Students, ResTech fight Clean Access woes

By Tom Bukowski

This year, students living in Stevenson, Lincoln, Douglas and Grant halls had to download and use the Cisco Clean Access security program, along with a pre-configured antivirus program, McAfee VirusScan 8.0i if they run Microsoft Windows and want to use the Internet.

The decision to integrate Clean Access at NIU was for protection of students’ personal computers by providing them with free antivirus software, said Jan Gerenstein, associate director of Residential Technology Services.

“Clean Access was the best option available to us for getting the majority of students online and keeping them online for the entire semester,” Gerenstein said.

Despite positive aspects, the integrations of Clean Access and VirusScan in NIU residence halls has not been without its problems.

Junior English major Ian Hicks found the initial Clean Access installation process, which required students using Windows to download and install patches and updates along with installing McAfee frustrating.

“I did not feel the process was clear enough. My computer locked up repeatedly throughout the process and acted weird for a few days afterward,” Hicks said.

Many students had software conflicts between VirusScan and existing antivirus programs.

The NIU ResTech Web site features warnings about the software conflict McAfee can cause on students’ computers, but Hicks said he never saw them.

Having two antivirus programs installed at the same time can cause many short-term and some potentially hazardous long-term problems, said David Gunkel, an associate professor of communicative technology.

“Having two antivirus programs installed at the same time can affect a computer’s system registry, which can have a minor or a major effect,” Gunkel said. “Some people have experienced full operating system crashes because of this – where a user must reformat their hard drive in order to get their computer working again.”

In today’s computer-dependent world, problems can take a toll on a student’s academic career along with an emotional toll, he said.

NIU’s Clean Access was pre-configured to work with McAfee and the issue of virus definition updates was a reason the school chose McAfee, said Jim Fatz, director of enterprise systems support and IT security.

NIU purchased an enterprise-license version of McAfee for both on and off-campus students, which means on-campus students will have continuously-updated virus definitions downloaded by several redundant local servers instead of from McAfee directly, saving the network precious bandwidth.

Fatz said ITS is doing the right thing for students and for the college by integrating Clean Access into the residence halls. Viruses and worms have the potential to impact everyone, he said.

ITS plans to have Clean Access integration to be required for wireless Internet users as well, Fatz said.

Students can visit for more information about Clean Access.