CIO's Blog

Stephen Frazier, Western Illinois University

Update on University Anti-Piracy Efforts

It is natural for young people to want to download music and video content.  However, doing this on campus using peer-to-peer file sharing often violates copyright law and puts both themselves and the University at risk. Because there are legitimate users of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, however, University Technology did not want to block P2P traffic on WIU’s networks.  As a result, WIU received a large number of “DMCA takedown notices” for many years from the entertainment industry.

In order to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), Western Illinois University (like all public universities in the United States) was required to implement a process to deter and sanction unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials on our networks. In March 2015, a WIU policy (the aptly-named DMCA and HEOA Response Policy) was approved and technology-based deterrents were subsequently deployed in April that year to help enforce it.

This coming April will mark the two year anniversary since its implementation. Although the illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted materials continues to be an issue both on campus and around the globe, we wanted to share some data on how this technology has impacted illegal downloading of copyright materials at Western.

In December 2014, an appliance was activated on Western’s computer network that began monitoring illegal file sharing. This device issued warnings to users when such activity was detected but it took no other action. The warnings, however, served to educate users about copyright infringement, options to legally download material, and they also helped to get the word out that the new policy would soon be enforced.

After WIU’s DMCA and HEOA Response Policy was approved a few months later (April 2015),  University Technology used the appliance to implement a four-step graduated response system.  In general:

  • Level 1 Sanction: Upon a first offense, the user’s browser is redirected to a warning page indicating that illegal activity has been detected. The user’s Internet access is then disabled for two hours.
  • Level 2 Sanction: If a second offense occurs, the user’s web browser is again redirected to the warning page, and his/her Internet access is disabled for 48 hours.
  • Level 3 Sanction: If a third offense occurs, the user’s web browser is redirected to a warning page, and the user’s Internet access is disabled until the user personally meets with a designated University Technology staff member to discuss the ongoing copyright violations.
  • Level 4 Sanction: If a fourth offense occurs, the user’s web browser is redirected to a warning page, which states that Internet access has been blocked. Penalties for violation of academic policy may apply and, depending on his/her role at the University, the user is required to appear before Student Judicial Programs or the Office of the Provost.

It is important to note that a sanctioned user still has access to computers in the labs to complete homework assignments and to do research.  Of course, these computers are also being monitored.

Prior to implementing this network device, the University received individual copyright infringement notifications via email (i.e., DMCA takedown notices) from major record labels, movie studios and other copyright holders. These were entered as tickets in University Technology’s tracking system and assigned to a Support Center or Network Team staff member to investigate and handle.  This was a time-intensive process that did little to deter or educate repeat offenders. In the Fall 2014 semester alone, we received 924 of these copyright infringement notifications.


As evidenced in the chart above, when the technology-based deterrent was implemented towards the end of the Spring 2015 semester, infringement notifications received by our Support Center plummeted to 336 that semester (a 64% decrease from the previous Fall), and then down to 90 in Fall 2016 (another 73% decrease from the previous Fall).  In Fall 2016, there were only four devices connected to Western’s network that made it to the Level 3 sanctions that required each user to meet with University Technology staff before their Internet access would be reinstated.  There have not been any Level 4 sanctions to date.

Although our technology-based copyright infringement deterrent has only been in place for a short time, the data indicates that it is working.  There are now far fewer copyright holders notifying the University about infringement.  The fact that there have been very few Level 3 sanctions indicate that otherwise-would-be repeat offenders are paying attention to the warnings and choosing not continue to participate in infringement on Western’s network.

Predicting and Planning for Future Technology

From an evolutionary standpoint, we are on the brink of profound and intriguing technological advances… some that will occur sooner than most might think. While preparing to update Western Illinois University’s IT Strategic Plan, I researched predictions for the future of technology and higher education for the years 2017 through 2050. Although this article is long (particularly for a blog post), I wanted to share where we are at and some exciting future prospects that may be in store for us.

