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Computing and Information Services

CIS News

Updates to IT addressing system (DNS) 20/09/16

On 07:00 on Tuesday 20th September CIS will be making a final change to the system that provides addresses for IT services and equipment in the University (DNS on Infoblox). Whilst this won’t matter to most of you, a small minority may unknowingly use this system and find that some things won’t work after the change is made. Read on so you know what to do if this affects you.

Unless you run your own IT systems this should not matter, however we are aware that there will be a small number of people who may unknowingly use this service. This may be because a colleague has set it up in this way and has either forgotten, or they are no longer with the University. Users will only be aware once services or activities which have worked without issue up to that point, stop working after 07:00 on 20th September. If this happens to you, please contact the IT Service Desk in the first instance on extension 41515 (or 0191 334 1515) and they will take steps to organize the appropriate action by your local CIS field team.

As part of work commenced earlier this year to improve security and streamline the University's DNS (Domain Name Server*) estate, CIS will be removing recursive DNS on Infoblox from 07:00 on Tuesday 20th September. This has been performing the task of providing names (translating IP addresses, which are long strings of numbers, into words) for some services and systems however this has been replaced by a new dedicated service.

If you have set up recursive DNS queries through Infoblox for yourself or for a colleague/s you need to do the following:

Use 10.255.0.1 & 10.255.0.2 as your recursive DNS where you need it. These are CIS supported servers which are highly available and well distributed geographically.

Why are we doing this?

  • To protect the security of University IT systems by stopping recursive DNS, we can block malware from certain sources and block some processes that attack our network and distribute malware (malicious software and applications).
  • Free capacity on the Infoblox equipment so it can carry out a more appropriate function.
  • To improve support by moving to a single, appropriate standard platform University IT name protocols.

If you would like to find out more, we will be running 2 town hall sessions where will be going through the change and giving you an opportunity to ask questions. 

16th August, 14:30 – 15:30, E102, Engineering Department. Book your place here https://apps.dur.ac.uk/tcbs/?mode=details&schedule=10446

22nd August 14:30 – 15:30, E102, Engineering Department. Book your place here: https://apps.dur.ac.uk/tcbs/?mode=details&schedule=10447

* Domain Name Server: a universal addressing system that converts IP addresses, which are strings of numbers used to identify or name IT equipment, websites, web addresses, etc. into word based names that are easier to remember. For example, the IP address for www.durham.ac.uk is 129.234.248.214 but www.durham.ac.uk is easier for humans to remember!

(11 Aug 2016)


Milestone progress for desktop rollout

With a much improved user experience now available on over 1200 computers across the University, the rollout of an all new desktop environment to student and teaching computers has officially passed the halfway mark.

If you use academic applications in teaching, we strongly encourage you to test your applications on the new desktop environment before the start of term. You can see the list of applications that are available so far here, and you can test them on any of the upgraded computers around the campus. 

The Durham University Desktop Environment gives users a modernised experience with Windows 10 and Office 2016. And thanks to clever software that streams applications to the computer at the time you need them, it also means you can access the applications you need on any upgraded computer around the University. So rather than having to go to a particular building to access a specific academic application, programmes are now stored and maintained centrally and can be accessed wherever you are.

To find out more about the new desktop environment including where it’s landing next, visit our website here.  

You’ll also find links to useful guidance about using Windows 10 and Office 2016, along with answers to some of the questions users have asked us such as the best way to find applications and how to access files you’d saved on the old desktop.

With almost 2,300 student and teaching computers to upgrade over the summer vacation, we’re in great stead to complete this phase of the rollout by the end of September. Focus will then switch to planning the rollout of the desktop environment to 4,000 staff computers.

The future has even more flexibility in store for staff and students, as the next phase of the New World Programme’s access project will bring flexible remote access – meaning you’ll be able to access the applications and tools you need, anywhere inside and outside of the University, on any device (subject to licensing constraints). Look out for more information on our website or by following us on Twitter or Instagram @durhamuni_cis

1200 student and teaching computers upgraded to new desktop environment

(26 Aug 2016)


New IT network for the University: getting ready to go live!

The University’s New World Programme’s Network project has been beavering away at the preparatory work for the new IT network since the start of the year. We’re excited to announce that from September we’ll start connecting users to the new IT network: read on to find out what that will mean for you!

