A software bug in the Georgetown University firewall caused its Wi-Fi network to experience widespread and sporadic service interruptions on campus starting Feb. 22. Cisco, the manufacturer of the University’s Wi-Fi system was able to identify the source of the connectivity issues and resolved it Feb. 25.
Interim Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the University Information Services Judd Nicholson said the root of the issue was a bug found in the firewalls used by the university to protect against cyber attacks. According to Nicholson, the university has two high-performance firewalls that protect the campus from over one billion cyberattacks a month.
Nicholson said that the Wi-Fi issues occurred twice, first on Monday morning and later during the week on Wednesday afternoon, before being resolved.
“No issues have been reported on Thursday or Friday this week,” Nicholson said in an interview with The Hoya.
Nicholson added as of last Saturday UIS is still working with Cisco to fully address the issue and prevent future occurrences.
Nicholson stated that the university’s cyber security did not sustain any breaches as only outward Internet traffic was impacted. The issues affected the entire campus, but were mostly limited to webpage rendering.
“The issues were intermittent and not limited to any one location. Some Wi-Fi users experienced no problems, others noticed a slowdown in loading web pages,” Nicholson said.
The GUSA chair of the student technology advisory board, Taylor Wan (COL ’16), said that she was not informed on the Wi-Fi issues that UIS was facing.
Georgetown primarily has three Wi-Fi networks. SaxaNet is the secured network and is the recommended network by UIS for optimal security and performance. GuestNet, while lower in performance, can be used by visitors to campus. Eduroam is the third network that is used by visiting students and faculty from other institutions.
UIS revamped the Wi-Fi in Lauinger Library in an approximately $189,000 overhaul in January, and it plans to add more upgrades to the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, particularly in classrooms.
Students on campus were affected to varying degrees by the internet issues, and some reported heavy issues while others experienced little to none.
Margaret McGraw (COL ’19) said the Wi-Fi issues on campus affected her negatively as she had trouble completing her assignments for classes.
“It was very frustrating not to have Wi-Fi on probably every part of campus because you need to get your work done and if you can’t get your work done, like in your room or your library or Lau, how are you supposed to do anything?” McGraw said.
Michael Chen (MSB ’19) said he noticed the issues with the Internet last week but didn’t feel it posed a major issue.
“Overall it wasn’t too big of an issue but, yeah there were definitely some times where like the network would time out and my Google doc would just lose signal,” Chen said.
Jonathan Smith (GRD ’16) said he did not see any issues with the Wi-Fi related to his personal computer, but did experience internet speed reductions when he used campus computers at his workplace last week.
“As far as my personal laptop, I didn’t really experience any issues like I said, definitely our work computers had a lot of slow movement, couldn’t really get on certain websites,” Smith said.
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