NTCC updates online security, internet speeds

By Doc Anderson

Staff Writer

The Information Technology department at Northeast Texas Community College is constantly looking for ways to evolve and improve services for NTCC students.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IT department has been looking for ways to streamline and improve the speed and accessibility of its services. Currently, the IT department is working towards faster campus wide internet, a mandatory email password change for security purposes, and a new spam filter to prevent potential phishing email scams.

​​In the April 2020 edition of the Eagle Eye, students voiced their concerns and dissatisfaction with the campus internet. According to Sebastian Barron, NTCC director of computer and technical services, the COVID-19 pandemic and eventual shutdown was cause for an upgrade on the preexisting internet service.

​ “When COVID hit, that was one of the first things we needed, an increase to the internet bandwidth,” Barron said.

​The preexisting internet service clocked in at 250 megabytes per second. Currently the speed has tripled to approximately 800 megabytes per second. Barron says the goal is to continue to increase the speed to meet the needs of the administration and students.

​“The end goal is to have one gigabit speed across our campus,” Barron said. “That’s four times faster than the 250 we started with pre-COVID.” 

​Barron said that the IT department is working to have the internet upgrades completed by the end of November.

​Internet speeds were not the only concern for the IT department. Barron and his team are implementing a mandatory password change in conjunction with a more effective spam filter.

​Upon admission to NTCC, each student is issued a school email and password. The initial password issued to students is meant to be changed at a later time. Unfortunately, some students forget to change this password, leaving them open for a potential cyber security threat.

​“With our passwords right now, we use a generic password, which is not recommended. Now, it’s prudent that we follow through and get off that system,” Barron said. 

​Barron and staff have developed and tested tools to help the students change their passwords with little to no assistance. Newly admitted students will be issued a generic password, as per current protocols, and upon successful login, will be required to change their password immediately. Existing students will receive a similar prompt later this semester.

​ “As far as people who are already students, we’ll pick a day, and run a script that will require a password change,” Barron said. “The first time you login, it’ll say ‘change your password.’” 

Due to this new security measure, students who have already changed their password will need to reset it again. When creating a new password, Barron recommends using at least eight characters, and a mix of symbols and numbers. The password must contain at least one special character and a number. Barron is planning for this change to take place before the end of the fall semester.

​ Keeping with the cyber security theme, Barron is rolling out a new spam filter designed to prevent phishing emails. Phishing emails attempt to gain sensitive information from the receiver. Barron urges students to not open any emails from outside sources. If a student receives a suspicious email, contact the IT helpdesk immediately.

​“We see easily over a million emails to our domain, and we are talking about one email that can bring the whole kingdom down,” Barron said. “Institutions of higher education are the most targeted institutions as far as hacks and data breaches.”

​Barron is working on creating a larger spam filter that will enable his department to better combat the influx of cyberattacks at NTCC. ​He encourages students and staff to contact the IT helpdesk with any concerns or issues they have with any online service. Barron said students must play an active role in cyber security and calls it a “team effort,” recommending students to frequently check their school email and be on the lookout for emails that contain “free money” or “grant money.” Students are also encouraged to reply to IT emails and follow-up with IT personnel to ensure any issues are resolved.

​For more information about online services or cyber security, contact the IT help desk from your NTCC student email @ithelp@ntcc.edu.