Wireless internet conditionally restored

By David Lim

Student wireless internet access returned to the Upper School on Sept. 26 accompanied by an emailed warning that users will be blocked for hogging bandwidth.

The email from Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said students should avoid using unnecessary or excessive bandwidth in accordance with the school’s Technology Acceptable Use Policy.
He also said that students should “uninstall all BitTorrent and Point-to-Point (P2P) software from [their] computer” to prevent these programs from hogging bandwidth while running in the background.

BitTorrent and Peer-to-Peer Networking are decentralized file sharing services used to download pirated movies, music, computer programs and video games. According to the magazine FastCompany, BitTorrent has over 100 million users worldwide.
The student wireless network HWUSStudentInet has been offline since a malicious denial-of-service hacking attack last May, but was reinstated all over campus.

Director of Computer Services Dave Ruben said there was “fundamentally no change” to the network since it was taken off-line and that no new safeguards have been implemented to prevent a repeat of May’s attack.

Both Ruben and Salamandra said the main issue is the network’s limited bandwidth. Approximately 50 percent of the network’s bandwidth is used at peak hours.

Salamandra said that “ultimately, Computer Services is in charge of the access” and that the main issue with student wireless access was the overloading of the network, slowing it down for all users.

 “We’re only seeing a relatively small percentage of students actually using [the network],” Ruben said. “If the [number of students] grows, this could become an issue very fast.”
The updating of apps on Apple iOS and syncing services such as iCloud also take up a significant chunk of the available bandwidth, Ruben said. These uses of the network have helped push students into comprising three-fourths of the top 10 users of daily bandwidth.

P2P and BitTorrent are the only bandwidth hogs banned on the student network. Large file downloads through other methods do not result in an automatic ban.  

“Not all torrent or peer-to-peer stuff is illegal, but because we can’t discern the good from the bad, and we can’t tell what a person’s doing, we have to block that stuff,” Ruben said.

Salamandra said the three week delay from the start of school to the re-activation of the network was to allow Computer Services to prepare for its launch and to explain network policies to students.
Brandon Chong ’13 was kicked off the wireless network last year the first time he brought his computer to school.

“I was on the internet and 15 seconds later it doesn’t let me refresh,” Chong said.

He immediately realized that he had accidentally left his BitTorrent running and guessed that was why he was kicked off the network.
Two weeks later on April 15, he received an email from Ruben stating that the blocking had been necessary because some students were using the network to distribute copyrighted material with BitTorrent or other P2P programs.

Tom* ’13 told the librarians it had been an accident when he was blocked from the network. The librarians referred him to computer services, who told him that his access would be back in a few days.

“I knew it wasn’t a good idea to [use BitTorrent] at school but I’d never been informed that you weren’t allowed to,” Tom said.
Tom’s wireless access was not reinstated as the whole network was taken offline the following week in the wake of the DDoS attack.

Chong and Tom regained network access by April 18 but lost it again due to the attack the next week on April 26.
Tom suggested that students be given a warning their first time before they are completely banned from the network. Chong agreed and also suggested that students be given 5 minutes to reduce their bandwidth usage when notified by librarians.

The two students said that they have been able to access the wireless network without any problems so far this year. They also stated that they continue to use BitTorrent outside of school.

*Name has been changed