Today, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that significant business change is nearly impossible without the use of information technology. It touches nearly every aspect of higher education. For students, it begins the moment they (and their parents) visit a university’s website and it continues well after they graduate. Higher education, therefore, grapples with a host of technology-related issues, including security, privacy, and compliance. Technologies and trends higher education embraces include data mining, predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, consumerization, mobile devices in the classroom… only to name a few. Also, there is an insatiable demand for more bandwidth on campuses and students expect their colleges and universities will have equal or better technology than they enjoyed at home.

Keeping up with these challenges is… well, challenging, especially in light of the great upheaval that is taking place in higher education. Across our nation, most state appropriations for public educational institutions are continuing a downward spiral, forcing admissions to be increasingly competitive and universities to look for new funding models. While colleges and universities use technology to help differentiate themselves, “there will be very little difference between public institutions and private institutions in terms of their funding, or their cost structures, or their tuition (fees),” if this funding trend continues, according to Robert Reich, who was secretary of labor under the Clinton administration and now a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley (Havergal, Times Higher Education, 27 September 2016). Many employers today consider higher education to be a checkmark rather than a differentiator when hiring. Some have concluded that higher education needs to be free in the future (just as high school education is today). Also, education is becoming less confined to a specific location and less proprietary. Thus, it seems that the only constant is change itself.

Compounding this situation is the phenomenal pace at which technology is changing. Technologies that were merely science fiction yesterday are now being patented, tested in labs, and even successfully demonstrated in the real world. For example, Quantum Teleportation, which involves separating intertwined particles that react identically when one of them is acted upon (yes, even when separated), has now been successfully tested over four miles of city fiber. This may eventually enable secure transmission of data through the Internet. Brain-to-brain communication through the Internet (one person thinks of a word and someone in another country perceives it) has been demonstrated with up to a 60% accuracy. And someday, when computer chip manufacturers switch from making silicon-based chips to ones using new materials (nanomaterials, grapheme, neuromorphic, memistrors, etc.), today’s computation speed barrier will give way to speed of light computing (perhaps a quintillion calculations per second). That will pave the way for mind-boggling virtual personal assistants that understand the context your questions and every nuance of your speech… and will instantly answer extremely complex questions in an ongoing conversational mode (without the need for you to repeat what had been said before when you change some of the parameters of you questions). Virtual and augmented reality, as well as tactile holograms that can be touched and felt, will be making their way into our everyday life in the years ahead. With these technologies, children born between the years 2025 and 2045 may be able to control web-connected objects with their minds and communicate “telepathically” with their peers. These “young wizards,” who will adopt new technologies that earlier generations resist, will be “so far beyond [our] experience that [we’ll] be to them what [our] great grandparents are to [us]: cavemen” (Tal, QuantumRun, 29 July 2015).

While the advancement of technology hurtles forward at a dizzying speed, so does the relentless barrage of attacks by threat actors, some which are funded by foreign governments. In light of one major and costly breach after another, the public understandably is questioning detection and remediation practices. Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDT911 LLC said, “…we live in an environment where breaches have become the third certainty in life (Heller, TechTarget SearchSecurity, 23 Sep 2016).” A few years ago, nearly two-thirds of the traffic on the Internet was generated by non-humans, so it is not surprising that attacks are now branching out into new areas. For example, the IoT, which is a relatively new concept to many, recently came under a denial of service attack.

Amidst this turbulent whirlwind of change and challenges, individuals and institutions can no longer afford to just simply maintain their status quo. As Howard Tullman said, “If you’re trying to just hold steady, you are slipping backward. (Morris, Engineering News, Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering, 28 Jan 2016).” Colleges and universities must continue to invest in technologies and they must keep pace with the evolving technology to succeed in the future.

Unquestionably, WIU must plan for technological change. To build tomorrow’s computing environment on our campuses, we can’t wait for tomorrow… we need to start planning today. That’s why our 2013-2018 IT Strategic Plan is being revised. In the near future, students, faculty and staff will be invited to review the new 2017-2023 plan and to provide their input. I invite you to watch for this in the coming days and to add your suggestions and comments… so that we may think big and implement technology responsibly in the years to come!

