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P2P Programs on K-12 Networks? 602

deque_alpha asks: "I am a system administrator for a small K-12 public school district. I am taking over after a bunch of goofballs have really messed things up, the technology department is in utter disarray. I have near infinite problems, but the hairiest are with people sucking up what little bandwidth we have, introducing virii, downloading warez, and generally causing problems with P2P file sharing programs. I don't generally have a problem with these programs, but they are not an appropriate use of the limited bandwidth of a K-12 institution as they provide little in the way of an educational resource, not to mention the legal liability they potentially introduce. The rub lies in that these people are teachers, and I have virtually no policy to back me up if I come down on them, but shutting them down is neccesary to maintain harmony (and legality) on the network. I don't have the authority to pen new policies myself, and my supervisor cannot to be counted on to do it either. Have any of you been in this position before? How would you approach solving it without totally alienating your users? How do you broach the subject of introducing new policies with supervisors?"
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P2P Programs on K-12 Networks?

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  • Take Charge (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ouslush ( 535043 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:07PM (#3480372) Homepage
    This is obviously a problem that lies in every school district and also in college. Just take charge and let the teachers know (in a non-technical and informative way) the reasons that you want to block these specific P2P networks from being accessed. If you set a standard, people will conform
    • Re:Take Charge (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spudnic ( 32107 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:31PM (#3480599)
      Yeah, right. You must not do much work in schools. A policy is nothing unless you have a way to enforce it and penalties when it isn't followed. Teachers for some reason just can't resist downloading Gator and Bonzai Buddy for some reason.

      To the guy in the story,
      The first thing you need to do is to write a letter to whoever is directly above you and request that it be forwarded on to administration. Outline your concerns, explain any legal liabilities the school may have, cite lost man hours (translated into $$$) and instructional time caused by what's going on, and be sure to give a way (or ways) the problems can be addressed. If you don't include a potential resolution, then all you will have accomplished is that everyone knows about the problem. If the right people don't get it after you've followed the chain of command, submit it to the school board.

      The technical side of this is the easy bit. Get the political support you need from the top and then start to implement. But be sure to do your homework before you start screaming. It'll pay off in the end.

      I have worked as a consultant to quite a few K12 IT Directors who were in the same situation that you are in. This path usually works. However, some school districts want their teachers to be able to do whatever they want. If that's the District's opinion, and you can't just pack up and go elsewhere, make sure to do a good job of CYA.

      Good luck!

      • Sorry to reply to my reply, but I missed something that needs to be included in your letter. Put in there that downloading some software could open your network to attack from the Internet where bad people could gain access to student and financial data. The school board will be very protective of that and will sometimes come around if you point things like this out.

        • Since you're going to be taking charge, eliminate the support program of preference for more than 99% of viruses.

          Rather than just blocking ports, put up an FTP server as well, and hand out forms asking people what they want the school to make available on them. That way, they have to write it down and put their names to it. Explain that people making multiple downloads of the same thing was costing the school a fortune. Redirect any web or FTP request for a file ending EXE COM ZIP RAR ZOO BAT TGZ TAR.GZ RPM ISO MP3 etc to the FTP server, so if you have it, they get it and if you don't, they have to ask (put a form for that in Squid's file-not-found page).

          Actively scan the Squid logs for porn, and if you're getting reliable requests for same from a specific user or machine, print out a list, walk down and ask them if they knew that their class was downloading pornography, and could they please stop because the principal is very busy and doesn't want to get involved. Log these incidents and CC the log to the principal's office regularly. If you don't, and someone else does the busting, your ass is on the line.

          Just do it, fait accompli, and when the complaints start rolling in, log them, hand out a form, and if they refuse the form ask them why they want to send the school broke. Instantly, in writing, and CC it to the principal.

          You're in the right. Act like it. Otherwise that job's not worth having for less than USD$100k a year.
  • proxies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Turd Report ( 527733 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:08PM (#3480375) Homepage Journal
    Set up a web proxy. Firewall off everything else. Only allow port 80 traffic from workstations. It will kill off all the bandwidth eating crap, but still allow use of the internet for school.
    • Novell BorderManager (Score:2, Informative)

      by cscx ( 541332 )
      Great caching proxy server + firewall combo. Very tricky to set up, but allows auth on a per-user basis if needed. Also gets you a subscription to CyberPatrol to block "objectionable" sites if need be. The firewall is pretty good, just remember to turn off dynamic NAT or you're back to square one (duh).
  • by Ramses0 ( 63476 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:08PM (#3480379)
    I am not a big user of the P2P programs, but my first guess would be to figure out which ports are being used by common P2P programs, and then throttle them down to 0.5kbps. The trick is, that if your users are doing something illegal, it's really tough for them to complain about it running slowly. :^)

    As for how to throttle them down, I'm sure it's possible with a properly configured linux server/firewall along with some kind of proxy program.

    • throttle them down to 0.5kbps

      Ooh, now that's one I had completely overlooked... Outstanding idea. 0.5kbps might be a little low, even for this, since you'd get connections dropped and they'd probably mention it. Put it at 5kbps, though, and you should be fine, and it shouldn't impact much, either.

      Just make it extremely inconvenient to do, and people won't be as likely to do it...

    • Or instead of throttling them down, you install a logging proxy and show them that you know exactly what they are doing and when they do it. Print out a monthly report and post it in the teacher's lounge.

      If information wants to be free, then let their peers handle any wrong-doing amongst the staff by giving them all the information that you can.
      • This past weekend I was speaking with a friend who mentioned that his company had gone to a policy like this. They printed out a simple report that showed the top ten users of bandwidth at each location and the top ten domains that each person was accessing.

        The reports were made available to all company employees (I do not remember if they posted the information or just distributed it).

        He said that the total bandwidth used at each site had dropped dramatically.

        I imagine this system would also help get people to log off the system when not using it, since they do not want someone using a computer while they are logged in to access porn and use bandwidth.

        I think this system, combined with blocking several ports used by P2P systems, is the best way of dealing with it.
    • by bloggins02 ( 468782 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:41PM (#3480668)
      This is becoming the stock answer to every question in existence.

      "Say, how do you show that every simply connected manifold is homeomorphic to the 3-sphere?"

      "I don't know, but I'm sure it's possible with a properly configured linux server/firewall along with some kind of proxy program."
    • The trick is, that if your users are doing something illegal, it's really tough for them to complain about it running slowly. :^)

      because it's so illegal to use P2P applications. All those people on Usenet are doing illegal activity too

      • ... because it's so illegal to use P2P applications. All those people on Usenet are doing illegal activity too...

        Of course they're all using p2p to download their favourite indy bands, the ones the man holds down so we couldn't hear them if it weren't for kazaa, just like the rest of us.
  • New hardware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:08PM (#3480386) Journal

    You just put in a new firewall that doesn't support such things. Technical limitation, wink wink.

    In other words, lock them behind an http only proxy, or whatever other proxies they really need. You aren't a general use ISP.

    If they complain, tell them it's impossible to change, due to some complex technical matter. Just mention TCP header length and TTL and their eyes will glaze over as they nod slowly.
    • Re:New hardware (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Shipwright ( 175684 )
      Or find software to throttle down all ports but email, ftp and http - Teachers might complain about completely blocked P2P access but will they complain about horrible speed?
    • Re:New hardware (Score:4, Interesting)

      by zaius ( 147422 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:20PM (#3480506)
      This is what we do at the school where I work.

