Most users now have laptops and/or other mobile devices. We have no wish to put difficulties in the way of users wanting to connect a laptop to our network - however we do need to take additional care compared to desktops as typically

  • We don't manage the laptops on a day-to-day basis and hence don't necessarily known their status.
  • Laptops by their nature are mobile, which means that they will visit other locations and may inadvertently have been infected there.

Users bringing laptops into the group are reminded that they must have the equipment electrically tested. This normally affects just the power cord and the transformer - usually the laptop itself does not need to be tested. If a user is not willing to have the electrical test done (possibly due to concern about the damage that the test might do), then they will not be permitted to connect the power cord to the mains power.

If you have a laptop that you wish to connect to either the wired or wireless network, you must consult with one of the local administrators. There are links below to pages giving more details about the two networking options.

Users are reminded that backups of the contents of laptops are their responsibility. The local administrators are always willing to discuss the issue of archiving of data, and to help where possible, but we don't have infinite resources. Nor can we provide a mechanism to periodically remind users that they should backup their disks. How frequently you need to save the disk contents elsewhere depends on the answer to the question "how badly would I be affected if my disk died today?".

Users are expected to ensure that laptops connected to the network are updated regularly. Windows users should regularly run Microsoft Update to apply security and operating system updates. Microsoft Updates can be set to download and install automatically to ensure this is done promptly when updates are made available and prevent the laptop becoming out of date and a security risk. Anti-virus software should also be updated regularly with anti-virus scans being carried out frequently (at least weekly). Anti-virus definitions should be updated on a daily basis. For help with how to set-up Microsoft Update and anti-virus software to update and scan regularly please contact one of the local administrators.

Linux users should ensure that the automatic update mechanism (apt-get or yum or ??? depending on the Linux variant) is set up, preferably to apply updates at boot time. Manual intervention will be needed where the update includes a new version of the kernel - if you need help with this, or any other aspect of keeping your laptop up-to-date, please contact one of the local administrators.

If your laptop is dual-boot it is also important to update both operating systems regularly, especially if  you do not use both on a regular basis. This will help prevent either operating system becoming a security risk if connected to the network when recent updates have not been applied. There have been occasions where laptops have become infected within 15 seconds of being connected to the network!

It applies to all machines of course, but since laptops are susceptible to the extra dangers listed above, their users need to be aware that any laptop causing problems (whether due to a virus, worm, security breach, misconfiguration or other reason) may be disconnected from the network without warning (and without the agreement of the owner if necessary). It would then not be permitted to be reconnected until the problem was resolved. Partly this is a matter of good neighbourliness, but it is also a requirement of the rules for connecting to the departmental network, to which all users must conform.

Steve Wotton
and John Hill Last update 26 September 2011.