Beginning Tuesday, computers accessing the Internet in residence halls will automatically be scanned for file-sharing programs.
The Network Access Control service will scan for file sharing programs such as BitTorrent and LimeWire. If the service detects a file-sharing program, a pop-up message will notify him of the dangers of illegal sharing and ways to securely use the program.
Network access will not be suspended and no legal action can be taken against the student, as the program cannot be used as criminal evidence.
“What we detect with this service in no way, shape or form results in a meeting with security,” Ryan Turner, senior network engineer for ITS, said. “If we detect peer-to-peer, there’s not going to be a violation created.”
The new function, which cannot search for specific files, will be used merely as a preventative measure, said Chris Williams, ResNET program director.
“It’s like there’s one of these flashing speed limit signs, and you’re going 40 miles per hour. You can go 35, or you can go 40. It’s up to you to decide what to do.
It just tells you,” he said. “If you want to ignore it, then go for it, it’s your personal computer. You have to take responsibility with what you want to do for it.
“We’re just trying to provide some information.”
In all residence halls, the program currently checks for anti-virus and firewall software to allow a computer onto the campus network.
Williams said the new measure will speed up Internet connections since illegal file-sharing impedes the UNC network by using bandwidth. The University, after testing the program at the School of Dentistry, extended it to Cobb.
“Last year, because we’ve implemented NAC, we were able to increase the speeds for all the students that connect to the network,” he said. “They went to about 25Mb connections from 10Mb. That’s a huge increase, and beyond what most students get at any other university.”
UNC is required by U.S. copyright law to hold users of the campus network accountable for copyright infringement. Those cases cannot be initiated through the notification program.
“We encounter weekly issues with students having copyright complaints filed against them from various media organizations, including the MPAA and the RIAA,” said Stan Waddell, executive director for information security at ITS, in reference to the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.
If a student is found illegally sharing files, the first offense leads to a loss of network access until completion of a training course and a meeting with ITS security officials. A second offence leads to a longer loss of network access and a referral to Honor Court.
Processing copyright complaints had been costing UNC about $40,000 per year of late, but the use of Network Access Control in target areas has coincided with a decrease in complaints.
ITS officials said media targets universities for copyright infringement because campuses with a high-volume of Internet users often provide exceptionally large bandwidths.
The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, a peer institution of UNC, implemented a similar program in 2007 called “Be Aware You’re Uploading,” which successfully cut down on outside complaints of illegal file sharing. The university reported that 72 percent of violations came from residence halls.
Jim Gogan, director of networking for ITS, said he is optimistic about the new service.
“In the past it’s been very reactive. We’d get the copyright violation notices. We’d have to track down students and say, ‘The recording industry or the motion picture folks saw that you were sharing this stuff illegally,’” he said.
“What we want to do now is be more proactive.”
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