      It has the additional advantage that, if they have a problem with it and decide to bring the issue up with a higher power, they probably won't be able to explain why it's so important for them to be able to download music or images or whatever, and therefore probably won't get anywhere. A few weeks after we started blocking Napster, Gnutella and friends, the school principal sent out an email without consulting us saying that those programs were no longer allowed... most likely because he had no idea before people started complaining of what these programs were even for.

    • Re:New hardware (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:32PM (#3480609)
      Then they say, "It worked with the old guy, why can't you make it work?"

      From years as a government worker, I have noticed that if you really want change, break something and blame it on the users.

      Your systems are in chaos? Good! Stop pushing anti-virus updates, stop pushing win32 hotfixes, tftp a known bad image to your premise router, secretly push installs of quake3 and UT to all the workstations. If the users ask, say that their systems need to be reloaded to make things better.

      If they will let you install Linux, do it! If not, install win2k and all the updates. Add the user to the box as a USER and remove USER permissions to WRITE anywhere but their desktop.

      When they ask what is going on with the ability to install stuff, LIE...a lot. Claim that the latest hotfixes from M$ implement a security policy on corporate systems that only allow apps to be remotely installed from the Domain Application Server.

      In short, users expect to be lied to and they want their computers to be fast and reliable. They want their Net(not)work(tm) to actually pass packets via some type of IT system and not have to be hand-carried via a Cuban waterboy. In your situation, the users needs and expectations are converging. Take advantage of the situation and become...The Network Natzi, The BOFH, whatever you want to call it.
    • Re:New hardware (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dirkdidit ( 550955 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:37PM (#3480647) Homepage
      At the school district where I work we block all P2P software from 6am to 4pm everyday. This way teachers or other network users can still use P2P software but without slowing down the entire network.
    • by Wintersmute ( 557244 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @10:54PM (#3482201) Homepage
      I have got to hand it to those suggesting the "TCP header length blah blah string theory homeomorphic protocol" whatever. Damn, even made my eyes glaze over.

      However- there is another way to achieve that... just look up the school's legal counsel and send him an email saying that you're concerned about the liability implications of all this file sharing, and when he writes a memo to the faculty going on for 50 pages (only lawyers can write a 50-page memo) about "contributory infringement res ipsa loquitur blah blah mutatis muntandis damnum absque injuria" and how he'll want to have the server logs copied to him, your faculty will never wish they knew what a Gnutella client was.

      See, lawyers can be technocrats too.
  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:09PM (#3480387)
    You've got problems with p2p users and virus idiots? Just block all the relevant p2p ports and blame it on a computer virus. Then sit back and watch the two groups destroy each other.
  • Would you let the children drive a car without proper training, and consequences if they do something wrong?

    If not, then why on earth would you allow someone to just wantonly use a computer however they see fit?
    • i'm not aware of any pedestrians being run over by a computer being used by some kid.
      • > i'm not aware of any pedestrians being run over by a computer being used by some kid.

        You mean you've never heard of some poor innocent person getting DDoSed halfway to eternity... by a bunch of Winboxen on cable modem hookups, that had been cracked by skr1pt kiddies?

        Heck, Yahoo got knocked flat by DDoS. And where did the skript kidZ get the systems they used for it? Simple: those systems were left wide open by people just like the ones that are causing the questioner so much grief: people who will download any virus-laden executable they can get their hands on.

        On a global network, one person's insecure box is everyone else's potential attacker.

  • My favorite method at this time is to just shut off whatever I need to shut off. Limit access where it needs to be limited.

    Then when the questions start flying I just shrug and try to look dumb. "I don't know what happened to your ability to download porn at work."

    They wont know what's going on and most people despite all reason believe that computers act in a random and hurtful manner of their own volition.

    • They wont know what's going on and most people despite all reason believe that computers act in a random and hurtful manner of their own volition.

      True. But do we really want to encourage that attitude? The more someone fears his/her computer's caprice, the less likely that person is going to be to experiment with programs or OPERATING SYSTEMS (cough, cough) of slightly-less-than-average user-friendliness. I've always thought that part of having Open Source software is the ability to control your computer -- but first you must have the inclination.
  • by BlkPanther ( 515751 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:09PM (#3480395) Homepage

    Hold a meeting with your staff, and explain to them the dangers, liabilities and your other various points. Explain it so THEY will understand what you are talking about, without talking DOWN to them. If they are responsible adults, they will understand and should comply somewhat if not entirely.

    I always believe that it is easiest to reason with people before going behind their backs with rules, policies, etc. Once you have an understanding established, then apply some rules and policies, with the backing of the staff.

    Beyond that if they won't work with you, then block the common file sharing ports or throttle the bandwidth to their workstations! That will always work!

    • Explain it so THEY will understand what you are talking about, without talking DOWN to them

      Point out that bandwidth is like budget. They've all had to cut something so that everyone get some budget, and therefore understand that short budget is a zero-sum game. In this situation, your bandwidth is zero-sum.
  • I'd come up with an AUP explicitly banning P2P, not for any ideological reasons, but stating the bandwidth/virus concerns.

    Take it to the principal (or whoever administration is if you're above the individual school level), and get it approved. Use logical reasoning. By pointing out that bandwidth is very limited, and such programs are interfering with the educational use of the 'net (YES -- a legit "for the kids" argument!), you should be able to get the AUP approved. At that point, you can ban all such things, and block your incoming/outgoing ports.
    • I hate replying to myself...

      Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. No, you don't have authority to impose an AUP on your own, but if you write one for the higher-ups, that's work *THEY* don't have to do, so it should be easy approval, as long as the AUP makes sense.
    • I have worked for a local ISD (Intermediate School District) for K12 and I had to deal with the same problem on a countywide basis. Your best bet is to bring the problem to the attention of your school principal or superintendant. What I did was firewall it all, lock everything down except outgoing WWW and Mail (and some other misc specicialized stuff) and as the complaints rolled in (and they will) I simply told them that if they can justify the need/use to the superintendant of the school and the superintendant authorized it, I'd be happy to reopen the service. The key is shifting the authority to re-open the service from you to the people in charge. I'd be willing to be you won't find one teacher who will ask his boss (the superintendant) to allow them to use a warez/porn/whatever P2P program.

      Educate the superintendant on how those things are costing money, whether its lost productivity, money spent cleaning up the virus mess, whatever. Every K12 institution in the USA's main priority is MONEY (Education is an end, not means). I would also look into the laws governing content in K12 environment. I know in Michigan, there is a law called the Childrens Internet Protection Act which stated that all publicly accessed computers within the school must have content filtering enabled in order to qualify for several popular grants (a source of free money from the state). Explain that the lack of content filtering (this is pretty broad, you can extrapolate this to include P2P I'm sure) can jeopardize some serious grant money or prevent you from qualifying for it at all.

      Last but not least, leave everything open the way it is and install some traffic logging. Anonymously log traffic going to www/porn/whatever and if possible, log the traffic lost to P2P and present that evidence to the Principal/Superintendant/SchoolBoard (School Board Meetings are public forums, you probably need to get on the agenda ahead of time however they have to let you speak) and show them the stats. Even if its "10% of all web traffic from this K12 school is to WWW Porn Sites, 20% is P2P filesharing with no educational benefit" and you have documentation for it, they will not ignore it. Always document everything and Cover Your Own Ass.

    • Administration sees things in dollars and resources (man hours). That's their job. Take the above and add dollar signs.

      * More pipe to download means more $$
      * More viruses means more of your time devoted to clean up and removal and more downtime resulting in higher costs etc.

      You get the idea.

      Figure out what the cost of *your* time will be in dealing with P2P.

