Tech Services monitors illegal downloading

Cyrus Nuval 
Staff Writer

If you download music or movies illegally while logged on to VCU’s Wi-Fi, there is a chance the university knows about it.

VCU Tech Services reports an average of 15-20 computer and network use policy violations a week during the regular school year.

A majority of the violations involve piracy, illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted material, said Dan Han, the VCU Technology Services Chief Information Security Officer.

Han is the officer in charge of monitoring VCU’s wireless networks for cybersecurity threats and VCU Computer and Network Use Policy violations, specifically the VCU Guest Wireless, VCU Wireless and VCU SafeNet Wireless networks.

“All three networks are monitored equally for malicious activity,” Han said.

Through the use of VCU Technology Services’ large collection of security programs and the assistance of the information security officers, Han is able to detect and investigate multiple security threats, policy violations and malicious activities all over the Monroe Park and Medical campuses.

VCU Technology services has detected and investigated 131 violations so far this semester, Han said. As of press time, Han and his superiors at VCU’s Technology Services were unable to provide the number of violations from last year.

In the Computer and Network Resources Use Policy, possible violations include actions that harass or harm individuals, actions that impede or interfere with others’ activities, using a VCU computer or a network resource for piracy, illegal actions or actions in violation of the VCU Honor Code and using computers and network resources for purposes other than University-approved business.

When a possible violation is detected, Han or the designated information security officer collects evidence to determine if a violation has occurred and who committed it. If the investigation indicates that there is a violation, the investigator will notify the Division of Student Affairs and the person or people deemed responsible.

The students are given an opportunity to refute the charges by explaining their side of the story in front of a hearing board.

Informal sanctions range from actively assisting in repairing the damage caused, paying for the damage, registration holds or temporary suspensions.

If the student has disobeyed the policy multiple times or has violated state or federal law while using a VCU network or a VCU resource, the student receives a formal sanction by the Division of Student Affairs. The student will then have limited room to refute their charges to the University or a court of law.

Formal sanctions range from expulsions to formal criminal or civil charges.

Karen Belanger, director of VCU’s Office Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Office, said her office rarely gets involved with such violations.

“The only time we would get involved is when a student makes use of a computer or a network resource to violate the Honor Code or when criminal allegations are made,” Belanger said. “We have not been involved in any illegal-downloading or network-resource misuse cases.”

Violations involving the Computer and Network Resources Use Policy are investigated by Han and the Information Security Officers, and judged by the Division of Student Affairs, Belanger said.

The university gives Han and the information security officers a certain amount of discretion when detecting and investigating possible violations.

“We can act within the boundaries of Federal and State laws and the university policies,” Han said. “We respect the privacy of individuals and will not intrude and actively monitor individuals without justifiable cause … we may monitor and investigate compute and network usage if a suspected violation has occurred … or if it is required by law.”

Han said he thinks increasing awareness of VCU’s policies and the laws regarding computer and network use, and the consequences of violating the laws and policies, the number of violations will continue to decrease.

“A lot of the students commit violations because they don’t know what the policies are or the law is … especially copyright laws,” Han said. “Me and my co-workers are here to serve the students and the university.”

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