PDC Network: Secure AND Useable!

At Tech Ed in May 2004, internet access for reporters and other attendees was often thwarted.

Because of hack attacks, the network was pretty much locked down. So tightly battened that many had a hard time doing their, you know, jobs? IM ports were blocked, there was precious little access to corporate VPNs. The press room was secure to the point of worthlessness for big chunks of time. The only respite for some was the unprotected wireless net in the open areas, dubbed appropriately, "the Wild West."

This year the first day and a half of PDC went well in this respect. Free and easy Web access of both the wired and wireless variety. Whoo hoo.

Then, for one nameless attendee, a rude interruption. A bright red screen warning that access limits had been reached and a commandment to contact CommNet NOC. Scary as hell.

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Turns out that this nameless reporter had neglected to update Windows for perhaps a month or so. So the Web watchers at CommNet slammed the door on her, not on the PDC universe.

A Microsoft tech support person ran the updates and sent PC and woebegone journo to CommNet for further screening. There, tacked to the wall was a list of "bad guy" IP addresses, suspected of sending out myriad, and possibly malicious packets. Including hers.

Net, net, net, she was up and running within 30 minutes, including the 10 minute walk to the CommNet nerve center.

A couple lessons here.

First, Microsoft has gotten smart about screening and filtering net activity.

Second, the bad acts or unconscious acts of omission of a few didn't impact the well-behaved many.

Third: UPDATE!