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The Apple iPhone is causing problems with the Duke University wireless system

The popular Apple iPhone is turning out to be a worst nightmare for the Duke University IT staff.  The Duke WiFi network is currently being crippled by the iPhone's wireless Internet adapter, even though the problem never arose with other WiFi devices.

According to the university IT staff, the iPhones are distributing as many as 18,000 data requests per second to the university network -- and it appears that each iPhone on campus is requesting a router address that is not available.  After the phone does not get a return signal, it keeps sending requests, which leads to dozens of access points becoming overloaded.

"The scale of the problem is very small now," said Bill Cannon, Duke technology spokesman.

Duke University, Cisco and Apple do not know why the problem is happening with the school's network. Even though there are only around 150 iPhones on Duke's campus at the moment, the problem must be resolved before students return for the fall semester.

A computer science professor from the University of Maryland believes both the iPhone and Duke's Internet network are at fault.

"When you set up a network on the campus, you set up the network to accommodate the devices you can have in use," said Ashok Agrawala, who also serves as Director of the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics (MIND) Lab.

It is unknown if the iPhone's WiFi chips are causing problems on other computer Internet networks.

Update 7/22/2007:
Duke has fixed the network issues. The University worked with Cisco and Apple to find a fix for the problems. The problem has completely gone away. The iPhone was not the culprit after all.



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lawl
By Quiksel on 7/19/2007 9:15:05 AM , Rating: 6
quote:
"When you set up a network on the campus, you set up the network to accommodate the devices you can have in use," said Ashok Agrawala, who also serves as Director of the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics (MIND) Lab.

Man, give this guy the Captain Obvious award of the day. *rolls eyes*

Seriously, though, I work at Duke in IT, and while I'm pretty sure our network boys don't have a ton of sense, I'm not all that sure that our network is to blame... Reading the article tells a lot more details as to the woes that the devices are causing, but it appears that it's more likely to be the iPhone doing wrong than our network. It does a no-likey with our Cisco wireless base stations.

But hey, I guess if I'm wrong, I could always get a job at the MIND Lab and say empirical truths for $$.

:)

~q




RE: lawl
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 7/19/2007 9:18:16 AM , Rating: 4
Maryland > Duke

http://i15.tinypic.com/6g04r9g.jpg

Well, not really. Just an excuse to post that pic. Go NC State! :)


RE: lawl
By Quiksel on 7/19/2007 9:23:38 AM , Rating: 2
lol, that's a classic pic posted at TheWolfWeb forum... Brandon, as a fellow WolfPacker, I'm with ya (I just work at Duke, against my better judgment). BTW, do you spend any time on www.brentroad.com? Those kids are hilarious.

Perhaps you should change the headline pic with that kid's face? ;)


RE: lawl
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 7/19/2007 11:56:11 AM , Rating: 2
I browse thewolfweb everyone once in a while. As for an article thumb, I just added one of my favorites ;-)


RE: lawl
By Quiksel on 7/19/2007 1:49:49 PM , Rating: 4
from TWW, I found their thread on this topic... here's a more detailed report of the specific problems:
http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/071607-duke-...

best line from it, from what I pick up:
quote:
"That’s because the misbehaving iPhones flood the access points with up to 18,000 address requests per second, nearly 10Mbps of bandwidth, and monopolizing the AP’s airtime."

It appears either the AP's need a firmware update or the iPhone does, as it does not play nice with the Cisco base stations in use. Our guy Kevin Miller goes on the record to say:
quote:
“I don’t believe it’s a Cisco problem in any way, shape, or form,” he says firmly.

So for more info, please read that link. It's far better at explaining the situation than I ever could. ;)

~q


RE: lawl
By colonelclaw on 7/23/2007 8:14:23 AM , Rating: 2
looking forward to hearing Kevin Millar backpedalling, if he hasn't suddenly decided to go on holiday this week


RE: lawl
By Phynaz on 7/19/2007 9:21:47 AM , Rating: 2
Since Duke is the only one reporting any problems at all, I would say it IS a misconfiguration their network.