      Administrators know the IT staff are stretched thin, and a carefully worded statement saying something else is going to have to give or we are going to need to spend $$$$ goes a long way.
  • by -ryan ( 115102 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:10PM (#3480404)
    When it comes to implementing technology policy in any organization unfortunately the only way to be successful is to have 100% support from upper mgmt (or in your case administration). You can always regulate on your own and act like you have the authority, but sooner or later you'll piss off the wrong person and that person will just so happen to be best buds with your boss. Good luck.

    It truly amazes me how many times I've been hired or contracted to do something but not had the authority to follow through.
  • Just block the ports for the p2p. What are the teachers or students going to get all pissed, run up and say,"WTF!? You're phreaking the l33t h4x0r thing we got going! Daaaamn you!" ?
  • Acceptable use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:11PM (#3480409) Homepage

    Find out if your town or county has any kind of acceptable use policy. They probably do. Or, if your school receives state funding, perhaps there is an acceptable use policy at the state level. In short, follow the money and then check for policies.

    I'm sure you'll find that what these teachers are doing is not acceptable. Put up a firewall, do what you need to do so that P2P software doesn't work, and when they come and complain point to the policy that defines acceptable use.

    Whatever you do, enforce across the board! Don't just block the few teachers that are the problem, block the whole network. That's the best way to stay out of trouble.

    • Be very cautious when adopting acceptable use policies originally developed for other state and county agencies. It's usually a bad idea.

      The needs of an educational evironment are quite different from those of a standard workplace. A policy designed for an office full of adults doing a rather limited set of tasks will not be a good fit for a K-12 institution filled with teachers and kids. And once you've given that policy your blessing you may find yourself stuck with it for a very long time, especially if you've appealed to a higher power to enforce rules on your co-workers that you cannot. By that point you're as bound by it as anyone else, and those same co-workers are unlikely to forget that.

      If your goal is strictly to "stay out of trouble" by preventing people from doing as many things as possible then yeah, this'll probably do it. But if you're actually trying to craft workable policies and put them into practice then it'll call for some forethought, compromise, and -unavoidably - actually sitting down and talking to people about what you're trying to accomplish and why. No short cuts.
  • by Kagato ( 116051 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:11PM (#3480411)
    Well, if you can't pen policy, you can create paranoia in order to create harmony. In you case, big brother is watching. You might not be able tell people to stop, but you can pen a friendly letter explaining the legalities, liabilities, oh, and that you have the technology to log and track all internet traffic going on the network.

    A little paranoia goes a long way. And as an added benfit those you don't have to stick up for anything because you're not changing policy at all. You are "executing the due diligence required by law".
  • Been there (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CS_Bucky ( 464567 )
    I know that I have worked in a large agency (I would prefer not to name names) and we had a similar problem. We just cut them off, and waited to see who got mad. The thing is that most people have a tendency to not complain if they know that what they are doing is not completely in the best interest of where they work. The bottom line is that it is not there private connection, it is the school districts, and the school district should be aloud to limit if necessary. Now stopping these connections, that can be a bit more tricky, but there are software apps out there that will do it, or if you are really good do what we did, and write your own :).
  • Good luck...... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by isotope23 ( 210590 )
    You'll need it.

    Try for an acceptable use policy first. I would recommend you implement it at the beginning of
    the next school year (assuming non-year round school here)

    Try and get buy in from the high up muckity mucks
    and or a technology "team". I went through guiding a whole district onto the internet.
    The policy part was the toughest......

    I assume we are talking multiple k-12 sites with point to point links? If you do have routers between the schools, you could block most of the ports, (to give you breathing room)

    What are you running for OS and Network OS?

  • Send out a schoolwide e-mail to administrators, teachers, etc... everybody. Make it say something like the following:

    It has come to my attention that certain individuals have installed software which is negatively impacting the performance of our network infrastructure. I do not know if these individuals are students, faculty or staff, but it will be necessary for me to disable access to this software in order to preserve the usability of the network. If this causes any inconvenience for anyone, please contact me.

    Your Sysadmin Type Person.

    Then just close all of the p2p ports. When people complain explain to them that their software is introducing viruses onto the network and eatting up all of the bandwidth. Then add their name to a list of 'troublemakers' and wait for the chance to hose them good... Or you can just compile a list and turn it in to the administration as a list of people who are violating the network usage policy (If one is in place).

    • This is a specific follow-up to the parent.

      Before you do anything, get some logs of the worst offenders. Zip it, stuff it, tar to tap, whatever. Stick that in your back pocket becuase that is your golden parachute.

      Then block the ports. If an audit does come down and someone who has half a clue (in terms of systems and networks) is turned loose on you, simply provide an extra copy of your blackmail^D^D^D^D^D^D^D^D^D insurance policy.

      You can even run some awk scripts to show bandwith usage per minute, etc. You can make a pretty pie chart/bar graph of how screwed the offending teachers are.

      But that is only if push comes to shove. Protect yourself, block the ports, blame it on the "unapproved", virus-riddled software and silently smirk to yourself. You've earned it!
      You have your forward plan (block the jerks) and your backup plan (expose them for the bandwith hogs they are). You are officially a BOFH!!!!

      • I'm such a dork.... those ^D's should be ^H's !!!

        Wow. What a lame-o.

        So kids, let this be a lesson on why you should always hit the preview button FIRST.

        I'm gonna go hang out with my lawyer wife. She doesn't care if I get the geek jokes wrong.

  • Unfortunately, as you probably are aware there's not much you're going to be able to do without alienating most of the teachers. Many teachers tend to react towards control of their resources very harshly, since they're used to being in a position of control.

    In this case, I'd start with the usual corporate arsenal. Block unnecessary ports out, unless a teacher requests access to a particular port for a school project. Possibly put an http proxy server into place if there are particular sites that need to be blocked (but don't block carte blanche)

    Unfortunately, these policies aren't going to make you friends with any of the teachers or students, so tell anyone who wants access to the blocked ports to just get approval from the principal or superintendent, and let them make the decision to unblock a port.

    • Or, do some logging, then start closing down ports. When somebody complains, check their logs, and assuming that they're using said ports for stuff other than their jobs; i.e. piracy and pr0n, quietly inquire as to why they need such things. Then offer to grab a supervisor 'to act as an arbitrator; I don't want to seem like the harsh ogre here.' Then watch them flee like the cowards they are. Oh, and if your software can do it, unblock the ports at non-peak hours. Or implement QoS that lets the software run, but gives it lowest bandwidth priority. That way, ANYTHING else will take away their bandwidth, but if the link is idle anyway, they can rock. Unless you're running burstable. Then just mention the cost.
  • At my old high school, it wasn't p2p that was the problem. It was people streaming shit from other networks. On our tiny t-1, we had at least 10 people in our room listening to rap at max volume playing full screen music videos streaming off of a server. The admin responded immediately to the threat by blocking off Slashdot, AntiOnline, Something Awful, and all the other sites I read. I promptly downloaded Kazaa and began to download anime to watch. Moral of this story is, find the real cause of the problem, and act on that, instead of just against the nerds.
  • by pe1rxq ( 141710 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:14PM (#3480439) Homepage Journal
    Simple: don't block them, just limit traffic to and from the ports the p2p systems use.
    With a linux firewall this is easy to do with qos and such.

    They can still use p2p systems, you just limit the bandwidth to levels not harming genuine educational use. This shouldn't be hard to sell to your supervisors.


  • ...I can tell you that you will be widely hated for your stance on this. But with limited bandwidth and the inhernt legal problems, I really can't blame you. I'd sugest that whatever means you find to stop people, you lay out the reasons why it absolutely cannot be tolerated at school, and mention that you don't view p2p file trading itself as bad, just the use of school resources for it.

