Mandatory ResNet Download Raises Privacy Concerns
by Chris Holmes


Students returning from winter break were surprised to find they were forced to download a special program in order to access ResNet, the wireless internet service for residents of university-owned housing. Once installed, the program becomes virtually traceless, drawing concern from users about their privacy. 

Julia Walker, a first year undeclared major, is one of those students. “I was a little suspicious. There wasn’t much information about the download and what specifically it would do,” she said.

Despite how concerned she may be, Walker had no choice but to download the software in order to access the internet. 

In an age where identity theft and other digital crimes exist, privacy is an important concern for internet users. Tracking software, often in the form of spyware and Trojan viruses, are abundant and posses the ability to monitor and record user activity. 

However, ResNet assures this is not the case for the new software. In an e-mail, Ben Price, Manager of Residential Network Services, explained that user privacy has not been compromised. The program, SafeConnect, installs an Impulse Policy Key that, according to Price, “does not monitor or restrict residents’ workstations in any way.” 

The SafeConnect website describes the program as a “secure, reliable, and predictable IT network infrastructure.” Such programs are similar to other common networking systems, such as the Cisco NAC previously used at UCSB, and are used in nearly all large internet networks, like corporations and other universities. According to Price, the university decided to abandon the Cisco architecture after serious compatibility problems with the wireless network. 

While users might be unclear on the actual function of the SafeConnect program, Price affirms that it is not malicious. He summarized the two main purposes of the software, saying that it is designed to both “ensure that clients meet a minimum security profile to limit the spread of infections or expose OS vulnerabilities” and “enforce the ResNet Acceptable Use Policy by blocking users when necessary for either detected virus infections or copyright infringement notices per the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” 

Though the program remains a mandatory download, some users are becoming less concerned. Braden Smith, a first year pre-Chemistry major, is not worried about his privacy. “Honestly, I don’t think any of us are important enough for the school to be tracking what we do online,” he said.