SFU Surrey's WiFi - Security and Open Source
I am an SFU Surrey student and, like many students, I enjoy the free school-wide WiFi access. But as easy as it is for Windows and Mac users to connect to the unsecured network, there are a few issues surrounding internet access at SFU's Surrey Campus.
One problem is that Linux connectivity to the free SFUNET wireless hotspot seems to be very limited. My laptop runs Ubuntu 7.10 which does see the signal but has problems acquiring a network address. Function seems to be rather sporadic amongst Linux users but who is at fault (the operating system or the network itself) but it is clear that some measures should be taken to rectify the situation.
A second issue is the insecurity of the public network. Anybody in the vicinity of SFU (including spots in the food court in the mall) can access the public network though admittedly cannot access the internet without an SFU ID. This leaves you open and visible to hundreds of people and without proper security your computer could be at serious risk. Although sharing iTunes playlists is amusing (though probably not entirely legal), the risks of being connected to a public hotspot are substantial. Graeme Dergousoff, a Mechatronics student at SFU Surrey, likened the public SFUNET to “Swiss cheese – it has holes in it. You feel very insecure while connected, you never know who or what is tracking you.” Some students have reported port-scans and various other intrusion attempts.
All of this is remedied by the little-known SFUNET-SECURE network. This network uses WPA2 encryption and offers you a secure and private way to connect to the internet. (1) To connect, you need to have Windows XP SP2 with a WPA2 hotfix from Microsoft, free W2 software and updated drivers for your network card. Using the information found in the link provided, you can log in with your SFU ID credentials.
This is fine for people who run windows but, again, we encounter a problem when users running alternate operating systems attempt to use the secure network, as support is not documented and may not be possible.
The WiFi access at SFU Surrey is a great service for students. Whether it is more distracting or a truly useful tool is a discussion that is still open, but it is clear that connectivity for alternate operating systems is limited. The SFUNET-SECURE is a great option for Windows users once they follow the guide posted but the Linux and Mac users are left to figure it out on their own – if it’s even possible. Open source aside, the secure network is an important tool and should be used when possible while at the Surrey campus. Now if only Gutsy Gibbon would cooperate.