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Penn's Office of Information Security is implementing a campus-wide firewall service.

Credit: Avalon Morell

In an effort to protect PennNet users from cyberattacks, Penn’s Office of Information Security is implementing a campus-wide firewall service.

“Computer attacks are increasing in number and sophistication every year, and one common vector for attack is through the network,” said Joshua Beeman, Penn’s information security officer.

The firewall was tested over the past month and a half in the IT departments of various centers and schools across campus. If it passes its validation phase, it will be implemented soon.

Universities are prone to targeting by hackers — in 2015, Harvard University suffered a cyberattack on its Faculty of Arts and Sciences and central administration information technology networks, forcing thousands of students and employees to change their passwords.

Hacking has also been highlighted in the national news following cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

This is the the most comprehensive form of cyber protection Penn has ever implemented, Beeman said. In the past, firewalls have been initiated on local and individual scales, but this is the first campus-wide protective measure.

IT staff have been working across all of the schools, since this firewall is intended to be as far-reaching as possible — protecting all users and devices connected to PennNet, AirPennNet and AirPennNet Guest.

Although this measure is comprehensive, Beeman said it is not invasive to the students, and doesn’t violate Penn’s electronic privacy or open expression policies.

“[The University Firewall] gives us the ability to respond faster, more broadly and more proactively to network-based attacks,” he said.

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