Wi-Fi spreads across campus

By Danielle Gaines

On campus and around the community, students are finding it more convenient to surf the Internet through wireless connections as the University and private companies extend existing networks and implement new ones.

The University has already placed access in over 30 campus buildings as part of a five-year plan to extend the wireless network. Independent companies are offering wireless service, the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network is extending free wireless access to all C-U residents, and more property management companies are supporting wireless networks for their tenants.

The Campus Network Upgrade project began about a year and a half ago. Through this initiative, wireless networks will be installed in an additional 120 campus buildings. In order to bring up the wireless network, the wired infrastructure of the buildings will also be improved at the same time. Mike Smeltzer, Director of Network Communications, oversees the extension of wireless networks on campus.

“It is going to be a five year project to get wireless everywhere,” Smeltzer said. “Defined loosely, essentially the only things that don’t count are a faculty office or a research lab. Libraries, classrooms, lounges, almost anything you can think of will ultimately have coverage.”

Dan Conroe, graduate student, accesses the wireless network on campus everyday.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “For getting assignments and grades, communicating with professors, and communicating with classmates, the easiest way to do that on campus is through the wireless (network),” Conroe said.

    Wireless networks are also available at several restaurants and coffee shops near campus. Espresso Royale at Daniel Street, Za’s and Bar Guiliani (formally Green Street Coffee House), both at Green Street provide customers with wireless network service through the C-U Community Wireless Network, according to the network’s website. Starbucks at Green Street will soon be hooked up as a T-Mobile hot spot.

    C-U Community Wireless Network is a wireless networking system that all area residents can subscribe to. Residents can set up networks by downloading free software at http://www.cuwireless.net. The network acts as a local intranet, providing an outlet for messaging and file sharing while providing free wireless access.

    “I can’t wait to see how things will change in the next few years. With wireless technology improving as fast as it does, I think it will become faster, cheaper, easier, and as easy as using a cell phone,” Conroe said.

    Many students are building their own wireless networks in their apartments. Students setting up their own wireless network should consider several security measures to prevent harm to their system or computers, according to Bradley Mitchell, the author of Your Guide to Wireless Networking. Many simple steps can be taken to ensure a safer network: default passwords and logins for routers should be changed, encryption software should be installed, connection to the network should be limited to certain devices and routers should be placed at the center of a living space to limit how far the network can be accessed by others, Mitchell advised. Networks should also be shut down when not accessed for an extended period of time.

    While wireless connections offer the freedom of movement and convenience of location, there are precautions to be taken while exchanging information over these networks.

    “The normal security precautions we expect people to use on a wired network are the same security precautions we expect people to use on a wireless network,” said Mike Corn, Director of Security Services and Info Privacy at Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services.

    Generally, students should run anti-virus software and anti-spyware software and exercise caution when opening email attachments, Corn said. If a computer is not properly protected, any number of problems can occur: files may copy themselves to hard drives or a virus may reformat disk drives. Viruses can also delete files and programs or modify existing files, Corn said.

    The University has anti-virus software for students available at no cost, according to the CITES website. Anti-virus programs can be downloaded at http://www. cites.uiuc. edu/security/antivirus.

    CITES also had tips for students such as creating unique passwords and login names. A “good” password will include letters, numbers and symbols. It is also important to check manufacturer websites monthly for patches to a computer’s operating system or applications, according to the CITES website.

    If a student is off campus, the campus Virtual Private Networking software should be used to encrypt traffic from the laptop to the University. The VPN software is free and downloadable from the CITES website. Many campus resources require VPN to access them.

    Exercising caution is perhaps the greatest security measure of all. The only reported viruses on campus so far this year were downloaded from instant messenger, Corn said.

    “You have to be very careful and a little skeptical with that kind of stuff,” Corn said.