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ITS hopes Cisco NAC Agent complaints give way to efficiency of new system

By Darwin Manning

Cisco NAC Agent, the internet access point for personal computers, has long unified campus by providing students with common complaints. Some complained of having to connect nearly every time they opened their laptops; others said there were unexplainable instances where they had to download Cisco numerous times. Over winter break, ITS is installing a new system replacing Cisco, called Bradford, that it hopes will solve many of these problems.

Users will only need to log in once, at the beginning of the semester, after which Bradford will automatically recognize the device.

The transition has been in the works for quite some time, but enough of the chips have fallen into place so that on January 9, Bradford can be launched in time for the start of next semester. The discussion has been going on for nearly a year and there were hopes of originally gearing the venture to begin in August.

“We hope it’s really worth it. We wanted to do this last August, but we didn’t get it fully tested,” said Dave Dale, ITS Project Manager for Physical Infrastructure. “We will go live with Bradford on January 9 and cease using Cisco, so when you go to campus to connect you will be directed straight to Bradford.”

Another big hurdle presented by Cisco was the inconvenience for visitors of the College, as the system would only work for visitors if they created a College account.

“We will allow them to self-register for 24 hours, and if they are here longer and they don’t want to log in every 24 hours they can get a guest account and not have to log in every 24 hours,” Dale said.

The new system is also good news for those with close attachments to their video game systems.

“Bradford allows for automatic registration, for a gaming device or such so that we don’t have to enter each device in separately and [be] concerned about exemptions,” Dale said.
ITS has spent ample time with demonstrations of Bradford and has given students a chance to experience what it has to offer. According to the tests, the program has worked very well, and there is full belief that it will continue to do so.

“It really seems that you will only have to log in onto the network once and then the Bradford program will recognize the MAC address that is on your computer and that this device has already been approved,” said Ike Prahl ’15. “One won’t need to bother with the repetitiveness of Cisco anymore, so as soon as you get your new gadget you will log in once and that will be that.”
The College also chose Bradford because it accepts more anti-virus software.

“For PCs it has been more of a problem, as it is over-sensitive with virus protection software and, unless computers have the right software, it won’t accept that computer,” said Prahl. “Cisco only accepts three or four virus [types of] protection software and Bradford will accept far more.”

The College will be following the pattern of many peer institutions in abandoning Cisco, and hopes that the transition will be seamless. For the sake of clarity, ITS has prepared an email that will be sent out slightly before the launch date. There will be some alterations to the process that the College has become accustomed to through Cisco. These changes will be explained in the email.
“The procedure is slightly different and so we will have some different technical work advice for users,” Dale said.

In addition, the statement will recognize the shift in the College community towards a bring-your-own device environment, where students, faculty and staff will often have three or more personal devices that need access. In that light, the hope is that Bradford will adequately support all of the desires expressed during the Cisco years.

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  • C

    CWDec 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Yep that will be really secure. A big +1 for B and the MAC spoofing..

    Cisco accept the Virus Scanners that actually work..

  • B

    bDec 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Simply trusting MAC address means that someone can easily use another person’s device for malicious activity. Or worse yet, do MAC address spoofing from a different device. In this case it would appear they are choosing convenience over security and positioning it as a failure of a particular vendor’s product. The fact is that the NAC solution wasn’t designed to address the requirement they are stating. Using a hammer to drive a screw doesn’t make the hammer a bad tool. It simply means the operator made a bad decision.

  • K

    kbDec 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Your school’s IT staff honestly does not understand cisco kit, or security. We use the same Cisco NAC system at NC State University, have single registration, a easy web registration for game systems, and a guestnet wifi. Not hard at all to implement.