Penn State Related FAQ

What is an access ID?

A Penn State Access ID is the username and password given to students at FTCAP or Arrival seminars. Students use this Access ID to sign onto computers in the computer labs, access webmail, and especially for registering an Ethernet address to access the Internet in the residence halls. You must have an Access ID to access the Internet on campus.

If you do not have an Access ID, you will need to follow the procedures at a "Signature Station" in the designated computer labs. For questions regarding your access account or Signature Station locations contact an ITS lab consultant or the ITS helpdesk.

Network Related FAQs

What is an Ethernet card?

An Ethernet card physically connects your computer to the residential network. Ethernet has the capability to communicate over the Internet at high speeds. The residential network uses Ethernet to connect to the Internet with high-speed components so students can send and receive email, perform research for class studies, and surf the net.

Will a telephone cable work with an Ethernet card?

No. An Ethernet cable is thicker with larger connectors that look similar to a phone cable. Ethernet cables usually have the words "CAT 5 Ethernet Cable" written along the length of the cable. Always consult with a sales person if you need assurance of correct cabling.

What is an Ethernet address?

The Ethernet adapter or physical address is a unique 12-digit number that it used for identification on a network. Every networking card is assigned a unique address when they are manufactured and cannot be physically changed.

How do I find my Ethernet address?

Please refer to Step 2 from the Getting Connected section of the ResCom website.

Do I have to register my Ethernet card with ResCom?

If you wish to obtain Internet access in the residence halls, Yes. Registering is the first step to get connected. Refer to "Online Ethernet Registration Database" on the ResCom web page to complete registration.

How do I get connected to Penn State's residential network?

We offer two options.

  1. Use the Getting Connected web page to get connected with a wireless or wired connection.
  2. Visit your nearby ResCom desk and receive printed information from the staff or schedule an appointment for a room visit. During the rush periods you may experience delays.

What do I type in when it asks for incoming and outgoing email servers when using a POP email connection?

The incoming PSU email server is email.psu.edu.
The outgoing PSU email server is authsmtp.psu.edu.

Please be sure to enable SSH for both incoming and outgoing servers.

May I switch my wired data port connection in my room?

You cannot simply switch your Ethernet cable to another data port in your room. Each computer is assigned to a specific port. If you were to try another port, it would not work. If you would like to request having your assigned port switched to another (supplemental rooms have multiple locations), you may either specify the port during initial registration or contact ResCom to receive further instruction.  To swap ports with a room mate both parties will need to come to the desk together then ResCom can swap ports.  ResCom cannot remove a port for someone that is not there requesting a connection change at the same time.

Why is my Internet not working?

The most common scenarios encountered when a student's connection appears to be not working are:

  • DHCP is not turned on
  • Mistyped Ethernet physical address upon registration
  • Accidental registration of Wireless Physical Address
  • Defective Ethernet cards
  • Bad or wrong cable being used
  • Data jacks showing excessive wear and tear (broken jack in wall)
  • Penn State Network experiencing temporary outage (extremely rare)

If you are still having a problem with your Ethernet connection, visit Support on our website or try contacting your local ResCom office. Please make sure your computer is on and you are ready to try a few suggestions that may be given over the phone if you call.

What is a computer network?

A computer network is defined as two or more computers connected together using network cards and cables to communicate with and share resources with each other. Resources can be printers and hard drives to name a couple. A computer network can be small or can get very large.

Residence Hall Firewall FAQs

What is a firewall?

A firewall sits between a local area network (LAN), such as the one in your residence hall, and the University's backbone network. The firewall is programmed with rules that determine what types of network traffic can flow in and out of the LAN. The rules can be set up to allow or not allow different types of network traffic. Essentially, the firewall prevents potentially unwanted attacks or activity from occurring or even reaching your computer.

Why are firewalls installed in the residence halls?

Computer viruses—which includes trojan horses, key loggers, worms, etc.—that spread through the network are significantly increasing in presence. The University provides free antivirus software for all students to help prevent any security compromises. The firewalls are the second line of defense in the efforts to reduce the likelihood of students having their machines compromised by viruses. Firewalls help protect computers from these types of attacks by filtering activity. As new attacks are developed, the firewalls will be updated quickly to continue to provide protection. Additionally, firewalls help limit or prevent a compromised computer from spreading infections.

Is the University monitoring the content of my network transmissions?