    A "no gnutella" policy alone without explained reasoning will just make you look like a typical asshole-school-administrator type, and that will only make your job more miserable.
  • Hi.
    I sympathise. These people aren't *evil* and they aren't *misguided*, they have just ben (ignored) and allowed to get away with too much useage for too long.

    They are intelligent, else they wouldn't be teachers. So be reasonable.

    Post something [physical] somewhere [physically] obvious and non-threatening.

    'Hi I'm your new sysadmin. Nice to meet y'all. I have a problem: We have xKb/ month for education, and yKb/ month is being taken up with (all the things you are concerned about)

    Here are my rules....(name them)

    If anyone has a problem with these, I'd be really interested in your thoughts.
    You can come find me in room z, or mail me at roomz.wherever


    BOFH (or whatever your real name is)


    I promise, this will shift 70, 80% of the problem, then you can start to worry about the ones that ignore this.

  • If you've been given responsibility of managing the networks and systems then you have been given the rights to stop whatever you see fit.

    Computer networks are not democracies. Start closing accounts, add firewalls, put in traffic management, routing ACLs, file space quotas, virus scanning.

    The administrators job is to make sure that the systems and networks function smoothly. If you're not up to that and the personality clashes that inevitably includes then you shouldn't be an administrator.

    You don't need backed up by spineless management. *You* have the administrative control. Use it.

  • by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:16PM (#3480467)
    I am from the RIAAA [as far as you know] and am hereby officially notifying you, as an administrator or electronic services at your institution, to cease and desist illegal activity or face civil and criminal prosecution.

    When they complain, just tell them you were given a cease and desist notice ;)
  • ... but shutting them down is neccesary to maintain harmony (and legality)

    That right there is all the argument you need. These services are being used for illigal purposes.
    Every school I've ever heard of is so scared of lawsuits they can barely teach their students. Tell anyone who complains to tell the principal who will almost certainly side on the 'legally safe' side.

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ryanr ( 30917 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:18PM (#3480484) Homepage Journal
    Let's see... you have no policy, you can't get one, you can't just cut people off....

    You could make the P2P stuff run so slow as to be useless... or you could send your own trojans that will erase the drives of the problem users...or you could send them porn, and get them fired...(oh, and don't get caught doing any of the above.)

    Or, perhaps you're just screwed because you're trying to enforce rules where you have no authority to do so. I'm not neccessarily saying you shouldn't have the authority... just that you clearly don't, and any attempt to enforce your idea of policy is bound to cause you trouble. You time is probably best spent figuring out how to get a policy.
  • by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:18PM (#3480490) Homepage Journal
    If you block the P2P software and make it the official policy that it should not be used, document that thoroughly. Make sure that it's expressly for the purpose of keeping unlicensed software out of your system. Then, insist that everyone show their licenses for their software. Put up big posters explaining that you are doing this because it's important to comply with the law. Become the biggest pain in the butt to everyone who opposes you.

    Then, just before you think they've all had enough of you and can fire you, call the BSA on yourself. When that phone call from the BSA comes, you can point at all your policies and say that all along you were just trying to avoid that exact situation. Suddenly all the babies who were crying because you took away their Kazaa will be viewed as the real problem in the organization. You will have achieved Total Management Support (TM).
  • What I have done in the past is to write out the policy in a form that would only require a signature. Then present it to the powers that be. If they need explainations, then explain why this policy is necessary.

    The trick overall is to do as much legwork as possible so the boss has very little to do but read and sign. If you approach the boss saying "I need you to write a policy to ban people downloading porn." then you add to your bosses workload. If you say "Here is a policy that prohibits downloading porn on the network, please approve it", then the bosses time committment is significantly reduced and the likelyhood of it being implemented is high.

    Of course, stay on it, daily if needed. It may not hurt to create a graph or two showing bandwidth utilization vs. time of day, broken down by workstation. It would probably be even better if use used something to capture the stream so you could show your boss exactly what these people are doing.

    If all that doesn't work, don't be afraid to document (via email or other dated message delivery service like sending it to yourself in a USPS letter) everything that you asked to have happen, when you asked, the results, etc, etc... create the paper trail. Then be prepared to go above the boss (PTA, School Board, Press).

  • Cover your ass (Score:2, Interesting)

    Been there, done that, nearly got sued.

    Block the ports. Clearly (and simply) explain the problem. Tell them that your supervisor must make that kind of (legal) call.

    Talk to your supervisor/Dean/Principle. Make *them* sign off on any open ports/applications.
  • Education. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tcc ( 140386 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:19PM (#3480502) Homepage Journal
    You're in a school, this is would be one of the BEST environment to educate the people about all of these issues. You'll say that some people won't give a rat, but that's like in society in general, if people don't give a rat and anarchy reigns, stronger measure needs to be taken.

    I might have gotten something wrong but if you're managing the network, usually it falls within your responsibilities to make sure to implement EVERYTHING (including some policy, or at least submitting them) for the proper operation of the network, which includes both load balancing, security and legality (to a certain extent, at least proving that you thought about it and implemented it to a certain level won't hurt).

    Now if we tell you to cut down trees for a paper company and we hand you a kitchen knife, you'll say "you're crazy", well same goes with being an admin, if you're ADMIN and you can't do zit, it's a big issue. If it was a mess before you arrived, probably that the organization was a mess in the first place, I'd document everything, put up a structure of the network and who's responsible for what, limit the number of people that have "power" over the administration because as we all know, the more admins on a box, the more potential problems. So you have to do your part, be professionnal, use people's experience and be opened to suggestion, but at the same time, document every problem, and don't always go to your supervisor saying all of the problems, he's probably already familiar with them, for every problem, bring in a solution or two with arguments and documented facts (and normally supervisors like having a choice and feel like they did the work so... use that to your advantage).

    As for the P2P application, I've fixed the problem at work, I've putted QoS and 1-2K/s on the total bandwidth, it's transparent "it's still working so I didn't do anything" and when those dead weights would come and see me "well probably its not optimized for our network structure and I have enough work to do, if this is a priority, go see your manager or big boss". It's politically correct since you didn't block the port and the user has no idea on what's really going on (unless reading slashdot :) ) , and it put the user in a situation where he would have to go look his manager to ask to waste time leeching (which he will obviously won't do :) ) and I get no heat. Dunno up to what it could extend since where I work most people are reasonable and mature, and school isn't the same environment, but then again, it's a suggestion and I'm sure a lot of people here will have many more.

    Good luck.

    • Obviously, you've never worked in a school enviroment before. I'm guessing you're corporate, but a much smaller level (even Fortune 500's have more politics than your work). Small but growing regional business? Anyways, let me get back on topic.

      I briefly worked on a smallscale rollout project for a major (top 50 in population) city school system. There were ongoing political issues at the the superintendent level, unrelated to our technical problems, but likely to affect everyone's job one way or another. But virus problems were becoming impossible to deal with, so they moved the date forward for another rollout project, and added a Norton AV procedure.

      Let me tell you, even the smoothest Windows rollout project sucks, they are never interesting no matter what. You never learn much, but when times are tight like they have been...

      Well, the firm I usually deal with, calls up with this job, and they tell me 5-7 months of steady work. Those in the know, know that this means at best 3-5 months of less than 40 hours per week, but that was figured into my equations. They make it out that this is as simple as it gets, just me and another fellow, to make it last longer, and spread out the cost for the school system (Don't these places have an annual budget?!? Don't ask me...). No problem. Only after awhile, does it become apparent that this guy was only barely competent to begin with.

