College network policies
The College is required to accept some responsibility for monitoring its computing networks for illegal activity, taking reasonable steps to prevent such activity and identify responsible machines. The College therefore reserves the right to monitor the traffic generated by computers and other devices attached to its networks in order to ensure compliance with its network policies.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File-Sharing Software’ is software which allows a user to share files with another user without the one needing to seek permission from the other. Examples of P2P software are BitTorrent, Direct Connect, LimeWire, Gnutella, and eDonkey.
P2P is most commonly used for illegal copyright infringement. The University (and therefore the College) has seen an increase in the complaints concerning copyright infringement originating on its networks, all involving the use of P2P software. It is primarily for this reason that the College has decided to ban the use of this software, with some exceptions as detailed below. Any computers detected as using such software will be disconnected from the network for a short period. Repeated offences within a week will lead to progressively longer disconnections.
Please note that the sharing of copyrighted material (such as music, films and software) by any means is prohibited, not least because it is for the most part illegal. External agencies acting on behalf of copyright owners monitor illegal usage of such programs and any reports of such use will incur disconnection from the network for a week and a fine of £50 will be added to your next College bill.
Allowed P2P Software
The College currently exempts some applications from the P2P ban – at present these are Skype, QQ, Spotify, Xbox Live and Steam. Applications which are only used wholly legitimately may be added to the list of exemptions, where technically feasible, at the discretion of the Computer Department. The P2P world is subject to frequent change, however, and no such exemption should be relied upon as permanent.
If you are disconnected for P2P use and do not know why, you can check the following things:
- The page you see while disconnected will tell you at what time you were disconnected; were you doing anything unusual in the few minutes before that?
- If you get disconnected for the first time shortly after installing a new piece of software, it is quite likely that the new software uses P2P in some way and is hence causing the problem.
- Check what software you have running, bearing in mind that some programs may be running in the background, without a window on screen. On Windows you can check the system tray at the bottom right of the screen, using the arrow to show all icons.
- Software which allows you to stream video or audio may often be P2P. In many cases you can just stream directly from the website, rather than installing software.
- Many online multiplayer games are P2P internally, as are some gaming platforms (Steam is a good example of this).
- Opening an extremely large number of different websites within a couple of minutes may cause disconnection.
- Once you have identified the software responsible, you can try searching online for any ways to disable the P2P functions within the software, or to find a non-P2P alternative piece of software to do the same task.
Some applications have settings which control their traffic use and may be changed to avoid getting disconnected. Applications we have seen problems with so far are:
- Skype has an option ‘Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections’ which you can find in Tools → Options → Advanced → Connection. In a few cases this may prevent your traffic from being detected properly as Skype, and hence cause you to be disconnected. Making sure that this box is not ticked will avoid this problem occurring.
- The game League of Legends by default uses P2P technology to download its updates. You can disable this using the ‘Allow Peer to Peer transfer’ in the Options screen in the Patcher.
- Some websites such as CNN ask you to install the ‘Octoshape add-in for Adobe Flash Player’ to improve video quality while watching streaming video from their site. This is P2P software, so you should decline when asked to install it – you should still be able to watch the video without it.
The system includes a ‘safety stop’ based on the total traffic your computer generates which travels beyond the University; the safety stop disconnects computers which have generated an extremely high amount of traffic. The current limits are a warning email at 40GB in a day (the period from midnight to the following midnight), followed by disconnection at 50GB. This is intended to catch situations where a computer, unbeknown to its owner, has got malicious software installed which generates huge amounts of traffic. If you need to generate more traffic than this, request an exemption.
Request an exemption
If you will need to generate more than 50GB in a day, please email the Computing Support Office beforehand, so that we can arrange an exemption from the automatic disconnection system. You should include details of why you need the exemption, what sort of traffic you need to generate, and where the traffic will be sent to or from. Please note that until we have confirmed that you have an exemption, you will be disconnected if you go over the 50GB threshold.
Exemptions from the peer-to-peer blocking system are available if required for academic use, at the discretion of the Senior Tutor.
You should be aware that the College reserves the right to disconnect users who adversely affect the network for other users, or create significant security problems. Possible causes of this are using an address assigned to another user, connecting a router which has not been correctly configured, or generating huge amounts of traffic on the network and hence causing a degradation in network performance for all users.
There are various ways that computer experts may try to dodge the system, thus avoiding the automatic cut-off systems we have put in place. You are advised that this is considered reprehensible, and there are systems in place to catch people doing this. Anyone who does so will have their computer disconnected, and may be reported to the Dean for disciplinary action.
You are responsible for all activity on your computer or other networked devices, whether you or any other person are using it at the time. You should not let others use your computer unsupervised.
You are responsible for making sure that your computer is secure: you must keep it up to date with all security fixes, which can be done automatically by Windows Update and Microsoft Update on Windows or Software Update on MacOS X, and you must have a virus scanner installed and up to date, if available for your operating system. The University has a site licence for McAfee VirusScan, which you can get at https://help.uis.cam.ac.uk/service/security/antivirus