Bolstering a University’s Campus Security


Smartcard technology helps Delaware State University develop a planto build a comprehensive identity management system.

Educational institutions have madeimproving physical and informationsecurity a high priority nationwideCharles D. Fletcher recent years. Delaware StateUniversity (DSU) is no exception inincluding security as a key component of itsoverall information technology strategy.

The university’s security goals aresimilar to those of other universities: Itseeks to safeguard from security threats its1,400 resident students, 650 faculty andstaff members, and hundreds ofcomputing students and campus visitors.DSU must also protect its informationresources, including research data, fromcyber-security breaches.

Yet, the university has unique needswhen it comes to security: DSU’s sciencedepartments conduct classified research forthe federal government. The campus islocated near Dover Air Force Base,one of thelargest US Air Force bases in the nation,fromwhich a large quantity of supplies and equipmentare delivered overseas. Additionally,the campus is across the street from DoverInternational Speedway, one of the largestNASCAR race tracks in the country.

“DSU sees smartcard technology as a logicalextension of the ID cards already being used oncampus. Using smartcards not only controlsphysical access to buildings, but limits individuals’access to particular computers on campus.”

Taking Advantage of the Existing Infrastructure

In the past, the school has largely relied ontraditional physical security solutions andpolicies: photo ID badges for students,faculty, and staff; automobile ID stickers;restricted dormitory and academicbuilding access to students and faculty;motion sensors; and ordinary keys foraccess to dorms, academic buildings, andother facilities. Visitorsare required to getpasses from campuspolice to visit buildingsthat are open to thepublic, and access to thecampus is controlledthrough gates mannedby police officers.

While some of thesetools and processescontinue to help controlwho is on campus andwhich buildings andequipment they haveaccess to, university officialswanted to do moreto boost security. For onething, the keys used togain access to buildings and computerrooms were limited in terms of controllingaccess, and as it so often happens, manykeys were lost or stolen. In addition, DSUhad no way to ensure that formeremployees of the university could notaccess the network or certain electronicfiles. For example, retired faculty could logon to e-mail or access applicationsremotely even though they were no longeron campus.

A Security Upgrade

Administrators wanted to take advantageof the university’s existing fiber-opticnetwork technology infrastructure oncampus. The network links every buildingon campus, so a Siemens HiPath 5000communications system from SiemensInformation and CommunicationNetworks (, was installed to transition theschool to voice over IP (VoIP). Universityadministrators felt they could leveragesuch installations in their security efforts.

The university has embarked on a planto build a comprehensive identity managementinfrastructure using Siemens’ HiPathSIcurity solutions, which utilize the HiPathSIcurity Card smartcard and HiPathMetaDirectory suite of products. The creditcard-sized SIcurity smartcards controlaccess to both physical facilities and informationsystems, while the MetaDirectoryintegrates with other existing on-campusdatabase applications to ensure that identityinformation, including electronicaccess credentials, is up-to-date. It alsoprovides a single point of administrationthat not only reduces systems administrationfor the university, but also ensuressingular rapid change when allowing andrevoking users’ security privileges.

DSU sees smartcard technology as alogical extension of the ID cards alreadybeing used on campus. Using smartcardsnot only controls physical access to buildings,but limits individuals’ access toparticular computers on campus. The cardsalso are easy to use and allow users to gainaccess to multiple computer programs via asingle password.

The smartcards are providing vastlyimproved control of access to campusbuildings and computers. DSU expects toexperience reduced operational coststhrough automation and more simplifiedapplications deployment as well. In addition,there will be a decrease in the costs ofmanaging computer IDs and an opportunityfor the university to better track who isgoing in and out of buildings.

Achieving Security Goals

Ultimately, the smartcards providetamper-resistant storage for passwords,account numbers, and other information.With the card’s single sign-on capability,anyone with an authorized ID and passwordcan use the card to log on to e-mail, aWindows-based system, and applicationson DSU computers. There is no need formultiple passwords.

Officials at DSU expect the securityupgrade to be a selling point for the university;they believe it will help attract studentsto the school. The cards also will ensure thatunauthorized users, including formeremployees, are denied access to the university’snetwork, applications, and files.

The smartcards will also provide forother services, such as electronic purchases.For example, students will be able to use thecards to buy books in the campus bookstore.The university is hoping to work with theDelaware Department of Transportation toallow students and staff to use the card forbus services as well.

DSU’s security solution has helped theuniversity strengthen physical and informationsecurity across the campus.Students, faculty, and employees havealready experienced the benefits that itoffers, while the administration is pleasedthat it is taking the necessary steps toachieving the university’s security goals.

Charles D. Fletcher Jr. is assistant provostand CIO of technology and informationSystems at Delaware State University.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.