I've heard their network is totally flat, which is just begging for trouble. It's been more than 10 years since flat networks have been superceded.


RE: lawl
By Polynikes on 7/19/2007 9:30:32 AM , Rating: 3
Makes sense to me. Evil iPhone... ;)


RE: lawl
By Quiksel on 7/19/2007 11:21:12 AM , Rating: 2
where'd you hear that from? Care to provide a source on that assertion?


RE: lawl
By kamel5547 on 7/20/2007 11:33:09 AM , Rating: 2
I completely disagree with his quote.

You do not accomodate the devices you can have in use, you accomodate NORMALLY functioning devices. Your device has a virus and keeps hammering the network, it gets banned. Your device has a hardware/software issue that causes it to keep hammering the network, guess what, it should be banned. It should be easy to gather the MAC addresses and simply refuse to let them connect, which I believe is the appropriate response until Apple tells the device to only try once per hour or so after a failure.

I wonder if there are any other schools that are going to suffer in August/September...


Of course the Maryland guy thinks Duke is at fault
By jebo on 7/19/2007 9:54:36 AM , Rating: 5
Of course the Maryland guy thinks Duke is at fault. The iphone could be sending out death ray laser beams and blowing up Duke's servers, and Maryland Guy would still blame Duke for the problem.

[Vitale] That's ACC rivalry baby! [/Vitale]




By dajeepster on 7/19/2007 10:19:40 AM , Rating: 2
no... Duke just sucks... and i'm not saying that just because i'm an Alumni of Maryland :D .... really... i'm not biased ;)


By techfuzz on 7/19/2007 1:24:29 PM , Rating: 2
I gotta agree with you 100% dajeepster and of course none of us are biased in the ACC :)

GT checking in!


By Oregonian2 on 7/19/2007 2:33:14 PM , Rating: 2
Wolfpacker here.... but I'd still first blame the iPhone. Not like it's a mature product that's been on the market for many years.


By JBird7986 on 7/19/2007 3:54:02 PM , Rating: 2
Speaking as a Blue Devil, when will you folks up there in MD finally realize that you're not our rivals?


Hmmmm.
By TimberJon on 7/19/2007 11:36:43 AM , Rating: 2
Quiksel I noticed that you didn't deny a flat network layout, you just demanded info to support the claim from another.

If its not flat, then what is it? That would certainly help point some blame away from the iPhone if your network was up to date.




RE: Hmmmm.
By Quiksel on 7/19/2007 11:59:19 AM , Rating: 3
well, i'm not an infrastructure guy, so I'm not all that sure about it. Honestly, I'm not being argumentative, but I don't know where he could have come up with such a comment unless he was just totally making it up. I asked for a source, because it'd be news to me that this big ol' network of ours is flat (it's not as far as I can tell). Our infrastructure guys' department get lots of good press, so I really doubt it, however, I don't have anything to say exactly what it is.

Since we are a hospital and a university, we basically have two networks. The hospital is beholden to HIPAA, while the university is not (which is why they are fairly separated).

But again, I'm not the best person to ask. Sounds like if someone actually KNOWS something, they should mention it; offhand remarks like "I heard that it was flat" just doesn't make any sense, and modding up for a comment like that just doesn't make any sense either, imo.

~q


RE: Hmmmm.
By Phynaz on 7/20/2007 3:57:50 PM , Rating: 2
Quicksel,
My source is somebody I've spoken to. You know, personal conversation. His claim was the the official IT network at Duke was flat. He mentioned there are others, that the business departments don't really like to deal with IT, so they bascially roll their own systems.


RE: Hmmmm.
By Quiksel on 7/20/2007 6:47:04 PM , Rating: 2
well, the network on the WIRE isn't flat... I can't say for sure about the WIRELESS, though.