WIU Now Using Zoom For Video-Conferencing

ZoomLogoVideo-conferencing just became easier for WIU students, faculty, and staff. Until the summer of 2016, the University’s preferred video conference software was Adobe Connect. However, when Adobe announced that its annual subscription was going to increase more than 300%, University Technology (uTech) began to explore alternatives.  Zoom was identified as a cost effective, scalable, and flexible alternative.  We also think you will find that it is much easier to use than Adobe Connect.

WIU students, faculty, and staff can go to to sign up for a free “Basic” account using their WIU email addresses. These free basic accounts are limited to 40-minute sessions and traditional video conference rooms (such as a Polycom room) cannot be invited to a Zoom meeting.  However, Pro accounts do not have the 40-minute limit and, with an additional license, can connect to Polycoms.  Pro accounts are available for purchase.  To find out more about Zoom, we encourage you to visit  

uTech coordinated a group purchase of Zoom licensing with the College of Education and Human Services, University Libraries, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research, and the office of the Vice President for Quad Cities and Planning to take advantage of volume pricing options. If you are interested in obtaining a Pro account or a Room Connector license, please contact the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-TECH or

How Zoom Works

Zoom meetings can be created very simply:

  1. One person starts or “hosts” a meeting and may invite up to 50 participants to join. The host is the only party required to have a Zoom account and he or she can choose to host the meeting from a desktop computer (Windows, Mac OS, or Linux) or mobile/tablet device (iOS, Android, or Blackberry) just by installing the free downloadable mobile app or logging into the website.
  2. Participants may choose which method they are the most comfortable with when connecting to the meeting. They can also connect with audio-only by calling a phone number included in the meeting invite.

For a typical Zoom meeting, each host and participant needs speakers, a microphone and a webcam. These devices don’t have to be expensive to provide a great experience. Basic speakers and a webcam such as the Logitech HD Pro C920 ($80) wzoom_laptopith its built in microphone will give you a great picture and audio.

Zoom is a cloud-based system so the desktop applications, mobile apps, and all the backend technology to make the system work is provided by the company. Unlike traditional video conference room systems (such as Polycom, Lifesize, or Cisco), neither hosts nor participants are tied to a specific location. Hosting or joining a meeting can happen from anywhere there is a reliable internet connection and little background noise.

With the purchase of a “Room Connector” license, Zoom hosts can invite a traditional video conference room system to a Zoom meeting as well. That capability is useful if several people want to participate in the meeting from the same location.

Zoom also boasts several other advanced features that are flexible and easy to use:

  • Hosts or participants can share whiteboards or other content and allow other attendees to annotate as the originator sees fit.
  • Entire meetings or portions of meetings can be recorded by the host and hosts can individually allow participants to record as well.
  • Public and private meeting chats facilitates communication between those who need to be involved without overwhelming those who do not.

Zoom combines its simple and well-designed interface with the ability to participate from various geographic locations and freedom to allow participants to choose the technology each are comfortable with for a great win. The quality and price of Zoom will be very difficult to match.

Recent Phishing Email

On July 12, many members of Western Illinois University received a phishing email scam (see screenshots below). The email message linked to a fraudulent website that impersonated WIU’s legitimate Central Sign-On web page. This fraudulent website has since been removed, but for a period of time, it functioned and some users may have provided their username and password to a malicious third-party.

If you received this or any other phishing message

  1. Report it as phishing to Google so they can block future copies of the message from being delivered to the University.

  2. Do not reply to to message or click on any links within the phishing email message.

If you clicked on the link and submitted your username/password

  1. Immediately change your ECom password in Guava. Your account could be compromised and action needs to be taken immediately to protect your data.
  2. Notify the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-2704 or if you need assistance or have additional concerns.