      Well, this tech firm (which will remain nameless, they've sued ex-employees before over such) put the new sales rep on the school. That was bad. When the school says they just want the 2 grunts, and want to use one of their admins for the project manager, he agrees. Doesn't even diplomatically suggest different. He meets with her several times, still doesn't suggest otherwise. She was, unfortunately, a total ditz that apparently passed a CNE bootcamp course a few years back. But if her technical competency was horrible, then her management skills were absolutely abysmal. This had disaster written all over it, right from the beginning.

      Well, you remember how I said that it was a rollout already planned? Well, the bulk of it was for some Novell Netware software, zenworks client, a few other things that I never actually learned of. Well, the ditz CNE's boss (also a woman, hate to be sexist but...) was having a power lunch with the VAR who was pushing the nw software. And she signed the deal, I think this was for at least $90,000... only this particular software only works with NT. There was no netware equivalent. 100 grand, gone like that. I don't know what was worse, that she would buy software that she obviously had no clue about, or that there is a VAR out there that sleezy.

      I go into the briefing, just the tech firm, no client people there. I ask, time and again, was this tested, was that... "Yes, everything has been tested thoroughly, we expect you to be able to do the installs 20 minutes tops, per station". We start the next week, at City Hall (the admin offices are the top 3 floors). It's a total mess. The dumbass CNE/admin decides that first morning, that she would like us to do an inventory at the same time. Hands us some copies of paperwork, standard SN, asset #, etc. We're talking close to 25,000 machines throughout the school district (though not all are in scope for this rollout, maybe only half that). What does she think, that it means anything on paper? Is she gonna do data entry herself, when we turn these in? Or is she just trying to sabotage us even more?

      In the administrative offices, there is a mixture of Win95a/win95b/win98/NT4/win2k. Wide variety of machines, including some new ones being installed by school technicians. The new ones are compaq... but they have no contract with compaq at all. I'm guessing Compaq salespeople somehow knew what a mess it was, and wanted nothing to do with it. We are given nothing at all like real procedure documentation... I could write docs better than this. A single page. 1. The grammar was awful, and it basically said install this software. We ended up discovering for ourselves just what options were needed. In the offices, close to 1 in 3 machines broke badly when installing the software, even after we figured out the correct options. Bloated registries, version dll soup, user installed software, all kinds of different things. We were spending up to 2 hours per machine, and the one week at city hall turns into 3. The sales rep lets us know the client is a little bit upset, and can't understand what the problem is.

      Well, we move on to the first school. God, it was horrible, when I was in school, there were 3 Apple IIe's in the science room, for a month (They got switched out to another school in the county after that). In this school, there were no less 14 computer labs, all with 20+ machines. Every other room had at least 1 and sometimes 2 machines. 95% pII +. What did they teach these kids? Well, they taught them to be secretaries and other minimum wage type things. Any number of incredibly cool things to be teaching them, but no, just word processing, maybe spreadsheets (though I could never confirm that one).

      We get there, and no one has even heard there will be any work done on the computers. 2 days to straighten that out. We can do work now, but only after 2pm (but the doors lock at 4pm, have to be out by then). Most of the labs lock all the keyboards up, and no one has a key (apparently they get vandalized or stolen). Lose another 3 days there. We get permission from individual teachers to do this, before 2pm. But code red alerts happen at least twice per day. This is when even though the bell rings, and its time for a new class, the kids all have to stay in the current one. The teacher locks the door, and the sherrif and deputies go through the halls grabbing all the dope dealers. Code red's never happen at a set time, so we end up missing a progress meeting with the ditz CNE. That was bad.
      Then, most of the lab machines are win95b, but haven't been reinstalled in over 4 years. Registries bloated so badly, that maybe only 15 out of 25 machines in any given lab are usable (and they've been like that for months, since the school techs refuse to support any machine not in the administrative offices). Of the 15, roughly 5 will have one set of win95 lockdown software on them, another 5 will have a different lockdown software, and 2 will have a third lockdown app. The rest have none. No one remembers or ever knew the passwords. When we do manage to disable it, if we can, it takes forever to learn just how to make it behave. But once our software install is complete, the machines become more unstable than anything I have EVER seen before. We end up rendering an entire lab unusable. We call up the ditz, she says if they still boot, proceed. They do boot up (most of the time), so we end up doing every lab in the school. We end up rendering all of them unusable. Complaints fly all over the place.

      The sales rep arranges an emergency meeting with the ditz, her boss, and us. Plus another engineer from our firm, whom I question even his competency. We explain everything, including how this could only be expected when absolutely no testing was done beforehand. We explain that win95 is completely unsuitable, but even more so, when it isn't pristine (which is unbelievably generous, these had NEVER been reinstalled) you'll see these sorts of problems. We explain that the lockdown software is part of the problem, but not all of it. So they decide that the other tech will go work on another project, and that I and the engineer will go see if there is any salvaging it. We manage to go back to one of the labs we'd done. 2 hours there were enough to convince him (I winced at first, the first machine he turned on had almost no probelms). Every machine would BSOD. It would do the windows partial freezes, the buzzing mouse, all your favorite win95 problems. Some of the machines died at bootup, conflicts with the lockout software. He agrees that we can't go on as we had.

      So, we make a proposal to spend a few weeks building install images and doing testing. We'll install 95 back on them, since that's all there is for licenses, but it will be pristine, each machine will have an identical image build. We'll standardize on one lockdown app, with documented passwords, etc.

      Offer rejected. Too much embarrassment, I think that we made it clear that we had a clue, and all along knew how retarded they were. Also had a little bit to do with their strict no reinstall policy (I'm not making that up). Seems that at least 3 other dept's had claims on certain machines/labs, donations and what not. And their was enough inter-departmental rivalry, that IT wouldn't reinstall OS's, mostly because each dept wanted the same apps installed that were on the machines when donated. Which is utterly ridiculous, since M$ office was all that was ever used.

      I got 6 week's worth of paychecks out of it. For trashing an entire school's worth of computers. Which, as far as I know, are still not functioning. Not that anyone cares. I do in a way, but have zero control over any of it. Makes me sick that my tax dollars pay for it.

      Solution for the original slashdt asker:
      Find another job in a non-k12 setting.

      Nothing can fix your situation. You may be the only one there qualified to teach anything having to do with computers, and you are not a teacher. The computers are a waste of tax dollars in their current capacity, and are only ever used for the most outrageous abuses. The shit will hit the fan, though maybe not for awhile yet, and you do not want to be there when it does.

  • by rhizome ( 115711 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:21PM (#3480513) Homepage Journal
    Use a FreeBSD gateway machine with DUMMYNET. FreeBSD can be configured so that it: a) doesn't have to replace the existing firewall; and b) is invisible so it doesn't show up on traceroutes. This is so that clueful users are not tipped off in a way that lets them complain like pornhounds on a free NNTP service. DUMMYNET will let you set up bandwidth policies based on (groups of) IPs, ports, and more. Client subnets can have full bandwidth on port 80, but the gateway can shut them down to 28.8 on the P2P ports. The possibilities are really open in a situation like this, and any junk computer can be used.
  • As a coder and not an admin, I can't agree completely that P2P programs have absolutely no educational value.

    In addition, isn't bandwidth wasted if it's not completely used? A good idea would be to find an acceptable bandwidth limit per workstation (total, and throttle each machine to that limit. That way, it doesn't matter what they're doing, they won't be hurting anyone else.

    Although the complaints about viruses seem legitimate, I've never gotten one from an mp3.

    The possibility of legal exposure isn't your concern. You're a network admin, not a lawyer.

  • by cballowe ( 318307 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:25PM (#3480547) Homepage
    First thing to do is ask them if they were happy with the level of support they had before. Since you are claiming that some goofballs messed things up, it's best to start with the goofballs and try to define what they did and didn't do right. I wouldn't expect most K-12 institutions to have a good network security policy in place.

