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DePaul Tunnels Into Campus Security

Illinois university finds Aventail kit a boon for securing multiple campuses

When the time came to update its multi-campus WiFi security system, massive Chicagoland educational institutional DePaul University decided to take a pass on the big boys, choosing instead a VPN appliance from Aventail Corp. to authenticate and log on all wireless users onsite.

The university had some very specific requirements for implementing WiFi security across its campuses in the Chicago area. The most important was that the system had to work over Layer 3 rather than Layer 2, so that the sites could be secured using one centralized box rather than via separate appliances at each campus. DePaul also wanted to replace its original WEP-based security system, especially since the students had found ways -- by using firewalls -- to circumvent the free tools used to scan their PCs when logging onto the WiFi network.

The university has around 280 of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s 1200 series access points deployed at its sites. The university attempts to provide access for campus residents as well as coverage in areas where students are likely to gather.

"We have a wireless presence on all of our campuses," says Nicola Foggi, who handles networks and telecom for DePaul U.

Most of the security systems that the university looked at were dismissed immediately because they ran over Layer 2 and so couldn't be centrally managed from a single appliance. In the end, DePaul narrowed it down to three options -- Aventail, Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

"We do a lot of business with Cisco, unfortunately their product wasn't on a par with the other two," says Foggi. After a bake-off between the Aventail and Juniper offerings, DePaul decided on the Aventail box.

"It was a little bit over $100,000 to install," says Foggi.

All wireless users from the DePaul campus are placed on a segregated network when they first connect. These users have no access to any internal or external resources when they initially connect to the network. Users launch a browser and when they try to access a URL, they are redirected to the Aventail appliance WorkPlace portal.

Once the user authenticates to the WorkPlace, using a RADIUS connection to the internal database, they are provisioned using an SSL VPN tunnel. During the provisioning process, they are assigned an internal network IP address, allowing them to access internal DePaul resources -- if permitted -- and any public site over the secure connection.

The university has also replaced its old PC scan freeware with the Aventail Endpoint security software, which scans user's PCs or Macs when they first log on to check that their security is up to date.

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