Open Networks at Brock University

Brock Hacked by ChinahackerBrock University is backwards. Backwards in that it generates rules and restrictions based on feelings and possibilities that impact members of the University in a negative way without providing a solid benefit to said members or the community at large. One example that I call upon from time to time is the restriction of VNC use on campus.

To start I would like to describe the application of VNC. VNC Services were something that I actively promoted at the University of Windsor as a counter-piracy and cost-remedy tool. Students could acquire a license for quality software related to their feild of stuy (which was required in some classes) and use it on their home system. Then, provided they had a high-speed connection they could "call home" and use their software, work on their content, and reduce the workload on lab staff by working for themselves. Simple tools for the Information Age.

However Brock blocks VNC, and even encrypted VNC fails due to packet-sniffing technologies. The reasoning is not described in any manual or documentation available to the public. In 2006 I explored the reasons why and came across the same answers from people working the Telecommunications Services and ITS. VNC is seen as a security vulnerability, even the outbound connections on the wireless network. The person responsible for this is the CIO for Brock University, and I'll get to that problem in a moment. However, no block exists on its sister-technology SSH/SFTP - inconsistent practices based on arbitrary facts about a given technique. Malicious inconsistencies and unrequired restrictions are in simple terms ****, therefore Brock University is into ****.

Earlier I mentioned that Brock's CIO was responsible for random restrictions and many other tasks actually appropriate to a CIO. STOP. The problem with that statement is the application of a position that is common to the private sector and businesses to an academic and research institution. Some other Universities in Canada have a CIO, although most do not because it represents a conflict to the purpose of the institution by allowing persistent arbitration over the capabilities of that institution. Risk is ever present in academia and though basic precautions are recommended they can be implemented in the same method as other elements of the telecommunications infrastructure. This includes the ability to reduce restrictions when the possibility of danger or abuse is removed (or never originally present).

SSH (Secure Shell) is something that I advocate for now, as it offers the same benefits as VNC with a lighter load and advanced options. Tunneling an X session (even one in use) through that is an easy way to remotely monitor an unsuspecting user. Dependencies for that include having their user-name and password, that they are operating in X on a Unix-type system, and that they do not possess the knowledge or software to detect such an intrusion. This is something that bothers me, much like any University restricting open collaboration and teamwork reflecting a real-work approach to research.

If I am wrong, don't send me a personal message requesting a takedown. Send me a copy of the documents showing why it is done and what University Members can do as an alternative for Linux/Windows/Mac to this cross-platform solution. Then send it to everyone else, or publish it with all other information regarding our network restrictions and practices. Work in academia is not only about action, it includes providing answers and reasoning to support your decisions.

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