Teaching mobile security to teachers and pupils

By Paul Storey, Product Manager, Head of Voice Services, at Redcentric

As Gartner predicts that 85% of businesses will have deployed a BYOD programme by 2020, it’s hard to deny that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is creeping its way up the list of priorities for the workplace.

As organisations embrace its benefits, which include saving money on procuring and maintaining devices as well as boosting productivity through making remote working more feasible, educational institutions would be missing a trick if they didn’t follow suit or at least consider it.

Since BYOD can enable access to virtual learning environments on personal devices, it can act as a vehicle to engage students who are on the premises. But as BYOD requires students to access the wireless network, it isn’t without its security implications and the challenge lies in blocking unwanted access. How can universities, colleges and schools use BYOD to enhance teaching and learning without enabling security threats?

Implementing a BYOD programme means that multiple students will access the network everyday over their personal devices. It’s difficult to determine the details of users and whether they’re in fact a student or somebody not permitted to use the network. But you can track access using a single service set identifier (SSID) to determine who is connected. This requires students to register their devices on the network using a Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) Controller, and registration would be determined according to the institution’s pre-defined compliance policy. Using an Identity Services Engine (ISE) solution, device fingerprinting can be used to establish whether the device is registered. It can then be placed onto an appropriate Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) while staying connected to the SSID to track access. The institution then has the ability to monitor the individual accessing the network and what they’re using it for; reducing the chances of unwanted access. 

Using an Identity Services Engine (ISE) solution, device fingerprinting can be used to establish whether the device is registered

An ISE solution can also enforce your network’s policies and establish parameters. The endless possibilities of the internet mean that you’re at risk of security threats through a number of channels. But provided that you implement an agile solution, you can stop the network being used for unnecessary and high-risk activities such as illegal music downloading. If you want to be confident that students are using the network only for studies, restrictions are essential.

As one of London’s biggest and most highly regarded universities, the University of Westminster recently identified the need for high-speed internet connectivity. New students were expecting seamless communication when on campus, and using their smartphones to access the university’s network went without saying. It was time for the university to upgrade the network environment to support this. Redcentric deployed new core routers that were built on a programmable architecture with high-density 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), 40 GbE, and 10 GbE routing. New LAN equipment meant that the university could meet the demands of students who were increasingly turning to their smartphones and tablets to communicate, access virtual learning environments, and continue projects and collaboration. Students could be more productive when on campus as a result. 

BYOD is gradually re-shaping what we consider to be ‘working life’. Education is no different as it mimics the corporate environment to support students as they turn to their smartphones and tablets to continue studies when on premises. Universities, colleges and schools are increasingly putting resources into virtual learning environments as a way of boosting efficiency. It’s therefore up to the institution to ensure that its wi-fi is agile and can be easily accessed through a number of devices. 

But it’s equally important not to let your network become a free-for-all. Using an SSID can ensure that only students are granted access, and by restricting usage you can ensure that it’s used only for studies. High-profile security breaches have highlighted the importance of protecting all access to your organisation’s network; education providers must avoid the trap that we’ve seen certain retailers and banks fall into of late. 

W: www.redcentricplc.com

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