    In order to get one defined, you need to start talking to administrators. Find out which services they desire to provide and which they don't. Point out that most security and network use policies these days start by defining what you are allowed to do and blocking the rest of the traffic. Put out an request to the staff that they give you a list of applications that they use for purposes of education and then get a group together to review that list. If something strikes you as questionable, ask the person to justify it.

    You'll also, more than likely, want to get a list put together of officially supported software and a procedure for getting a piece of software onto the officially supported list. This keeps people from coming to you and saying "I can't download files with Morpheus" because you can just say "Is it on this list? No? Then not my problem." Part of the process of getting something on that list might be a written justification of why it should be there, and for comercial software proof of license.

    You don't want to be the only one makeing decisions. You should get a committee together. You'll want an administrator and a staff member on the committee. Decisions about what will and will not be supported will be made by the committee. You need these people because they understand the classroom, that's not your job.

    If it comes to it, you might want to take a look at your job description. Figure out what parts of your job you can do, and which parts will need a more defined policy to enable you to do your job properly. This is important -- if your job description says "support educational activities requireing network access and use of the internet," whacking traffic that doesn't fall into those categories is clearly a part of your job as it increases bandwidth availability for educational purposes. When somebody complains, you need something you can point to for the purpose of defending your actions.

    Start at the top, schedule some meetings with administrators and express your concerns to them. Most school administrators are reasonable people and when you explain that these things are necessary for a smooth running system they'll understand. Also, most school administrators are scared sh*tless of the words "potential lawsuit", don't be afraid to use it.
  • Linux 2.4.x networking supports traffic control / quality of service.

    Read up on the advanced networking: []

    I use this on my home network to keep bandwidth usage allocated correctly on my cable modem connection. It works great. I have 20ms latency while gnutella, kazaa, and FTP uploads are all running concurrently.

    This prevents you from the task of blocking them out completely, while ensuring that high priority student/teacher use of the net remains fast.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hi! ( hang my head ) I'm an anonymous coward, and I'm a politician.

    I'm on a county board of education in Calif. Send a note to your supervisor detailing the legal liability your district is in. Perhaps include the latest Microsoft tactics in auditing school districts with a heavy fist.

    Tell him this is something which needs to be fixed with a written policy ASAP, or you'll need to go to the board. Tell him you'll be willing to draft this policy. If he and the board have any sense they will thank you. Likely they are all unaware of the legal problems which they could face. Legal problems gets noticed.

  • There are lots of things you can do to solve these problems, then when thay come to you say "technical limitation", hawever that is the wrong way to handle this.
    Lay it out for them.
    we have X bandwidth, your unauthorized programs use Y bandwidth, and we can't afford that.

    People downloading certian programs have set us up for legal liability.

    Peopledownloading unauthorized programs have cast the school X amount in IS labor.

    Then tell them your putting in a firewall, and blocking ports.
    Write a letter up the chain. send it to your boss, and his boss. if they don't like it, have them send you an email, or written request telling you not to do it. then don't do it.

    This way you've a)found the problem b)proposed a reasonable solution that doesn't block the staff from using the system as a learning and business tool.
    c)you've covered your ass.
    If they give you too much grief, send a write up to the board and to parent, clearly explaining that there tax dollars the go to the schools tight budget is being wasted with legally dubious activities by the teachers.

    if your feeling nasty, just monitor email until something incriminating come along, use it.

    Did I type that last part?
  • Well, instead of trying to get policies written to prohibit certain uses, couldn't you instead appeal to your bosses' sense of fear?

    That is, explain that the current firewall setup puts the schools at all kinds of risk: virii, copyright violations, etc, etc.

    Then, propose that the proper firewall setup will allow only certain types of "safer" access. (Make sure to throw in a comment about how this should have been done by your predecessor(s) when the network was set up.)

    Once you've got approval, your email should include a blurb saying that additional requests will be handled on a case by case basis. (And, don't be queasy about asking faculty members what they're asking for, and how it relates to their educational objectives...)

  • My friend and some associates started a wireless ISP sharing a T1. A few residential users started using P2P such as Bearshare and Morphius to share out 'their' files. That saturated our T1 line. We used FreeBSD and the altq program which allowed us to throttle traffic and bandwidth as we saw fit. The current setup is that http traffic gets about 70% of priority with all 'other' traffic sharing the remaining 30%. If the http traffic is not in use, then the 30% group and grow. But if http starts back up again, then the 30% group is throttle back to 30%.

    A suggestion to the gentleman in the school district would be to evaluate the 'critical' traffic that your teachers and administrators need. I would think http would be the first priority. Start by giving 60% to 70% of bandwidth to http then the remaining 30% to 40% to everything else. This includes ftp, RealPlayer, Streaming music, IRC chat, anything. Now, what this gains you is that you give limited bandwidth to other programs, but you don't shut anyone down. Your users with complain that ftp downloading is slow, but their web surfing is extremely fast.

    On our network we have noticed that the amount of use on BearShare and Morpheius and P2P file sharing has dwindled. Only those that put up with the slower speeds are using them.

    Good luck.

    Version: 3.12
    GIT/>CS d(+) s:+ a- C++$ UB++++ P+>++ L- E--- W++>+++ N o+ K? w-->--- O- M>+ V-- PS(+@) PE+>() Y+>++ PGP+>++ t(+) 5- X(+) R+(++) tv+ b+ DI D+(++) G++ e+>+++ h---() r+++ y?
    ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
  • Have you thought about leaking word of the activity to some media outlet (asking for confidentiality, of course)? Seems to me a story of malfeasance by employees and waste of government resources would be irresistible . A call or two from some reporter asking about it would get a new policy put in place at light speed I'm betting.
  • If you don't have the authority to do your job, manage your limited resources or ever get the authority to do so, you will never be able to do your job. If you can't tell someone to stop, and they will never be punished for doing so, then they never will stop doing what they are doing.

    I would simply brush up my resume and tell the school district that if you don't get the complete and absolute authority to manage the limited resources they have given you, you will quit. Make sure back it up if they say no. If you pull a hollow threat, you can kiss any future ability to manage your limited resources goodbye.

  • As others have posted, the best way to do it is just cut off anything that doesn't serve an education-related purpose.

    Back when Napster was hot, we had a sort-of-high-level person at our company call the helpdesk complaining that he couldn't swap files on it, and felt this was a problem that needed to be "fixed". I don't know what was said directly back to him (probably something like "it's not supposed to work"), but the call was just pushed aside by the IT staff. No complaints since.
  • by Chibi ( 232518 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:39PM (#3480661) Journal

    This is mostly about how to bring this topic to the attention of your supervisors, since if your users are already saying there's no official policy against using p2p apps, they'll likely to just tell you to get bent on further discussion.

    Over the past year or so, there have been plenty of universities that have made decisions on P2P apps, going in both directions. You can use some of these instituions as examples of why you need to police this kind of traffic. Bring up the same reasons that these universities did, and that you brought up in your question (mainly legal protection and consumption of resources).

    Here are a few examples:

    There are also articles on other sites that list some of the universites that have banned Napster. Here's one article: [] . They mention the following universities: Kent State, Rice, Seton Hall and Villanova. I'm sure there are others.

    You can argue that if these major universities with plenty of money can't handle this traffic, how is your small public school district supposed to handle it? Hopefully, the money argument will help you out.

    One final thing you can do (and this is fighting dirty), is point out how much pr0n is out there on p2p apps. That should get someone's attention.