Common signs often found in phishing email messages

The phishing email had many giveaways that indicated it was not legitimate, as did the website that the phishing email linked to. Below are screenshots where we have pointed out several indicators that the email message and web page were not legitimate:


  1. Poor spelling and bad grammar. Cybercriminals are not known for their grammar and spelling. Professional companies or organizations usually have a staff of copy editors that will not allow a mass email like this to go out to its users. If you notice mistakes in an email, it might be a scam. For more information, see ‘Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself’.
  2. Beware of links in email. If you see a link in a suspicious email message, don’t click on it. Rest your mouse (but don’t click) on the link to see if the address matches the link that was typed in the message.
  3. Threats. Have you ever received a threat that your account would be closed if you didn’t respond to an email message? The email message shown above is an example of the same trick. Cybercriminals often use threats that your security has been compromised. For more information, see ‘Watch out for fake alerts’.
  4. Spoofing popular websites or companies. Scam artists use graphics in email that appear to be connected to legitimate websites but actually take you to phony scam sites or legitimate-looking pop-up windows. For more information, see ‘Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently’. Cybercriminals also use web addresses that resemble the names of well-known companies but are slightly altered. For more information, see ‘Protect yourself from cybersquatting and fake web addresses’.

Please be constantly aware of these social engineering and phishing scams. They are not always received via email, but include telephone calls, use of social media, and other attack avenues.

Blog Recognized As One of Best University CIO Blogs

WIU’s CIO Blog was recently recognized as being among the best Higher Ed IT blogs on the Internet by Optimal Partners Consulting.  Nuno Couto, Founder and Managing Partner of Optimal Partners, in an email to WIU’s CIO, said that “The long-form approach your blog takes is different from others I’ve read, but it is great content.”

Optimal Partners ranked our blog third among seven CIO blogs that they highlighted.  Their intent in this effort was to provide “an insider’s perspective” on IT in universities, and they state “these 7 CIOs are more than willing to give you a tour of what’s going on at their universities.”  You can read more about the top CIO blogs on their blog post entitled 7 Best University CIO Blogs.

“If you’re looking for an in-depth look at what’s happening behind the scenes at a university’s IT department, then Stephen Frazier’s aptly titled “CIO’s Blog” is the place to start.” – Optimal Partners Consulting, LLC

Steve Frazier, WIU’s CIO, said, “One of our initiatives in University Technology at Western has been to better communicate our many services and projects, which traditionally has not been a strong point of most IT organizations.  uTech is a fairly large organization with a lot of going on.  We started a Major Projects Tracking System on WIU’s website but we really needed someone to focus on the marketing aspects.  During uTech’s recent consolidation and reorganization efforts, we tasked Jeremy Merritt, the University’s Coordinator of Web Services and an assistant director in uTech, with spearheading that effort.  He has been doing a terrific job and I think it is going to pay off in numerous ways!”  Merritt has been creating marketing materials for uTech that are published on the web and in various media outlets around campus.  He is also now a contributor to the CIO’s Blog.

Optimal Partners specializes exclusively in project management for Higher Ed.  Couto says, “Although my company is focused on staffing and consulting services, we do a lot of “giving back” to the community in line with the mission of Higher Ed. We mentor students and student startups. We sponsor events like this one in the Azores, Portugal. We also promote education through supporting various charities.”  Optimal Partners can be found on the web at

Gmail and Google Apps to Replace Zimbra

gmail-logoAn edited version of the following article appeared in the April 11 issue of the Western Courier.

Western Illinois University is moving from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Apps this spring and summer. This change has been over two years in the making, and originated with a proposal submitted in March 2014 to WIU’s IT Governance process.

“The idea behind IT Governance is to engage the entire campus community as full-fledged partners in IT decision making,” said Stephen Frazier, WIU’s Chief Information Officer who leads University Technology.  “The proposal to move to Google Apps was made through this governance process. The basic premise of the proposal was to save the University money while offering additional services such as unlimited drive space, shared folders that can be set up by individuals, a superior interface, and real-time collaboration.”

The proposal was reviewed by WIU’s Student Government Association, the Faculty Senate, and the Administrative Alliance (an IT Governance workgroup) for review and feedback. In November 2015, a task force comprised of individuals from across the University formally recommended that the University implement Google Apps. This recommendation was reviewed and approved by the President’s Leadership Team in early February 2016 and University Technology was subsequently directed to begin the transition.