They've got the wireless in sort of a VLAN situation, where most guests have the ability to do basic browsing and whatnot, but the leases are quite short and you cannot actually connect to Duke's HIPAA-mandated systems (Lotus Notes, SAP, etc.) without the use of a VPN over the wireless (which is slower than you might imagine a typical VPN over wireless scenario). If clients register their devices with our IT network guys, they get a different set of IP's in a different sort of VLAN, where Notes and the SAP's out there will work.

So mostly, it's about registration of the wireless device that determines which network you get to use.

The wired network is quite robust, and anything but flat. The wireless demand has always outweighed the infrastructure guys' ability to keep up, and I think in this instance, the network could be playing a part in the overall problem, however, I'm not all that sure that the iPhone is blameless. It could be both sides needing some attention, but we'll see as this story develops further.

~q


RE: Hmmmm.
By Quiksel on 7/20/2007 6:47:36 PM , Rating: 2
well, the network on the WIRE isn't flat... I can't say for sure about the WIRELESS, though.

They've got the wireless in sort of a VLAN situation, where most guests have the ability to do basic browsing and whatnot, but the leases are quite short and you cannot actually connect to Duke's HIPAA-mandated systems (Lotus Notes, SAP, etc.) without the use of a VPN over the wireless (which is slower than you might imagine a typical VPN over wireless scenario). If clients register their devices with our IT network guys, they get a different set of IP's in a different sort of VLAN, where Notes and the SAP's out there will work.

So mostly, it's about registration of the wireless device that determines which network you get to use.

The wired network is quite robust, and anything but flat. The wireless demand has always outweighed the infrastructure guys' ability to keep up, and I think in this instance, the network could be playing a part in the overall problem, however, I'm not all that sure that the iPhone is blameless. It could be both sides needing some attention, but we'll see as this story develops further.

~q


Old Appletalk days....
By Brazos on 7/19/2007 5:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of when Appletalk was banned on networks. Some admins thought it tied up the tubes.




RE: Old Appletalk days....
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 7/23/2007 11:11:35 AM , Rating: 2
Appletalk just sucked outright. That's apple trying to reinvent the wheel that works oh so well. Appletalk was like IPX/SPX but sucked terribly. Notice neither is still in active use on any large scale? :)


RE: Old Appletalk days....
By Hawkido on 7/24/2007 2:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
Both were horrible chatty. Before switched networks became common they would cause collisions/holdoff/retransmissions galore on a contention based media. Segmenting was the only way to contain the chatter. I used to administer an IPX/SPX WAN.


Is that egg on your face?
By kirkgray on 7/21/2007 7:56:51 PM , Rating: 3
I found it interesting that this was still one of Google News feeds top stories after Duke reported that the problem was in fact in one of their Cisco wireless routers and had nothing to do with the iPhone at all.

No other colleges or large institutions were having a problem with the dreaded iPhone, but the press jumped all over some IT department spouting off about the iPhone causing problems before the problems had even been found.

Duke's press release:
http://www.oit.duke.edu/news/gen-announce/iphone.h...




RE: Is that egg on your face?
By crystal clear on 7/23/2007 2:04:24 AM , Rating: 2
The problem could be particular to Duke. Other large universities—specifically the University of Wisconsin at Madison—have not experienced problems with its registered iPhones and Cisco-based Wi-Fi network, according to Dave Schroeder, an administrator in UW's Division of Information Technology.

"We have seen upwards of 120 unique iPhones since June 30 on our campus-wide wireless infrastructure, which also uses Cisco 802.11b/g access points. To date, we have not encountered or detected any undesirable behavior from iPhones," said Schroeder. "As I have also not heard reports of errant 802.11 iPhone behavior from any other institution or site, it appears that the issue at Duke may be unique. There may be something unique to Duke's particular wireless installation configuration that the iPhone may be exposing," he added.

However, in a statement released this afternoon, Cisco Systems admitted that the problem was caused by a Cisco glitch.

"Cisco has provided a fix that has been applied to Duke's network and the problem has not occurred since," the statement read. Cisco did not describe what the source of the problem was.