Why a new network? 

The physical network is our IT backbone, carrying IT services for over 20,000 staff and students around and in and out of the University. It’s the foundation upon which we all rely for IT services. This project is updating and improving this backbone to ensure secure, reliable and resilient connectivity to University IT systems, so the services you need are available when you need them. We’re replacing outdated technology so it’s less likely to break or fail and creating multiple links between network equipment, so services will still be available even if there are localised failures or breakages. 

There are a number of pieces of work which need to be undertaken to deliver the new network. 

Civil engineering activities which started early this year and are expected to finish towards the end of 2017. These: 

  • Replace underground cabling and create additional routes and connections to physically transport the network around (and in and out of) the University,
  • Create dedicated, appropriate rooms to house sensitive network equipment,
  • Modernise old network connections and cabling in buildings,
  • Update power supplies to support the requirements of the new network equipment. 

Cut-over activities 

This is a rolling programme of works and as civil engineering works complete for a particular location/building we ‘cut-over’ or connect them to the new network. This starts in September and is expected to finish towards the end of 2017. 

To ‘cut-over’ a building, all IT services are turned off, old network connections are ‘unplugged’, reconnected to the new network and services are powered back up. This means disruptions to all IT services, however to limit the impacts, we’re planning to do the majority of cut-overs during early morning windows between 06:00 and 09:00. 

We start in September with Chemistry, Maths and Engineering and we’re in the process of confirming activities for October with the departments concerned and then we’ll share the information here too. 

What if I want to find out more? 

  • Keep your eyes peeled for progress updates in future editions of Signposts.
  • Don’t miss information when it comes to your inbox announcing your department/building’s turn to be connected to the new network.
  • Look at our dedicated web pages: there are sections dedicated to the civil engineering works and the cut-over activities included the latest schedules.

www.durham.ac.uk/nwp/infrastructure/network 

  • Join us at one of our town halls: there’s information on the dedicated web pages along with a link to book a place. 

Follow us!

www.twitter.com/Durhamuni_cis

www.instagram.com/Durhamuni_cis

(26 Aug 2016)


Database updates: 3rd September 08:00 – 20:00

CIS are updating software that supports databases underpinning some IT systems which will cause disruptions to those services. Where identified, system owners/managers have been notified of the disruption however there are a few where this hasn’t been possible. There is a slight risk that a small number of systems may be disrupted without warning: whilst this is highly unlikely, we are doing the work over the weekend to mitigate any impacts.

 

If you are impacted by this, you may notice disruptions to your service between the hours of 08:00 and 20:00 on Saturday 3rd September. These disruptions will not last the entire day however we are not able to provide times and durations. Most mainstream services (e.g. internet access, email, University storage and most University applications) will be unaffected, those that are will be smaller, departmentally run services that rely on CIS provided MyD1SQL and MyD2SQL (which are coming to the end of their life and need to be upgraded).

(19 Aug 2016)


IT security: Don’t become a victim - ransomware update

To protect the University’s IT network we have blocked a particular type of email attachment that is the current ‘carrier of choice’ for ransomware, and removing it before the mail is delivered to your inbox. Read on so you know what to do if you have one of these removed from an email sent to you.

This week we have seen a marked increase in the number of emails containing ransomware being opened by members of the University. Updated versions of these infections are being developed at a rapid pace and there is a delay in our antivirus provider’s (Sophos) ability to generate signatures (fixes) to block these new variants.

Until these signatures are received, we are blocking all attachments in emails received from outside of the University which contain Word Macros with the file extension .DOCM.

  • If you are sent an email with one of these files, we will remove it before it gets to your inbox and the email will indicate that a suspicious attachment has been removed. ‘The original email attachment "filename.docm" is on the list of unacceptable attachments for this site and has been replaced by this warning message.
  • If you were expecting the message and can vouch it is genuine, please contact the IT Service Desk in the first instance and they will advise you what you need to do.

For more information about ransomware and what you can to do protect yourself and limit the damage should you be a victim, see the University’s Information Security web page:

 https://www.dur.ac.uk/infosecurity/toolkit/email/ransomware

(19 Aug 2016)