If students are having issues with their Internet connection in their residence halls, the problem may be the result of a rogue access point. Chris Bernard, director of network engineering and communications at Miami University, explained that rouge access points are forbidden wireless signals that are produced by transmitters like wireless printers.
“A rogue access point is any wireless device that transmits out a wireless signal that is not a part of the Miami network,” Bernard said. “That includes things like wireless printers all the way up to real access points that you would put in your house.”
Bernard said when students set up their own Wi-Fi networks or wireless printers, they interfere with the MU Wireless network and slow down the Internet connection of those around them.
“When one of these [rogue access points is] introduced, they can affect one or two access points in the neighboring vicinity,” he said. “Not only on the floor that you are on, but also the floor above or below. So one rogue access point could affect a couple students or a dozen students. So that’s why we try our best to ensure that we shut these down.”
Bernard explained although the Information Technology (IT) staff has the ability to force a rogue access point to shut down within their system, but it interferes with their wireless capacity. Instead, they usually remove them on a manual basis with the help of field service specialists.
According to Bernard, (IT) Services can identify a rogue access point through merely the free Wi-Fi Analyzer software for Android devices. They can also use more expensive survey tools such as Ekahau or their Cisco Wireless Management Software.
He said they have a device called a Yellowjacket that can identify the names and IP addresses of student’s Wi-Fi device. This technology can also pinpoint exactly which residence hall, dorm room, and then exactly where in the room the rogue access point is located.
Bernard said ever since Miami has had Wi-Fi, rogue access points have been against the University’s policies because they can inconvenience other students.
Field services specialist Terry Ruff explained that the job of IT Services is to provide network service for everyone, wired and wireless. They also ensure that students are following the policies of not using a rogue access point.
“There are policies that are in place [at Miami University] that say you are not allowed to have your own wireless device,” he said. “Then our job is to find them, shut down that access point and give them a notice reminding them of the policies,” he said.
Ruff said he was involved with a situation in Flower Hall this year where a student was using a rogue device and it was affecting the Inernet connection of about 15 to 20 students.
“It just so happens the student there was also here last year and was aware of the policies, so this individual was given a second notice,” Ruff said. “They really aren’t allowed to have a device that broadcasts in the Miami space. Because this student was broadcasting with their own device, many other students were not able to use ours.”
Sophomore Wesleigh Jones, who is a resident of Flower Hall, said she was inconvienced as a result of the rogue access point.
“There were some days when the connection was really slow and then there were other days when we would have no Intenert connection at all,” Jones said. “We were always confused about the kids down the hall from us because they seemed to never have problems with their Wi-Fi.
Jones said she then went to It Services to remedy the problem.
“We called the IT people [about the kids down the hall] and they were able to shut down their device and give them notices that they can’t use [the device] anymore.” Jones said. “[The IT staff] was apologetic about the situation and was very helpful.”
Ruff said a student is given a maximum of two notices during their four years at Miami, and on the third notice, he or she is sent to student judicial affairs.
Bernard said no student has been sent to student judicial affairs for using a rogue device, but the security of a student’s information may be at risk if the user of the rogue device is not stopped.
“For example, someone could impersonate the MU Wireless network and act as a man-in-the-middle attack,” he said. “You could be going to your banking website and they can actually sit in the middle, grab your credentials and be able to log into the bank with your information.”
Bernard explained that students could be using their rogue devices for this reason, or a student may not even realize that they’re doing it. He said sometimes students are not aware of the policies and set up wireless printers without a second thought, which is why they are trying to notify students in any way that they can that rogue access points are not permitted.
“We really just want to get the word out about this issue,” he said. “A lot of the time it is a question of what the device is being used for. Then we have the students who use it to basically be a hub in their room so they can have more Internet ports. And, you know, the question is, ‘Can we turn down the wireless and still use [the device]?’ Absolutely.”
Bernard emphasized that if students have a question or concern to call the support desk at 513-529-7900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.