One analyst who follows Apple speculated that Duke's network requires encryption that the iPhone doesn't have.

"My suspicion is that Duke's network requires Cisco's (Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol) security encryption and the iPhone doesn't have that incorporated into it. That could be a source of the problem," said Van Baker, a research vice president at Gartner in San Jose, Calif.



http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2161065,00.as...


Business!
By DeepBlue1975 on 7/19/2007 9:07:32 AM , Rating: 1
People affected by this "iphone disease", please call me and I get those iphones off your hands for 5 (FIVE) bucks each, I'm sure I'll find a non-cult, non college-ish market where I could resell them :D




RE: Business!
By Exodus220 on 7/19/2007 9:31:01 AM , Rating: 3
EBAY


Tin Foil Hat
By TomZ on 7/19/2007 9:25:11 AM , Rating: 1
Finally, a rational use for tin foil hats...for iPhones. I think they should just require that all iPhones be wrapped in tin foil while on campus. (Just kidding)




RE: Tin Foil Hat
By rtrski on 7/19/2007 9:58:58 AM , Rating: 2
It can sit in the same Faraday wallet I made for my new RFID chipped passport. New fashion trend: the metal-lined man-purse!!

But then I'd probably find the next time I passed customs that my passport chip had been reprogrammed by the iPhone to think I was from Bakahzistan ... or wherever that Dilbert country is with the soggy programmers. :-D


RE: Tin Foil Hat
By TomZ on 7/19/2007 10:11:51 AM , Rating: 1
I forgot about the RFID passports. I've been shopping around a bit for a new laptop bag, and I found some that had a small compartment with a faraday shield. The stated purpose is to keep your wireless devices protected from wireless hackers, but I guess it would be a good place to put your passport as well.


hmm
By Gul Westfale on 7/19/2007 12:04:49 PM , Rating: 3
i thought duke's worst nightmare was that rape case... but i guess phone problems are an order of magnitude worse than that.

also, it figures that there are more iphones users on a campus than in other places, after all campuses are filled with (eric cartman voice) "college-know-it-all hippies".




By crystal clear on 7/23/2007 11:54:51 PM , Rating: 2
Dr. Miller, a former employee of the National Security Agency who has a doctorate in computer science, demonstrated the hack to a reporter by using his iPhone’s Web browser to visit a Web site of his own design.

Once he was there, the site injected a bit of code into the iPhone that then took over the phone. The phone promptly followed instructions to transmit a set of files to the attacking computer that included recent text messages — including one that had been sent to the reporter’s cellphone moments before — as well as telephone contacts and e-mail addresses.

“We can get any file we want,” he said. Potentially, he added, the attack could be used to program the phone to make calls, running up large bills or even turning it into a portable bugging device.

Steven M. Bellovin, a professor of computer science at Columbia University, said, “This looks like a very genuine hack.” Mr. Bellovin, who was for many years a computer security expert at AT&T Labs Research, said the vulnerability of the iPhone was an inevitable result of the long-anticipated convergence of computing and telephony.

“We’ve been hearing for a few years now that viruses and worms were going to be a problem on cellphones as they became a little more powerful, and we’re there,” he said. The iPhone is a full-fledged computer, he noted, “and sure enough, it’s got computer-grade problems.”

He said he suspected that phones based on the Windows mobile operating system would be similarly “attackable,” though he had not yet heard of any attacks.

“It’s not the end of the world; it’s not the end of the iPhone,” he said, any more than the regular revelations of vulnerabilities in computer browser software have killed off computing. “It is a sign that you cannot let down your guard. It is a sign that we need to build software and systems better.”

Details on the vulnerability, but not a step-by-step guide to hacking the phone, can be found at www.exploitingiphone.com, which the researchers said would be unveiled today.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/23/technology/23iph...

Exploiting the iPhone
Full disclosure at BlackHat: Dr. Charlie Miller will be presenting the details of the exploit at BlackHat in Las Vegas on August 2 at 4:45.

http://www.securityevaluators.com/iphone/




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