The ICT service

Current Firewall Issues - Update


We continue to experience issues with the core education Firewalls. These Firewalls provide significant protection for schools, and for example have significantly reduced the level of threat from the recent/current ransomware attack targeting, amongst others, the NHS.
 
What are we doing about this?
We have implemented a further solution to allow us to dive deep into the network traffic from schools. This will aid in diagnosing what exact traffic is passing through the Firewalls and give us the opportunity to ensure only legitimate traffic is traversing these systems.
 
We are currently designing a new layout of our Firewalls which will allow us to split out 'Internet' traffic from 'Data Centre' traffic – examples of Data Centre traffic are Central Hosting and Schools’ Email. This will allow Central Hosting traffic to be more stable, and also provide additional capacity to the 'Internet' Firewalls. The end user experience should generally be more stable.
 
This work will be carried out overnight on Tuesday 16 May 2017 into the morning of Wednesday 17 May 2017.
 
In an effort to improve the overall experience for all Internet users, we have reduced the bandwidth available for the following services during the working day (8.00am – 4.00pm):
 
  • Windows Updates
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Broadband Speed test sites
  • YouTube
  • Spotify
  • Netflix
This means, whilst we have not blocked these services, you may find access to them is slower than usual.
 
Why is this happening again?
Last week we arranged downtime to install some larger capacity Firewalls.  Although this alleviated the issues then, in the space of a week (although they are passing more good traffic) they are already struggling with the amount passing through them.
 
This is more traffic than we have seen at any time. Prior to CPSN, we had a 1Gb connection out onto the Internet which lasted for 10 years. It was only at the very end of that period that we started to hit the bandwidth limitations of that connection.
 
Four years ago, we upgraded the Schools’ Internet connection to 10Gb, installing Firewalls that can cope with, in the best case, a total of 4Gb of Internet traffic.  In this short space of time, schools’ bandwidth utilisation has trebled. We have also seen significant use of new telephony solutions, for example Voice over IP. This is great for schools, but it does place significantly more overheads on the Education Firewalls meaning this best case '4Gb' is actually now lower.
 
Why can’t we replace the firewalls with more powerful ones?
With the amount of potential traffic passing over CPSN, the costs for new firewalls reach up in the region of £400,000. Bearing in mind funding for CPSN is fixed, there is currently no capacity in the CPSN budget to fund this work. This will be factored into the procurement discussions for the replacement for CPSN.
 
This is a significant challenge for all of us; we need schools’ support in ensuring, right now, that their working day use of the Internet is kept to services required to run schools and deliver classes.
 
Please expect to receive more email updates as we progress to a resolution.
 

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latest tweet

  • Scheduled downtime is complete, all services are back online. For support, contact The ICT Service Helpline on 0300 300 0000 #ICTDowntime

    1 week


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Tel:0300 300 0000