access to certain undesirable web content. The school is in the process of updating its firewall.

As new technologies are created to drive the internet to new services for people to use, new vulnerabilities are also created to take advantage of our computing devices in the form of viruses: malware and the most recent threat — ransomware. Ransomware is a variant virus that infects a computer and encrypts all of its content hostage until a ransom payment is made.

Firewalls are designed to protect the school’s internal equipment and information from the outside internet world. The firewall acts as a gatekeeper, monitoring inbound and outbound internet traffic.

New firewall

There are a few key differences between a next generation firewall and the one the school currently is using. According to Chief Information Officer Mr. Rolly Landeros, the new firewall has already been activated and can monitor internet traffic faster and to a deeper level than the previous firewall. The new firewall also has built-in virus protection to protect the school’s network and its devices.

According to Landeros, the school has received warnings from Paramount Studios that a wireless user has been pirating new films using the school’s network. “Over the last two years, (the school) has received its fifth warning. (This) means someone has a copy of a newly released movie on their device and is being broadcast through our network,” Landeros said.

The warnings have led to discussions about the problem and how to monitor and prohibit it from reoccurring. Landeros said that he has spoken to its Internet Service Provider, Lightbound, LLC, to formulate a solution. If not dealt with, the school could face reparations. “(If this continues the school) could get fined for each infraction and each copy made,” Landeros said.

Landeros said, “(The school) needs a next-generation firewall that will be able to capture and identify this type of internet traffic on existing Cathedral’s network,” Landeros said. “(The school) has installed the firewall and (it) is currently monitoring all outbound traffic based on device such as (an) iPad.” This means that any application that a student uses actively or runs in the background is being monitored by the firewall.

Firewall policies put in place are to protect the school from unforeseen illegal activities. Currently, the firewall only keeps track of devices. “By Christmas, (the school) will be monitoring all traffic by log in ID,” Landeros said. “So the firewall will know who’s doing it and where on campus.”

A potential hindrance involves smartphones’ wireless hotspots. A hotspot allows students to circumnavigate the firewalls. In order to prevent this, the school will be notifying parents. Another way to get around a firewall is a VPN. Landeros said that a virtual private network allows devices to tunnel Internet traffic in a hidden way that previous firewalls could not identify.

“This new firewall can detect unauthorized VPN traffic and block it,” Landeros said. The capability is not turned on at this time, but will be in the future. The use of VPN software is also a violation of school policy.

Another type of internet monitoring that is necessary occurs during NCAA March Madness. Landeros said the school critically depends on Schoology and when these games are broadcasting to student iPads, it affects overall internet speed and Schoology’s ability to function.

True purpose

However, Landeros said that the firewall’s purpose is not to catch students, but rather to protect the school from undesirable behaviors. The firewall organizes websites into groups that are accessible or inaccessible.

Landeros said that the firewall has generic categories for internet traffic. “For example, illicit adult material is blocked period,” Landeros said. He said that firewall is designed to protect the school, its equipment and its people.

This campus is not the only place students will encounter this type of firewall. According to Landeros, the majority of public and private schools use firewalls similar to the one the school installed. Every university has this type of firewall.

Landeros said, “This is not some next generation firewall that no one else is using. All schools and businesses are moving to use these types of firewalls. It’s just part of the growth of technology.”