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Durham University

Computing and Information Services

Frequently Asked Questions

List of FAQ categories

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

+Do I need an ISP to connect to the VPN?

Yes, the ISP (Internet Service Provider) provides the internet connection which works along with the VPN to provide the full network service.

+Do I need any special software to use the VPN?

The VPN experience is better if you install the Pulse client. The client is required for tablet devices, but we would recommended it for all Windows and MAC computers too. There is no client for Linux where the VPN is provided by Network Extender software.

+Does the VPN make my PC secure?

No, the VPN only protects the data in transit between your PC and the university. It does not protect end points and you should still take security precautions, such as having antivirus software on your computer.

+How do I register to use the VPN?

To sign up to use the VPN, complete this form. Access is currently only available to University staff and postgraduate researchers. Undergraduates and Taught Postgraduates can request access if sponsored by a member of University staff.

We can also provide access for collaboration partners and suppliers. This must be requested via the CIS Security Team. Contact the IT Service Desk to make a special request.

+How long can I leave the VPN idle before the session is disconnected?

If you leave the session idle the VPN connection will be dropped after 60 minutes, although the session can be quickly resumed by logging on again. However, there is an 8 hour limit to all VPN connections after which the VPN will need to be fully re-established.

+I'm using Safari as my browser, why isn't the VPN homepage working?

There is an issue with Macs and Safari related to permissions for Java to run. Follow the steps below to resolve this:

  1. Launch Safari
  2. Browse to https://remote.dur.ac.uk
  3. Go in to Preferences under Safari
  4. Click on the Security button
  5. Ensure that Plugs-Ins are allowed
  6. Click on ‘Manage Website Settings’
  7. Click on ‘Java’ on the left-hand side of the screen
  8. On the right-hand side, choose the ‘Currently Open Websites’ (your SSL VPN web site) and click on the drop-down box
  9. Choose ‘Allow Always’ and ‘Run in Unsafe Mode’ (Choose TRUST if a prompt is displayed)
  10. Click on Done
  11. Close the preferences window
  12. Log in

Host Checker should now run.

+What are the anti-virus requirements?

All Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac devices should have a firewall enabled and antivirus installed and be within 10 days of the latest update provided by the antivirus manufacturer. All client devices are checked for security compliance every 15 minutes. Devices that fail compliance will have their session disconnected and must meet policy again in order to successfully connect.

To check if your anti-virus package is supported, see our comprehensive list.

+What are the differences between MDS Anywhere and the VPN?

MDS Anywhere is a service that allows you to login to a desktop session running on a server on the University network. The session gives access to a limited suite of software which runs remotely on the server while the windows and screens are displayed on your remote PC in a dedicated window. Although the MDSAnywhere session is connected to the University network, your PC is not and anything running on MDS Anywhere will not have access to anything on your PC. 

Connecting via the VPN means that you can access resources both on the University network and on your PC, which may be important depending on the nature of work you are carrying out.

+What can I use the VPN for?

When you are connected to the VPN you have access to any resources (with some exceptions) that reside on the University network even if they are not normally available over the internet. So, you could remotely connect to your University PC or other equipment that resides on the network, or access internal web/intranet pages that are not normally accessible from the internet.

+What devices can I use to connect to the VPN?

You can connect using a Windows PC or laptop, a Macintosh PC or laptop, a Unix/Linux PC or laptop or an Apple or Android tablet. The methods for establishing the connection are all different but once connected the principle is the same. Mobile telephones are not currently compatible or permitted as a VPN client device, and jailbroken (Apple devices with security features disabled) or rooted tablet devices will be denied access for security reasons.

+What IP address will be assigned to my machine?

The IP address is a private address and will take the form 10.129.x.x. This address is only usable between your machine and the University. It helps to enhance the security of the connection.

+What is a Virtual Private Network?

A Virtual Private Network provides the ability to be part of a secure remote network without being physically connected to it. Effectively, while you are connected to the University VPN via your local Internet connection, all of your network traffic is routed through the University network just as if your PC is actually on the University premises. The connection is highly secure as all data traffic is encrypted between your PC and the University.

+Who can use the VPN?

Durham University full and part-time staff and postgraduate researchers are permitted to use the service for their University work. 

Undergraduates and taught postgradutes are not normally permitted. Access may be granted under exceptional circumstances, where there is an academic justification and a member of staff agrees to sponsor the request.

+Why does Host Checker not complete successfully?

When connecting to the VPN, Web Portal Host Checker will run to check that your PC meets minimum security requirements. The Host Checker software depends on Java and can be sensitive to the combinations of browser type, browser version and Java version. There is a known issue that some versions of Internet Explorer (IE)require that Compatibility Mode is set for remote.dur.ac.uk. To do this, select Compatibility View settings from the Tools menu in IE and enter remote.dur.ac.uk in the box marked “Add this website:”, then click Add, then close. This should enable you to continue.