  • (First, as a bit of friendly advice, I'd suggest not publishing comments that refer to your colleagues as "a bunch of goofballs". Perhaps they are, but perhaps they were subject to restrictions such as those that you're now encountering and weren't able to do their jobs effectively. In any case, such criticism won't help you now and might hurt you later.)

    Getting something to happen in an organization involves building a business case for it, and presenting the case to your supervisors. Briefly, a business case justifies an action by demonstrating a benefit, usually a financial one. So, perhaps a case based around an argument such as "We're spending X dollars per month for our Internet access, but Y percent of that access is for non-school purposes. We could save Z dollars if we implemented policies A and B." would be effective. Risk reduction, such as protection from the legal liability you mentioned, can also be a justification. So if you have proof that the school's computers are being used for illegal purposes, then present it and describe the steps you could take to protect the school from liability. Another justification might be improved service to your clients (the staff and students, in your case); this sort of justification is harder to use, because it's harder to quantify, but it can be effective.

    You might find that a supervisor who wasn't willing to act based on a verbal discussion will take action based on a written business case, which he or she can pass up the chain of command. Remember that your supervisor might, quite justifiably, not understand the issue well enough to create a case for it, and therefore might be unable to take any action unless you provide some hardcopy ammunition.

    It shouldn't be too hard to find some resources on the net that help you to learn how to build a good business case. It's a great skill to develop. Good luck!

  • I have to admit that I was a bit shocked, when I first read this post, as every K12 district I've seen (and before you ask, it's quite a few, as I have several teachers and an educational IT consultant in my family and close friends) already has a policy limiting use of the Internet on their network to approved educational tasks. This almost universally includes the teachers, as well. These policies are usually worded so as to restrict everything by default, and explicitly allow only certain ports/hosts to carry important services (web browsing, email, etc.)...kind of like a good set of firewall rules.

    Really, this shouldn't be an issue. Your district should have policies in place to protect the network from user stupidity, and if it doesn't, you're just going to be up shit creek. Cutting off ports, throttling bandwidth, etc., are only going to be successful as long as your users are complacent, effectively computer (or at least networking) illiterate, and willing to believe the BS you hand them by way of explanation. One competent user in the bunch could cause serious problems for you, once you've established a pattern of simply lying through your teeth about what's going on.
  • Stupid Responses (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:48PM (#3480729)
    Frankly, anyone who says that you should be scretly throttling the P2P ports is giving you bad advice. You are paid to give a service to the school - which is to provide IT services.

    Part of that, as you have capably done, is identifying areas that need improvement or fixing (such as the P2P problem you mentioned). Your position doesn't entitle you to be judge jury and executioner though!

    If illegal downloads are a problem, then you need to talk to the head of the school. You need to explain the legal and financial risk of allowing these downloads to continue. You need to highlight the the financial and bandwidth cost that the downloads are incurring etc etc. If the head of the school says, 'Yes, we agree. Do something to fix it' Well you just got your policy and you have carte blanche to fix it - ie block ports or whatever.

    If the head of the school says, 'No, I don't want you to do anything'. Then don't. It's not your problem anymore. The head of the school has just accepted responsibility for any related issues that will occur from this continued use of P2P.

    You shouldn't be doing underhand sneaky tech tricks to get the results you want on a problem that is more political in nature than technical. Doing so will mean you get out of your depth and fired.

    • This is not to say that the solutions that have been suggested aren't worthwhile or effective from a technical standpoint.

      But from a political view, using any of the suggestions will not be good if you are found out. Yes, you can go on about how as the sysadmin, you should have full rights over the network and IT facilities, but that is not how staff will view your position.

      To them, you will be seen as implementing your own personal adgenda without consultation with staff or admin. That is not a good impression for people to have of you. So don't lie, don't secretly throttle bandwidth, don't secretly block the ports. Get admin onside first, then do those things.
  • by intuition ( 74209 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @06:51PM (#3480750) Homepage
    What is it about systems administration that makes people all high and mighty all of a sudden.

    There are reasons that this administrator can't arbitrarily set policies or change things according to his own whim. Now, if his job was to set up initial access to the internet, perhaps it would of been more appropriate (but not completely) in so far as a exercising certain level of discretion in how the connection to the internet is structured (proxies/firewalls/etc/).

    However, the system is in a steady state, and this administrator has no basis to change it. Its (in all likelyhood) not this administrator's job to manage legal liability or even determine if p2p applications are an appropriate use.

    Just as teachers can't change their curriculms as they see fit, without some oversight by the administration - administrator's have no right to make these kinds of decisions based on "what they feel is best."

    The administrator however is completely within the realm of what is right and proper to make an observation, (p2p is consuming all our resources), and share it with those people that are in a position to change policy. If you really feel p2p is this horrible, find some users who are affected by it (complain they can't use or their use is substantially affected by p2p traffic.) Bottom line is, if upper management doesn't care, you shouldn't either. Run the network with a hands off approach, much like slashdot does with its comments section. If there are technical problems fix them, if there are ethical problems save the decision making to the people whose responsibility it is to make these decisions.
  • I liked the suggestion of throttling the bandwidth on the ports in use. But make it more gradual. When you start, throttle it to about 1/4 of the total bandwidth, then decrease it by a rather sizeable percentage every few days until you're at the bandwidth that ping uses.

    The network is already running slowly as it is, so the teachers and other abusers already are expecting it to run somewhat slowly. If someone DOES complain about it, draft a well written proposal to your supervisors or the school board or both, claiming that more money is needed for additional bandwidth because the teachers (and include the names of those who complain) NEED these programs so they can trade music, illegally copied programs, and porn while at work. Specify that you don't see any legitimate use for these programs at school, but since their policy doesn't forbid them, you need the bandwidth increase so the teachers can continue to use them.

    I'm guessing that anyone with half a brain will take a look at that and you will have your broad policy change that's needed.

  • I work in a K-12 district in Michigan, and have some experience with all the problems that come with such work. I have a few tidbits to share. First of all, check out about getting eRate money to buy a bigger pipe. This is almost a must, expecially as you get to be bigger. Second, get support from your administration. If you can't get someone like a Superintendent or Asst. Superintendent (ours in an Ex-Programmer which makes life so much easier) to help you, you're virtually screwed. With their support, having an uninstall fest will be a lot easier.

    Next, you're going to want to set up a firewall and IDS system to keep P2P off your network. We use redundant Cisco Pix units, but a dual-homed machine with Linux or xBSD will work fine if you don't have that kind of change lying around :-) Set up rules for the IDS to check for P2P, Porn, Games, etc. We are in the testing phases of doing just this. The security-focus IDS list can be has been a big help.

    As for the virus problem, Norton Corperate has great educational pricing, and can be set up so the (l)users can't play with it. Requires NT, though, but educational pricing is still cheap (before MS's new school licencing rolls out) and I'm sure you probably have a box laying around :-)

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  • How We Do It - K-12 (Score:5, Informative)

    by JLester ( 9518 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @07:06PM (#3480868)
    As Manager of Technology for a K-12 school division, I can tell you how we do it. First of all, your system should have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Students and parents should receive a copy of it each year during registration. Ours is included in the Parent/Student Handbook. All students who use the Internet must have a signed form from their parents granting privileges. Ours includes language that states that Internet access is for educational use only! Even though it isn't strictly enforced (we do allow entertainment sites for example), that language is there to back us up on content and P2P decisions.