The use of Google Apps by educational institutions such as Western is completely free, so the move from Zimbra (which has significant yearly costs and requires considerable man-hours to maintain) is an important cost saving measure. The business-class edition of Google Apps that WIU will be using is similar in feature sets to the free versions that anyone can access, but Google offers more support and storage for educational institutions.

University Technology’s goal is to have everyone (students, faculty, staff, retirees and alumni) moved from Zimbra to Google Apps by August 19 – just before the start of the fall semester. Nearly 700 early adopters have already been migrated from Zimbra to Google Apps. These early adopters are helping University Technology to ensure that the migration process of copying content from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Calendar is as flawless as possible for everyone else at the University that will be migrating between now and August.

“Popular applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, Groups and Contacts will be the core applications that the University will support from the start,” said Frazier. “Other applications such as Hangouts, Docs, Sheets, Sites and more will also be available for use, but the support that we can offer when it comes to using and troubleshooting those apps will be limited.”

All users of WIU’s Google Apps will have unlimited storage for email, documents and files, which is a huge benefit over Zimbra’s storage limitations.  Additionally, they will be able to access the Google applications using the same ECom username and password they’ve always used to access systems like Zimbra and WesternOnline.

Matt Mencel, who serves as University Technology’s technical lead for the migration, said that “the unlimited storage space is a huge benefit to all users, students and employees alike.  And the collaborative nature of sharing documents and files using Google Drive and apps such as Google Docs will make group projects much easier to work on together.”

What won’t change?  According to Mencel, “Your WIU email address will remain the same, and all of your existing email messages and calendars will be copied over to Google services for you automatically.”  He added that “there are some things that users will need to manually do after they are migrated, such as re-create email contact groups and copy their Zimbra briefcase files to Google Drive. But we’ve automated the migration process for everything else that we can.”

Frazier said, “We know that many people are anxious to move to Google Apps!  We will be communicating frequently via email over the next few months with more information on the process. We anticipate moving entire departments to Google Apps during April and May, and then allowing remaining individuals to schedule a date/time to move starting in June. Please check your email between semesters for details!”

He also stated that WIU’s Google Apps transition team has created a website to answer questions regarding the move to Google Apps, as well as provide resources on how to use the various applications that Google provides. Visit for details, and contact the uTech Support Center at if you have further questions.

Frazier said that the transition team is bringing Google’s best collaborative, cloud-based solutions to the University.  “We are joining well over 40 million other people who are using Google Apps for Education”, he said.  Frazier is optimistic that faculty, staff and students will explore and find new ways to work and learn using Google Apps for Education.


Google Guides and Early Adopters

gg_early_adoptersThe Google@WIU Transition Team has been hard at work preparing for WIU’s migration from Zimbra to Google Apps for Education!  Last week, they held a series of meetings for members of the University community who have been designated as “Google Guides.”  These guides will serve as local resources in their department and assist their colleagues with the migration. The Transition Team has already started migrating guides over to Google Apps to give them a head start on learning about the applications and so that they can receive additional training.

If you were one of the nearly 800 people who signed up to be an Early Adopter, this may be the news you’ve been waiting to hear.  The Transition Team is  ready for you, too!  Watch your email starting this week.  If you’ve been selected as an Early Adopter, you’ll receive an email indicating your scheduled migration date.  Some Early Adopters will be moved to Google Apps as early as this Friday.   A small group will be moved over first, and then the rest will be moved during the next few weeks.

The Transition Team will depend heavily on both the Google Guides and the Early Adopters to identify problems with the migration process or ways of doing things in Google Apps.  Their comments and questions should be sent to

In the coming week, the Transition Team will be asking department directors, chairs and the deans to consider scheduling a time to migrate their entire department from Zimbra to Google Apps in one fell swoop. The Team recommends that departments migrate en masse if at all possible.  This will:

  • Make sure that everyone is using the same platform for consistency, compatibility and training
  • Ensure that calendars and appointments are not missing for intradepartmental meetings

Once again, thank you for your patience and assistance during this transition process!  The process has begun and nearly 200 people have migrated already.  I urge you to check frequently for updates, resources, and FAQs regarding WIU’s migration to Google Apps!