No. The University does not monitor the content of information sent across the network. The firewall analyzes the packets of information that are flowing in and out of the LAN, and it does so only in a very restricted manner. Specifically, it only looks at networking data that includes the kind of information being sent, the address of the computer that sent the information, and the address of the computer the information was sent to. An analogy might be how the post office looks at the outside of an envelope or package to determine where to send the contents and whether it is a package or a letter. Like the post office, the firewall does not look at the content inside the envelope or package to see what it is. Thus, the firewall could try and prevent intruding or malicious data packages from entering or exiting the Penn State Network.

Why did the University decide to restrict servers in the residence halls?

The University's policy on computer security (AD-20) has been revised and one of the revisions restricts the use of servers in the residence halls. This restriction was put in place to help protect computers on the residence hall LANs from becoming infected with the network propagated worms and trojans that have become so prevalent. Many of these worms propagate through computers that are acting as servers, often without the knowledge of the owner of the computer. The "no server" policy will also minimize the instances of residence hall users serving copyrighted material from their computers.

How will firewalls affect what I can do with my computer?

The main difference is that your computer may not be able to share files or perform certain services over the internet. Examples are provided at the bottom of the webpage. To name a few programs and processes that may become affected by this mainly include instant messenger programs, webcam services, on-line gaming, and file-sharing programs. If you experience difficulty with any of these services, you may contact ResCom for assistance, or the program manufacturer as well for guidance. The residence hall network currently operates under standardization rules which allows any required academic work to be performed through the dorm connection. Your experience on-line should not be affected. Anything else that may not work (games, webcams) even is properly configured will not be sought as an exception as it is not required for academic use.

Now that the firewalls are helping to protect my computer do I still need to worry about Windows Updates (Operating System Updates) and antivirus software?

Yes. The firewall may help prevent some types of viruses from infecting your computer, however there are a few more procedures that must be followed to provide a stronger means of defense. Antivirus software installed onto your computer, along with your operating system (Windows 7, 8, 10 or Apple OSX Maverick, Yosemite ) configured to automatically update itself will strengthen the computer's immunity of vulnerability. An example would be, because firewalls do not look at your data, if you would receive an infected e-mail message, your properly configured antivirus software could alert you before opening the message of a possible infection. Information on how to protect your computer and how to obtain this software (at no charge) is available at: https://its.psu.edu/legacy/be-safe/malware.html

It is also important to keep your operating system up-to-date by automatically running system updates (Windows Update).

What are the alternatives for sharing files and running a web server?

The University currently provides several computer resources that students can use for personal web pages and sharing files. These resources include the U:\drive, PASS space, and University provided Web space. Information about these services can be found at: http://work.psu.edu

May I be granted an exception to the "no server" policy if I have a legitimate academic need?

There will be a process to allow for exceptions, but only for legitimate academic needs that cannot be fulfilled in any other manner. Exceptions will require the concurrence of the vice provost for information technology. Follow this link for detail about exceptions to the firewalls.

Please keep in mind the residence hall network currently operates under standardization rules which allows any required academic work to be performed through the dorm connection. Your experience online should not be affected. Anything else that may not work (games, webcams) even is properly configured will not be sought as an exception as it is not required for academic use.

How can I report what I believe is a firewall problem?

University Park residents should report problems to their ResCom helpdesk. At other campus locations, problems should be reported to the local computer support office or help desk. Problems can also be reported via email to rh-firewall@email.hfs.psu.edu

Applications that should not be affected by the Firewalls

  • Browsing and searching for web pages on the internet
  • AOL Instant Messenger or Yahoo IM programs or MSN Messenger (Configured properly), the Penn State supported legal music/video system
  • Publishing web pages (to a non-residence hall Web server)
  • Email as long as your email client's outgoing mail is set to authsmtp.psu.edu with SSH enabled
  • Passive FTP to a server outside the residence halls
  • Use of your University provided U:\drive, PASS space, and Web space
  • Most game subscriptions that run on central servers except those games that require opening a new port back to your computer after you established the initial connection.  Some games try to open a new port for authentication purposes.  This behavior is blocked by our firewalls.  

Applications that may be affected by the Firewalls

  • Running any type of server such as a web server, FTP server, etcetera
  • Remote control programs such as Remote Desktop or PC Anywhere
  • Remote login to a residence hall machine via programs like Telnet or SSH
  • Peer to peer networks and file sharing programs
  • Some online games