    Since students and teachers use the same network and computers, all are subject to the same policies and filters. We transparent proxy all requests to port 80 and 554 through iPrisms which filter and then pass the request on to a Squid proxy that generally runs at about a 40% hit ratio. All other Internet traffic passes through our Cisco firewall which performs NAT based on an access list. That access list denies NAT for all the popular instant messaging and P2P applications. Since all computer addresses are private, no NAT means no access. Instant messaging is blocked after an incident where a bomb threat came in that was untraceable according to AOL. P2P filtering is obvious due to copyright violations and bandwidth usage. It is interesting to watch the hits on our access lists from P2P apps that are denied. Kazaa seems to be the most popular, we block several million Kazaa packets each week.

    That's how we do it, if you have any questions, let me know.

  • by ahde ( 95143 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @07:29PM (#3481046) Homepage
    Once upon a time, social engineering was a valuable part of a hacker's skillset. I suggest buying (and reading) a copy of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" -- or just going directly to the teachers. Tell them you're the new guy working on the networks and you're trying to analyze and optimize and [insert other techincal sounding word here] the network. Ask them if you can schedule 5 minutes of their time, say next Thursday just before lunch? Explain the bandwidth problem, tell them that programs such as Kazaa and Back Orifice are not allowed on the school network. You can even type up a list of what's inappropriate yourself (and put a graphic border around it) and title it "Official District Network Acceptable Use Policy." Explain that you've been given the job to set up a firewall and set up bandwidth caps to prevent viruses and potential access to porn and pirated MP3s. Express your sympathy for their inconvenience (at this point they will admit it is hardly any inconvenience at all to have to wait to get home and download porn), and ask if there is anything you can do to help them out. You can show them a couple cool sites, teach them to defrag, dust out the chalkboard erasers, and leave an apple on their desk. Let them know that all traffic is being logged, and that your superviser receives a weekly summary, so they shouldn't feel any need to narc on their fellow teachers. Tell them if they have any questions, don't hesitate to call you or your superviser.
  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @07:34PM (#3481087)
    Your best bet is probably to just act without concent from those above you. Most of the time asking clueless authority figures to take a stance on specific policy is a bad idea. If you tell someone "P2P filesharing is bad" they will extend it to absurd levels of stupidity. You are the administrator, do your job as such.

    A good idea is something like dummynet between your internal network and your router. You can throttle bandwidth or add queues (simulates lag) to specific services over your network according to IP addresses or service ports. You can force an even bandwidth distribution between all the hosts connecting through port 80 but throttle back the speed of anything coming through other ports. You don'y necessarily have to block file sharing requests but you can keep them from dominating your network. Once you remove the incentive for people to use P2P services on the school's network they will knock it off.
  • Steps (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @08:15PM (#3481369) Homepage Journal
    By far the most important thing you can do is get the administration on your side. They can be absolute idiots (most are) but you still need them to believe what you tell them. You'll need their support for $$ and for creating new policies. This is the most important step. Without their support, you'll be pissing into gail-force winds wearing white pants.

    Once you have their support, analyze and gather data. Get proof of how much network bandwidth is being consumed by non-educational applications. A good sniffer can do this for you. I'm an old school Mac user. I use Etherpeek for this task. It's cheaper than most other sniffers. You could also see if a peer school could assist you if they have already purchased a sniffer. That would save you some cash up front. Gather the data. Graph the results (suits are usually illiterate so you'll need nice pretty graphs). In your initial report, don't list specific people. K-12 school politics run rampant. If some jackass teacher thinks you're infringing on their "rights", they'll run screaming to their KNEA rep (or whatever it's named in your state). Then you'll lose you suits' support. Keep it personel neutral unless they ask for it. Present to the suits how much this non-educational software is costing the school district in the form of bandwidth and how it's affecting educational uses of the network. Find horror stories of what allowing the students to access porn, warez, and other things like that have cost other schools. Throw in a bit of security preaching too. Show them the effects of lack of security (defaced websites, compromised personal information, grade altering, etc..). Demonstrate a few of the apps for these people. Show them how to find a copy of Photoshop on the 'Net. Then show them how much it costs in a magazine. Toss is a little threatening material about the bastards that threaten to sue you if you don't let them install their auditing software. BSA, IIRC. Show the suits how you can save money by eliminating the non-educational uses of the I1 bandwidth (don't attack local traffic, just 'Net traffic). Emphasize the use of cheaper (read: free) alternatives like Linux for firewalls. Remember, money counts right now. Money, security, etc.. should do the trick. Good luck!

  • by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @09:54PM (#3481949)
    Ask your supervisor to delegate to you the authority needed to set domain policy.

    This authority may be pen-and-paper authority to write new regulations that he affixes his name to, or it may be network-level authority in a computer system to edit security policies and permissions on the routers.

    Or, do what usually works:

    Write what *you* think the ideal proposal for the situation is, and give it to your supervisor saying "I've noticed a problem and I realize you're really busy so it may not have been a priority for you; however, I took an initiative to try to address it. If you find this acceptable, perhaps you could pass it on to someone else?"

    You'll get points for initiative at least.
  • Go voyeuristic! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @10:40PM (#3482155) Homepage
    Just install webcams pointing at every single monitor in the building, all displaying on your own console in a dark room behind a one-way mirror. When you spot any pr0n or other undesirable usage, just put on some cool shades and walk up to the luser's box, right in his face. Put on some gloves and snip the PC's power cord with cable cutters while saying "Access Denied" through a portable voice morpher.

    Then punch the living shiznit out of the fuckin' unrespectful perv.
  • My two bits. (Score:4, Informative)

    by _aa_ ( 63092 ) <> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @12:56AM (#3482658) Homepage Journal
    I hate firewalls, proxies, and that crap. They don't really stop anything.. they just funnel it all into 1 port. Instead.. I would suggest per user bandwidth/disk quotas. Also.. like lockers.. the systems are school property, not faculty or student. Thus, I don't think there's any right to privacy. Snoop, spy, sniff till your heart's content. As important as I think privacy is, I don't feel it is a right at school or at work. I feel it is a privaledge that can and often is abused. Legality aside, if you're doing something you don't want other people to know about, it's probably not too smart to do it at work or school. Faculty or students can probably look at the post-it note under your keyboard and violate your privacy just as easily as the administration. If you get caught doing something you shouldn't do, you have noone to blame but yourself.

    Of course, I would not outlaw all recreational use. If some kids would like to play a spirited match of BZFlag during their lunch break, so be it. Turn students and faculty onto legal ways to enjoy computers. A policy of, "NO FUN 4 U!" will only succeed in turning teachers and students off of computers. There's tons of free fun crap on the net.
  • Lie to no one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @01:30AM (#3482755) Homepage
    I suggest you ignore all the advice to do something behind everyone's back and then lie about it. If you get caught once in a lie, everyone views you as a liar. This is tactially unsuccessful, quite aside from moral issues.

    You really ought to set up a good firewall and Squid proxy server, though. That's just common sense; you don't want people hacking in to the school, and when a whole class hits a web site, you want 1 person to load the cache and 29 people to read the cache (not 30 people pulling down the web page from the site). That will give you a good position if and when you do get the authority to set a policy: instead of saying "Don't do X", you make it very difficult to do X. It's better to make it hard to do the wrong thing, than to try to punish those who do the wrong thing.

    You could suggest a really strong firewall, with only specific ports opened, and require a request in writing to open any other ports. Like someone else suggested, you could write up a proposal for what you want, and see if you can get someone above you to say "go ahead and do that".

    If your superiors require you to let the teachers continue to run riot, just get a good paper trail going: get your orders from above in writing, document in writing all the time you have to spend running around putting out fires. When it's time for your performance review, pull out the paperwork and say that you have been doing the job they ordered you to do; you don't want them to give you a poor performance rating because you didn't get much else done while you were running around putting out fires.


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