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Does tech teaching make your network vulnerable?

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Technology teaching places new demands on networks in both capacity and security; many of the materials used in STEAM education, programmable microcontroller kits for one, are designed to be open and are therefore vulnerable to maliciousness.

So, with huge numbers of different devices connecting to networks, allowing them to join smoothly and to be removed smoothly if anything untoward is happening is paramount.

“A whole range of labs are being built in schools and a whole range of different devices are in those labs, everything from robotics to VR kits, 3D printing filming kits, coding kits, all of these new kinds of devices that didn’t previously connect to the network.

“It’s really important to provide some kind of separation of those Internet of Things (IoT) devices from mainstream devices because they typically don't have a complex operating system. They’re designed to be directly programmed and they potentially could be used as a way of infiltrating the network.

“It comes down to the infrastructure having the ability to separate those devices and assign the right security profile to those devices,” says Mark Verbloot, Aruba’s Systems Engineering Director, Asia Pacific.

A couple of new technologies from Aruba are designed to contend with the complexity and security issues of large school networks and the introduction of IoT.

Aruba ClearPass Device Insight focuses on the number and variability of devices on a network and has a powerful discovery and profiling solution with automated, machine learning-based fingerprinting.

Aruba leveraged data science to custom-build sophisticated profiling algorithms to identify and categorise any device that is discovered on the network. This is provided to customers via ClearPass Device Insight’s cloud delivery platform using shared community experiences to identify previously-unseen devices.

IT teams can automate authentication and policy enforcement down to the device and user level, applying different access policies or rules based on the role designated for the device. The defined roles map very easily to the access requirements for the specific user or device. For example a device in a lab can be given the “lab device” role with very restrictive access to the general network, in effect isolating it from mainstream applications.

The Aruba 530 and 550 Series, additions to the family of 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) IoT-ready access points, allows removal of IoT security and connectivity barriers, while reducing costs and complexity associated with IoT management.
The 530 and 550 Series APs eliminate the need for IoT gateways and complicated network management requirements, allowing IT teams to easily connect a diverse set of IoT devices and sensors that utilise different protocols directly to the access points. The support of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5 and Zigbee protocols on the new APs allow organisations to connect with 74% of commonly used IoT devices.

“A lot of our innovations are first tried out in education because they tend to be the ones that need it first. If you think about the use cases in classrooms, you often have many wireless connections. Schools were one of the first areas to test the density of Wifi, they’ve always pushed the boundaries of how many devices you can connect through a single access point and whether all of those devices can work.

“We want to deliver a very robust network to education, as students need to go about their learning without thinking about the network at all. With the really limited IT resources that schools have, they want to minimise the time taken to troubleshoot, and the time to manage kids' devices.

“When Year 7 students arrived on the first day of high school with their new iPads, the IT department used to have to individually configure say 200 devices and that could take up to a week. We’ve offered Aruba ClearPass for a while now, which is a solution that lets students onboard their own devices.

“IT teams can build a student profile which determines their access rights and a different profile for staff access profile rights. The beauty here is that this is automatically determined by the infrastructure, so when a student logs in with their device the infrastructure identifies that profile and access control is assigned irrespective of the device they’re using,” Verbloot says.

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